The South Beach diet is a diet plan that emphasizes the consumption of “good carbohydrates” and “good fats”. A Miami, Florida area cardiologist, Arthur Agatston, developed this diet for his cardiac patients based on his study of scientific dieting research. The diet first appeared in a book of the same name published by Rodale Press.
Dr. Agatston believes that excess consumption of so-called “bad carbohydrates”, such as the rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates found in foods with a high glycemic index, creates an insulin resistance syndrome—an impairment of the hormone insulin’s ability to properly process fat or sugar. In addition, he believes along with many physicians that excess consumption of “bad fats”, such as saturated fat and trans fat, contributes to an increase in cardiovascular disease. To prevent these two conditions, Agatston’s diet minimizes consumption of bad fats and bad carbohydrates and encourages increased consumption of good fats and good carbohydrates.
Sample Daily Menu
Breakfast: two scrambled eggs with Monterey jack cheese and salsa, a slice of whole-grain toast and half a grapefruit
Mid-morning snack: one hard-boiled egg
Lunch: roast beef wrap with reduced fat cream cheese, spinach and red onion
Mid-afternoon snack: 4 ounces of yogurt
Dinner: lemon couscous chicken with steamed broccoli
Dessert: lemon peel ricotta crème
The diet has three phases. In all phases of the diet, Dr. Agatston recommends minimizing consumption of bad fats. Foods that are encouraged are fresh vegetables, lean proteins, such as eggs, poultry, pork and fish, cheese and nuts. Foods you cannot have are bread, rice, potatoes.
Phase 1 of the diet lasts two weeks. Dieters attempt to eliminate insulin resistance by avoiding high or moderately high-glycemic carbohydrates, such as dairy, sugar, candy, bread, potatoes, fruit, cereals, and grains. During this phase, Dr. Agatston claims the body will lose its insulin resistance, and begin to use excess body fat, causing many dieters to lose between 8 and 13 pounds. This phase includes three meals a day, plus snacks, encouraging the dieter to eat until their hunger is satisfied. No alcohol is allowed (though red wine will be introduced later in small amounts). The dieter loses weight, changes body chemistry, and ends cravings for sugars and starches.
Phase II begins after two weeks, and whole grain foods, fruits and dairy products are gradually returned to the diet, although in smaller amounts than were likely eaten before beginning the diet, and with a continued emphasis on foods with a low glycemic index. Sweet potatoes are also now permissible, as is red wine, both in moderate amounts.
Phase III, the maintenance phase, begins after the desired weight is obtained. In Phase III the diet expands to include three servings of whole grains and three servings of fruit a day.
The diet distinguishes between good and bad carbohydrates, and good and bad fats. Good carbohydrates are high in fiber or high in good fats, and have a low gylcemic index, meaning they are digested and absorbed slowly. Example: brown rice is allowed in moderation, but white rice is discouraged. When eating any carbohydrates, Dr. Agatston recommends also eating fiber or fat to slow digestion of the carbohydrates. Good fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, especially those with omega-3 fatty acids. Saturated and trans fats are bad fats.
Eating whole grains and large amounts of vegetables is encouraged, along with adequate amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, such as are contained in fish. It discourages the eating of overly refined processed foods (particularly refined flours and sugars), high-fat meats, and saturated fats in general. The diet does not require counting calories or limiting servings.