Is South Beach Diet Good For Weight Loss?

The South Beach diet helps the dieter to lose weight by eating “good carbohydrates” and “good fats” thereby restricting the daily calorie intake. Carbohydrate and fats can be classified as good and bad by their glycemic index and degree of saturation respectively.

The South Beach Diet was created by Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist and associate professor at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida.

Agatston observed no changes in the weight, cholesterol level, and blood glucose level of his patients even after they followed the low-fat diet as suggested by the American Heart Association.

He designed the South Beach diet and tried it on his patients in the beginning. After the success of his experiments, he started encouraging other dieters to follow the South Beach diet plan in order to lose weight.

Arthur Agatston published one of his best-selling books “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss” in the year 2003. The South Beach diet became famous among dieters through media broadcasts.

What is the key principle of the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet maintains the balance of good carbohydrate, lean protein, and healthy fats. It encourages the dieter to lose weight rapidly through portion control (i.e. the dieter should take small meals in every 2-3 hours) and by limiting the calorie intake.

Several recipes and instructions from nutritionists are mentioned on the official website of South Beach Diet. It recommends the dieter to do routine exercises as it helps to boost the metabolism.

The South Beach Diet concentrates on the consumption of “good” carbohydrates with a low glycemic index to decrease insulin resistance. The intake of “bad” carbohydrates with high glycemic index by an individual raises the blood sugar level more as compared to “good” carbohydrates with low glycemic index.

The level of insulin secretion by the β cells of pancreas increases as the level of blood glucose rises under certain conditions. Likewise, the amount of insulin secreted by the β cells of pancreas reduces as the blood glucose level decreases.

Insulin hormone affects muscles, RBCs and fat cells and triggers the absorption of glucose from the blood. It triggers the conversion of glucose into glycogen by the liver and hence, lowers the blood glucose level.

When the blood glucose level decreases, α cells of the pancreas releases glucagon that prompts the liver cells to convert glycogen into glucose and hence, increases the blood glucose level. This glucose is finally released into the bloodstream thereby raising the blood sugar level.

Food items with “bad” carbohydrates break down quickly into glucose and therefore, the blood glucose level of individual increases rapidly. On the contrary, the breakdown of foods with “good” carbohydrates into glucose occurs steadily as a result of which the blood glucose level rises slowly and never attains a maximum value.

If an individual consumes a large quantity of sugar, then insulin levels are elevated to assimilate the sugar consumed. As a consequence, the cells in the body become insulin resistant. The South Beach diet declares that insulin resistance can be abolished completely by following the diet properly without any modifications for two weeks.

Moreover, “good” fats (i.e. the unsaturated fats) are included in the South Beach diet while the “bad” fats (i.e. the saturated fats) are eliminated from the diet.

The “bad” fats increase the possibility of atherosclerosis i.e. the hardening of arteries by the deposition of cholesterol on the arterial walls thereby preventing the smooth flow of blood and reduction in the elasticity of arteries.

What are the phases of South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet has 3 phases:

Phase 1

The first phase lasts for two weeks. This phase aims to eliminate all carbohydrate from the diet including bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruit, milk, ice cream. Alcohol is also forbidden during phase 1.

This phase aims to eradicate cravings for foods with elevated sugar content and refined starch for rapid weight loss (up to 6 kg).

Phase 1 doesn’t control the portion size but it does encourage the dieter to eat more frequently i.e. 4-5 small meals and 2-3 snacks per day to avoid hunger pangs. It also suggests the dieter to simultaneously restrict the calorie intake between 1,200 -1,400 calories per day.

The dieter is allowed to eat lean proteins (e.g. beef, seafood, skinless poultry), low-fat and nonfat cheese, low-fat tofu, high-fiber vegetables, whole eggs and egg whites, olive and canola oil, food with unsaturated fats including avocados, nuts and seeds, sugarless seasonings and artificial sweetener in limited quantity.

Phase 2

Phase 2 is a prolonged session in which the dieter is made to lose weight at a moderate pace (i.e. 0.6-1 kg per week). The participants are allowed to consume some of the food items that were forbidden during phase 1 such as whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain cereals, brown rice, barley, low-fat milk, nuts, beans, wine, more fruits and starchy vegetables.

The aim of this phase is to enhance the metabolic rate through portion control. Foods high in sugar, watermelon, bananas, white bread, saturated fats and trans-fats (e.g. animal fats, butter, cream) are prohibited during phase 2.

The dieter is suggested to follow the phase 2 diet until he/she reaches their target weight.

Phase 3

This is the maintenance phase during which the dieter adapts healthy eating habits for a lifetime. The participant can follow the same diet as prescribed in the previous phase but the foods made with refined sugar and white flour are forbidden in phase 3 too.

The plan recommends the dieter to return to phase 1and start again if cravings return or they eat the forbidden food items during phase 2 or 3.

What are the benefits of South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet claims to help the dieter lose 4-6 kg weight during phase 1 and up to 1 kg weight during phase 2. Phase 3 of the South Beach Diet teaches the participants to maintain their weight after achieving the target.

The dieter can also decrease their belly fat by properly following the South Beach Diet.

The elimination of bad carbohydrate from the diet helps to eradicate insulin-spiking starches and sweets from the bloodstream. Also, the deceleration in the breakdown of carbohydrates leads to fewer hunger pangs experienced by the participants while following the South Beach diet.

The South Beach Diet promotes healthy lifestyle changes and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Precautions associated with the South Beach Diet

The participants should always consult a medical professional before beginning the South Beach Diet plan.

Pregnant or nursing women should pay special attention while following the South Beach Diet plan and consult a doctor before beginning the diet to ensure that the plan meets the nutritional requirement as the baby receives nutrition from its mother’s diet and lack of nutrients in mother’s diet can affect the growth of the baby.

The South Beach Diet encourages the dieter to consume more proteins. This can affect kidney health.

The restrictive nature of Phase 1 of South Beach Diet may lead to the deficiency of several vitamins and minerals in growing children.

Is South Beach diet safe?

The South Beach Diet limits the consumption of carbohydrates and fats. Therefore, it increases the possibility of ketosis which may cause dehydration, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, lightheadedness, and irritability.

It has also been observed that dieters following the South Beach Diet suffer from hypoglycemia (i.e. low blood sugar), headaches and excessive fluid loss.

Reduced salt intake may cause cramps and muscle weakness in some cases.The elevated protein requirement of South Beach Diet can damage the kidneys.

The restricted consumption of dairy products (e.g. milk) leads to the deficiency of calcium in some cases. Moreover, the reduced intake of whole grains can cause deficiencies of dietary fiber and B-complex vitamins in the body of the dieters following the South Beach Diet.

As suggested by the National Institute of Health and most experts, weight loss at a moderate pace is healthy (i.e. 1-2 pounds per week), but in the case of
South Beach Diet, the weight loss is rapid which might be harmful to some people.

Conclusion

A couple of studies reveal that the South Beach Diet focuses on the consumption of lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables and eliminates saturated and trans fats, sugars and salt.

It reduces the level of fats in the bloodstream and decreases the risks of cardiovascular diseases.

Therefore, it has now been accepted by several organizations.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the dieter perform 30 minutes of a workout to improve his/her health profile, reduce the risk of several diseases and maintain a healthy weight.

The South Beach Diet is a nutritious diet plan that relies on “good” fats and tends to knock out “bad” fats and refined grains from the diet. But many nutritionists have already questioned the fact that the consumption of only a small amount of whole grains is permitted while following the South Beach Diet.

The rapid weight loss during phase 1 of South Beach Diet bothers many nutritionists as the National Institute of Health recommends that consistent weight loss at a moderate pace is healthy and is not gained back easily.

Also, phase 1 is not considered a well-balanced diet plan but phase 2 and 3 with occasional extravagance are regarded as more realistic and well-balanced eating plan by several dieticians.

However, in today’s era, we have shifted our focus from fats to carbohydrates when it comes to weight loss. A combination of a reduction in bad carbohydrate and bad fat consumption can help one achieve their ideal weight.

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