What is a South Beach Diet?

South Beach Diet

South beach diet has been started in the 1990s by a Miami cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston along with dietitian Marie Almon.  They developed a diet focused to improve cardiovascular health, lowering the risk of heart disease.

After obtaining successful outcomes with many patients losing weight with this approach Dr. Agatston published a book in 2003 entitled The South Beach Diet. In this book, Dr. Agatston outlines the principles of his diet and reached thousands of people that wanted to adopt his approach.

One of the distinctive features of this diet is that it allows to eat a specific type of carbohydrates (low glycemic index carbs). Is a modified low-carb diet where the percentage of carbohydrates is about 28 %, while in a regular diet is 45 to 55 %.

Regarding proteins and fats, they are in higher amounts than a regular diet but the fat consumption is focused on healthy fats. This diet aims to healthy eating and is beneficial for people who want to lose weight and for people who want to maintain weight eating in a healthy way.

Part of the success of this diet is due to high satiety levels produced by the intake of low glycemic index carbs. This kind of carbs produces a smaller rise in the blood of glucose and the hormone that process it insulin than the high glycemic index carbs which results in diminish hunger, greater satiety, and better diet compliance.

These low glycemic index carbs are also a big source of fiber. The fiber provided by this carbs contributes to satiety, a proper function of your gastrointestinal system and helps to control blood cholesterol and sugar levels.

Another distinctive feature of The South Beach Diet is that it has three phases of implementation.

South Beach Diet Phases of Implementation

Phase I- First two weeks

Almost all carbohydrates are cut off except high fiber vegetables- Focus on eating lean proteins and unsaturated fats. There are three main meals, plus snacks.

Allowed foods                                                 

  • Beef
  • Poultry (Chicken and Turkey)
  • Seafood
  • Eggs, beans, soy products and legumes.
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Fats: canola oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.


  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Eggplant


  • Fruit
  • Fruit juices
  • Starchy foods (Pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread)
  • Baked and sugary foods such as cake, cookies, candy and ice cream,

Phase II- From Week 3 to the moment where the desired weight is achieved.

It has the three main meals but snacks are optional.

Continue eating the allowed foods from Phase I plus gradually reintroduction of carbohydrates, especially low glycemic index.

The carbohydrate reintroduction will be in this way: one single carb is added to just one daily meal for one week.

If the body responds appropriately, they can add a second carb for another week until there are 2 to 3 servings of low glycemic index carbs each day. Improved energy, mood, continue weight loss, are considered appropriate responses.

If there is weight gain, food cravings, inappropriate portion control, the person must re-initiate Phase I.

The suggested carbohydrates are:

  • Whole-grain bread
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Potatoes
  • Fruits
  • and more vegetables.
  • Alcohol as occasional red or white wine allowed.

Phase III- Maintenance phase.

You can eat all types of foods in moderation, focusing on healthy food choices learned in Phase I and II. If there is weight gain, cravings or consumption or unhealthy foods, return to Phase I or II.

As we can see the South Beach Diet is an easy and effective approach to weight loss, through a practical and uncomplicated diet, as well as flexible, especially in the medium and long-term. Healthy food choices are the cornerstone of the weight maintenance leading to a healthier lifestyle.

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Lara-Castro, C. and Garvey, W. (2004). Diet, Insulin Resistance, and Obesity: Zoning in on Data for Atkins Dieters Living in South BeachJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (Review). 89 (9): 4197–205. doi:10.1210/jc.2004-0683PMID 15356006.


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