This is the era when diet plans are an important part of any fitness freak person’s life as well as those who wish to lose weight without sweating over the treadmills. There are numerous diet plans available today though there is just a few fundamental basis on which they are planned. One such popular base is taking a low carb, low fat and high protein diet. While Atkins diet plan is the star of this scene, South Beach diet is not far behind. Here we would know all about South Beach Diet and its various defining features.
What is South Beach Diet?
The brainchild of the Miami– based cardiologist, Arthur Agatston, the South Beach Diet was created in 2003. He created the diet plan initially to help his patients lead a healthy life but its weight loss benefits soon manifested and it was then first published in his best-selling book, “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss.” Despite being low carb, the diet plan differs from the Atkins diet. It does not count carbs but focuses on selecting the right carbs and right fats. Thus, this diet plan, being rich in low-glycemic-index carbs, unsaturated fats, and lean proteins, is more healthy and realistic and thus is more feasible and easy to follow.
How Does the South Beach Diet Work?
The south beach diet is based on the principle of glycemic index. The theory is that once you have consumed carbohydrates, it is easily digested and converted into sugars which are released in the blood causing a spike in blood sugars. To counteract it, the pancreas releases insulin to remove sugar from the blood. Eating high glycemic food like bagels, corn flakes, jacket potatoes etc. causes a blood sugar spike. This, in turn, triggers high insulin production which causes a sudden drop in blood sugars to leave you feeling weak, lacking in energy and hungry within a short time of eating food. Insulin is also believed to be a crucial contributor to obesity as it facilitates the conversion of sugars into fat deposits to remove it from the blood. Thus, if you are not consuming foods which get converted into sugars fast, you do not feel hungry within short spans and even the insulin production remains stable.
Agatston stated that if one eats a combination of proteins, good fats and carbohydrate food with low glycemic index (GI). High GI food release sugars much faster in the blood. But the combination food takes the time to release sugars and it is released gradually instead of all at once, which leaves you satiated for long. Thus, you do not overeat and go healthy and slim.
Phases of the South Beach
The south beach diet is essential to help you eat in a healthy way irrespective of whether you wish to lose weight or not. The diet plan unfolds in three phases with each phase getting progressively less restrictive. The diet plan allows you three meals, two snacks, and even one high protein dessert. The diet plan can continue for as long as you desire to depend on your weight loss goals. Let’s look into each phase of the diet plan:-
South Beach Diet- Phase 1
This phase is the strictest of all phases but announces its aim clearly to kick start your weight loss goals. It works towards stabilizing the blood sugar levels and minimize your hunger as well as sugar cravings. It is also the shortest phase and must not exceed two weeks. In this phase, you are prohibited to eat any kind of grains and other high carb foods to decrease sugar spikes and food cravings. Your food choices are extremely limited here and restricted to lean proteins (seafood, lean beef, skinless poultry, soy products etc.), high fiber vegetables and legumes, low-fat dairy which includes specific types of cheese, avocado, nuts, seeds and healthy unsaturated oils like olive oil. Here you get rid of the habit of eating junk food and overcome your cravings. With three meals and two snacks, you actually provide food to your body even before hunger strikes. In this phase, you can lose anything from 8 to 13 pounds depending on your body condition.
A typical day menu of stage 1 can be:
- Breakfast– Tea/Coffee without sugar and omelet with smoked salmon/ baked eggs with spinach and ham.
- Lunch– Shrimp or scallop salad with iced tea or sparkling water.
- Dinner– Grilled tuna or pork with grilled vegetables and salad.
- Dessert– Ricotta cheesecake or chilled espresso custard.
- Snacks– Muenster cheese bites or roasted chickpeas or Turkey rollup.
South Beach Diet- Phase 2
This phase needs to be continued till you reach your desired weight goal. In this week you can lose about 1-2 pounds per week. Here the food of phase 1 continues but you add limited amount of fruits, good carbs like whole grains, brown rice, green beans, whole wheat pasta etc. and limited amount of certain specific types of alcohol.
South Beach Diet- Phase 3
This is the maintenance phase which starts after you have reached your desired weight and is supposed to continue throughout your life. Here you are allowed to eat everything but are always encouraged to continue to eat with the right food choices. Here you learn to eat other food in moderation such that you do not gain weight.
Eating Principles of the South Beach Diet
In all the three phases, you are strongly recommended to follow a basic exercise regime to keep yourself healthy and fit. If at any point in phase 3, you start gaining weight, you simply need to switch back to phase 1 and start the cycle again. At every phase you must always plan your meals on the eating principles of the South Beach Diet which are:
- Fibrous foods like vegetables, fruits and legumes should be consumed as they slow down the digestion process and keep you satiated for longer hours. From phase 2, you should ideally have at least half cup of vegetables at breakfast and two cups at both lunch and dinner.
- Good fats like the monounsaturated fatty acids of olive oil, avocado or canola oils as well as polyunsaturated fats like in flaxseed, nuts and fish should be part of your diet in moderation. They not only keep the cells and body healthy but also keep you satiated. The diet recommends taking 2 tablespoons of oil and 1/4 cup of nuts everyday in your meal planning.
- Proteins should be the abundant form of your meals as they take time for digestion and do not spike blood sugar levels which trigger hunger and thus overeating. Lena protein is always encouraged.
Does the South Beach Diet Work?
The South beach diet’s approach is practical and uncomplicated. You are neither counting calories here nor calculating percentages of each food group like carbohydrates, proteins or fats. The diet plan allows for great flexibility and you can always switch back to phase 1 if you have deviated much. The meals prepared here are easy to make with normal ingredients found in the supermarket. This diet is so popular that you even get deliciously prepared meal packages of this diet online to order easily. You even get its delicious smoothies and snacks. The diet plan can easily be taken up by vegans as well who can eat legumes, beans and soy products instead of lean meats. Gluten is also vets avoided since the diet is all about cutting on bad carbs. Thus, the diet plan works for gluten sensitive people as well. Thus, one can state that it is a nutritious diet plan which works. Besides the first restrictive phase, it forms a healthy approach to eating.
Pros of the South Beach Diet
Let’s now throw light on some of the key advantages of this diet plan.
- A Balanced Diet – The diet is all about eating good carbs and good fats with lean proteins. Thus the diet provides a well-balanced nutrition, unlike many other diet plans.
- Few restrictions and no calorie count- The diet plan look realistic and feasible as you are allowed to eat three meals and two snacks. There is no counting of calories. You need not suffer hunger or deny yourself any food. You simply need to strive for balance and eat healthily. This makes the plan realistic and easy to follow.
- Easy to follow- The meals and snacks required to eat under this plan can be easily whipped up and prepared at home. You need not buy any expensive health supplements, replacement shakes or any special ingredient to achieve weight loss. In the diet plan, you also have the flexibility to have cheat days. This makes the plan easy to stick to and achieve success.
- Weight loss- A study conducted by the Western Michigan University established that a considerable amount of weight loss was achieved in the first week of the diet plan itself. Here, you are eliminating food that induces faster hunger pangs and cravings for sugar and refined starches. This alone helps you lose weight without any hardship.
- No hunger pangs or cravings- The toughest challenge of any diet plan is the hunger pangs as well as feelings of being deprived of food. Here, you eat regular portion foods at regular intervals and thus do not feel deprived. Moreover, consuming more of lean proteins and healthy fats leave you full and satiated for a much longer time. In the absence of easy and refined carbohydrates, your cravings disappear. It has a very limited restriction period which makes the plan further easy to follow.
Cons of the South Beach Diet
The plan has certain disadvantages as well. Few of them are:-
- Excludes Fruit– Most diet plans stress on eating fruits as they are a storehouse of vitamins and minerals. In contrast, the beach diet plan excludes fruits and even categorizes some fruits like watermelon as bad carbs. This compromised vitamins and minerals intake can lead to weakness, fatigue and even dehydration.
- Slightly Expensive Plan– The diet plan is a heavy on the pocket. While lean proteins definitely do not come cheap, the complex carbs like whole grains, brown rice etc. are also expensive compared to starch carbohydrate foods.
- Does not promote a healthy lifestyle– The entire diet plan is based on elimination of carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. There is no specific exercise regime mentioned.
- Shortcomings of the Diet Plan– The diet can be tough to follow for those who are used to eating a carbohydrate-rich diet. They may start feeling weak, dizzy and show many other symptoms. The diet is also difficult to follow for all those people who are averse to eating dairy products as most of its snacks are dairy based. Moreover, it bans eating soy in the first two weeks.
South Beach Diet Reviews
Most nutritionists and dieticians recommend eating a low GI food. However, they also do not think that all high GI foods should be banned. Again the GI if any food changes with the way and the nature in which it is cooked. We know the GI of limited foods. This makes a challenge to know about actual GI of foods. The GI of food also changes with the way foods are combined and eaten together.
Experts are also unhappy about the rapid weight loss of the program. They do not recommend losing more than 2 lb of weight per week to remain in good health. They call it unhealthy and unstable as it is induced merely by restricting calories due to severe carbohydrate restriction.
However, most agree that it is overall a well balanced diet plan. Its first two weeks are most problematic. The rapid weight loss could be just loss of water as well as lean muscle weight instead of fat. Thus, it is strongly recommended to drink plenty of water during the first phase. Your body also gets prone to developing Ketoacidosis as the body is deriving its energy from fats instead of carbohydrates. Ketoacidosis occurs due to poor insulin production just like diabetes and can cause mental confusion, coma and even death. Even people suffering from diabetes should be under medical supervision while on the diet for monitoring sugar levels. However, the diet plan is good for the heart and the cardiovascular system, for which it was initially prepared.
There are also few studies conducted to establish the long-term health impact of the diet plan apart from the ones conducted by its creator himself. Experts rank the diet plan on 24th position in terms of best diet overall.
Final Thoughts on the South Beach Diet Plan
Finally, it can be concluded that the diet plan looks fairly feasible, balanced and realistic and can be taken up. However, it does require will power and determination or you may end up gaining weight. It would take time to alter your entire eating habit but if you succeed in achieving it, you will never gain weight.