The South Beach Diet™ was created by Dr. Arthur Agastston, a cardiologist, in the mid 1990s. Dr. Agatston was in disagreement with the American Heart Association's recommendations that the American diet should consist of low-fat, high-carbohydrate foods.
The South Beach Diet™ is a low-carbohydrate diet. Low carbohydrate diets aim to avoid carbohydrates that spike insulin levels in the body. When a carbohydrate is high in "bad" carbohydrates, a large burst of insulin is released from the pancreas in response to a drastic elevation in glucose in the blood stream. The high insulin levels do not allow glucose to be converted into glucagon, the form of sugar that allows for fat to be used as energy. Instead, these high insulin levels promote the storage of fat in the body. Proponents believe that by avoiding these carbohydrates, individuals could avoid the storage of additional fat, as well as allow for current fat stores to be used as energy.
Opponents of the South Beach Diet™ claim that the diet contains far too many saturated and unsaturated fats. This could lead to serious health risks. However, available research has not supported this claim.
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The South Beach Diet™ consists of three phases: 1. kick-starting weight loss, 2. reintroducing the right carbohydrates and 3. a diet for life. Phase 1 is intended to be followed for 2 weeks. Phase 2 is intended to last for as long as necessary to lose the desired amount of weight. Phase 3 is then about maintaining a healthy weight.
Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet™ involves eating three balanced meals with snacks. The snacks are mandatory with this diet even if one is not hungry. The purpose of making snacks mandatory is the hope that it will prevent overeating at the next meal. Foods that should be consumed in the first phase of the diet include lean meats such as chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish in addition to eggs, cheese (preferably low fat cheese), nuts, tofu, beans, and an abundance of vegetables. Foods that should be avoided during the first phase include bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods and fruit. Additionally, no candy, cake, cookies, ice cream, sugar, or alcohol of any sort should be consumed.
During phase 2, an individual will be able to reintroduce foods with good carbohydrates into the diet. In theory, good carbohydrates will not produce significant increases in insulin and therefore, will not promote fat storage. These foods are fruits, whole-grain breads and pastas. The diet recommends reintroducing these carbohydrates slowly by picking one food to add back to one meal per day.
Phase 3 is the final phase of the diet and is typically the maintenance phase. This phase is where the principles of phase 1 and 2 should continue to be applied. Phase 3 primarily focuses on a lifestyle of healthy food decisions.