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Starting a South Beach Diet? Here’s What You Need to Know First

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The south beach diet was designed in the 90s by Dr Agatston, a cardiologist. The diet was first tested out on himself, and when he got positive results, he began suggesting it to his patients as well. Popular for many years, the diet is on the lower-carb side of the spectrum and has a focus on lean meats, unsaturated fats, and low-glycemic-index-carbs. 

How do you apply the diet?

The south beach diet is divided into phases. The first phase lasts for two weeks and is the strictest part of the cycle, involving limits on fruits, grains, and other carbohydrates. This phase involves three meals a day and two stacks. Phase two picks up at day fifteen and lasts as long as you need, to reach a goal weight. Limited portions of healthy carbs are reintroduced during this part of the cycle. Once the goal weight has been hit, you can enter the third phase where the rules of the first two phases are kept in mind, but treats and occasional exceptions can be made. You stay in this phase indefinitely.

Does it work?

Consistently, studies have shown that high-protein, low-carb diets are effective in regards to weight loss. They lower triglycerides, which are the primary fat-carrying particle within your blood, and also increase HDL cholesterol (this is the good, protective type of cholesterol). The south beach diet also has a wide selection of anti-inflammatory foods included in its prescription which can have positive effects on the prevention of many chronic diseases.

This being said, there are countless high-protein, low-carb diets out there, and so a little research might be necessary to decide if the south beach diet is the right version of this style of eating for you. You may want to compare it to a paleo-style diet while reading up on the long term effects of each, on not just your weight, but your risk of chronic diseases. You might also want to compare it to the Mediterranean diet or spend some time researching south beach vs keto eating. Of course, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, always speak to your doctor before participating in any diet.

Low in healthy fats

Because the south beach diet is nearly thirty years old, there is some new research available that is worth noting. The diet limits you to 2 tbsp of oil per day in phase one and tells you to avoid fatty meats and coconut oil in the second and third phases. We now know that healthy fats are extremely beneficial for health and overall weight loss, making this aspect of the south beach diet a little outdated. Newer studies all prove that low-fat diets do not help people lose weight, and they also present health risks. Beyond this, products labelled ‘low fat’ tend to have a ton of sugar and terrible additives that dramatically increase your risk for chronic diseases.

Sugar-free pitfalls

Of course, reducing sugar is an important aspect of healthy eating and weight loss. Ideally, you would have no processed or refined sugar at all in your diet, taking in only fruit sugars, and even then, in moderation. This part of the south beach diet is perfect. This being said, many products labelled ‘sugar-free’ or as ‘no sugar added’ or ‘lightly sweetened’ should be carefully scrutinised as things added in place of sugar are often just as bad for you. Besides, no sugar added and lightly sweetened does not mean there’s not a ton of sugar inside.

The above information should give you an idea about the south beach diet and whether it is right for you. No matter what you choose, it is important to remember that just because there is a prescribed list of food does not mean you don’t need to think about the health of what you’re eating. Not all apples are of equal value. Fruits and vegetables start losing their nutrition the moment they’re picked, which means buying produce that was grown near you has health advantages. Things like pesticides and genetic modification need to be kept in mind when choosing produce. Antibiotics and added hormones need to be considered when choosing meat or dairy products. No diet in the world can replace doing your research and understanding how food is made, where it comes from, and what people do to it before it ends up in the store.

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Image credit: Freepik


James Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.

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