What is it | Glycemic index | Why it works | Rules | Safety | Disadvantages

South beach diet, sounds weird right? Don’t worry, the name was given after an elegant Miami beach where it formed. yes that’s right we are talking about the same diet which has been circling around for some time now along with the military diet.

It was named the south beach diet in the 1990s because the developer of this diet is Dr. Arthur Agatston, a known cardiologist who used to practice in South Beach area at that time. He developed it with the help of a dietitian Marie Almon.

It is not among those fad diets that work fast. Only in their marketing videos!

Foods with their glycemic indices

What is South Beach Diet?

The story isn’t much but what inspired him is that he felt this diet should be formed was mainly his patients. This is surely different from a low calorie diet plan or a ketogenic diet.

Agatston noticed that the patients who tried the Atkins Diet got successful in losing some weight and belly fat, whereas the patients who were on a low-fat, high-carb diet still struggled to lose weight or see any noticeable change.

But in the Atkins Diet, there was a high level of saturated fat , and Agatston was not satisfied with the choice, especially when it came to people with heart disease.

More so, he wasn’t a believer in restricting high-fiber foods in the diet with “good carbs,” which were whole grains and fruits.

Dr. Agatston strongly desired to form a diet that would allow the overweight, pre-diabetic and diabetic patients to lose weight quickly and easily by also preventing any heart diseases.

So in result, he created the South Beach Diet, which comprises of lean proteins, unsaturated fats, and low-glycemic-index carbs.

What is Glycemic Index?

Glycemic index is a score between 1 to 100 assigned to foods based on how quickly they are converted to glucose and become part of blood rise blood glucose level. Since carbs are the fastest foods to be digested, therefore, Glycemic Index (GI) is assigned to carbohydrates only.

Glycemic index is very important for diabetes patients because high GI foods quickly raise blood glucose level which is not good for them.

You can see glycemic index of some of the common foods here.

Why South Beach Diet Works?

When Agatston tried the diet himself, he was able to lose weight successfully and some belly fat as well, so he decided to prescribe it also to his patients, who got similar outcomes.

It was made for heart patients, but after observing the results, everyone started following the south beach diet, and it started getting popular day by day.

When he saw the people’s keen interest in his diet, Dr. Agatston finally published The South Beach Diet in 2003, and it suddenly turned into a bestseller all over the world.

He also wrote some other good books like the south beach diet cookbook and the south beach diet supercharged, which also gained a lot of popularity as a second edition of the first book.

While selecting the right carbohydrates, it also restricts you from eliminating some specific carbohydrates which are high in the Glycemic index score (Gl).

Research has shown that foods with high glycemic index promote overeating which may cause weight gain. (1)

It has also been shown that introducing low GI foods in diet improves lipid profile and better blood glucose regulation. (2)

A study published in Clinical Nutrition journal has found a strong association between foods with high glycemic load and belly fat. (3)

This diet is not a typical diet with a reduction of all the carbs and fats. In fact, it encourages to choose the right and healthy foods for yourself like lean proteins, fresh fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and olive oil.

These carbohydrates come into refined forms, such as white bread or sugar. These simple carbs satisfy your stomach and digest quickly for the time being, but after some time, the hunger returns because you don’t get a whole meal or proper nutrients.

Eating carbohydrates which are unrefined is the best option and highly recommended because these digest slowly while giving you the feeling of being full for a long period.

So this way you eat less but healthy.

South Beach Diet Rules

The south beach diet consists of 3 phases…

The first one is for you to get used to the diet and the changes you have to bring in your lifestyle.

It’s a kick start where you get a restrictive set of rules to follow to make it easy for you in the long run.

Then comes the second phase, which helps you achieve the ideal weight that you want to gain.

And then the final one, the third phase.

That’s basically to let you keep the weight you so this phase is all about maintaining weight loss.

First phase

It consists of 14 days with strict diet rules and schedules. In this phase, it’s easy to lose 8 to 12 pounds which is a right amount for rapid weight loss.

In the first phase, there are three meals in a day with the addition of two snack times consisting of vegetables or some lean proteins. In meals you are expected to take vegetables without any starch, legumes and healthy carbs or fats.

Allowed foods in the first phase 

There is no specific amount of food mentioned. However, it’s preferable if you eat in small portions and if you still feel the hunger, then eat a bit again.

Lean proteins:

  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Lean meats
  • Turkey
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables
  • Cheese, reduced in fats
  • Fish or shellfish

Vegetables without starch:

You can eat all the vegetables, but some of them are not allowed, such as corn, yams, winter squash, white potatoes, peas, turnips, beets, and carrots.


  • Lentils
  • Hummus
  • Split and black-eyed peas
  • Edamame and soybeans
  • Variety of different beans

Seeds and Nuts:

Don’t take up to 28 grams in a day.

  • Nut butterflies
  • Flex seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds, pecans, walnuts, macadamias, and pistachios

Fats and Oils:

2 tbsp. oil in a day is enough

  • Monounsaturated oils like, avocado oil, canola, and olive oil
  • Seeds and vegetable oil like flaxseed, soybean oil, safflower, and grapeseed.


Don’t take up more than 100 calories

  • Jams or jellies, sugar-free
  • Chocolate syrup or cocoa, sugar-free
  • Candies, gum, Popsicles, sugar-free


  • Sodas, sugar-free
  • Tea or coffee, decaffeinated
  • Tomato or vegetable juice

Foods that are not allowed in the First Phase

Some specific foods which are high in carbs level are not allowed like,

  • Fruits
  • Alcohol
  • Grains
  • Milk
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Potatoes
  • Baked goods

Second Phase

It starts after the 14th day ends and could be done until you reach the weight you desire no matter how long it takes, you can just continue to do it.

In this phase, 1 to 2 pounds can be shed in a week.

The foods included in phase 1 are all allowed with some additional fruits and carbs.

You are even allowed to have alcohol a bit.

Fruits also get added back.

Carbs that are added:

You can take one small fruit in this phase like oranges, mangoes, and much more, but some fruits are limited.

– A little treat

– Whole grain bread

– Brown rice

Vegetables that were not allowed in the first phase are added a bit.


When you make your day full of healthy eating and carbs that are right for you.

You’ll visibly notice the change in yourself as improvements such as,

  • Constant weight loss
  • Sleep quality improves
  • Your skin becomes glowing.
  • Better energy

Third Phase

Ok so now you have achieved all the weight loss you wanted. Since you have got in shape, some treats are good to take in this phase. It is now time to keep it that way on maintenance mood.

Though it is also a bit hard because when you really achieve your desired weight there’s a high possibility that you may overeat and gain that weight back .

So, Dr. Agatston suggests that you should go back to the first phase and then come back again to the last one to continue maintaining your weight.

Is it Effective?

Yes, because it’s very flexible and easy to follow

There is no need for counting calories all the time during this diet.

This diet gives you the best choice to lose weight without starving yourself, as some other diets require.

It provides you with the essential nutrients your body needs as the diet encourages the intake of fish, nuts, eggs, olive oil, which are all good for your health, especially the patients with heart disease who find it highly effective.

When you are eating a perfect combination of carbohydrates with proteins and other nutrients, it will affect your body and health in a good way of making your body lose weight gradually.

It also helps you maintain your weight for a long period.

How much Weight you can Lose ??

In the South Beach Diet, it’s expected to lose 8 – 13 pounds which will be nearly 3.6 – 5.9 kg within the first two weeks that will be your phase 1. Also, most of the weight you are going to lose will be from midsection. Once the starting phase is over, in the next one, you are going to be on a gradual process of losing 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Is South Beach Diet Safe? 

Yes, the south beach diet is safe to do as there are no extensively restricted guidelines to follow, encouraging you to adopt a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and until you follow the rules as they are set.

But if you restricted yourself more than the diet recommends, it might result in health issues.


Like every other diet, south beach diet also has its downsides. These cons are mostly during phase 1 of the three phases of the diet.

The first phase is considered very restrictive, as even fruits are not allowed in it. It will keep the body from having various essential nutrients.

The first phase usually lasts for 2-3 weeks, and stopping fruit intake for this long can result in glucose deficiency. Low sugar levels can also cause a headache or dizziness.

Milk has calcium, and it is advisable to have at least one glass of milk every day for balanced calcium levels. Restricting dairy can cause low calcium levels and can result in bones feeling weak and can lead to pain in joints too.

The weight loss process is very rapid, which is not suitable for many people. The body can feel very fatigued and fragile if you lose weight this fast.

You are very likely to gain it back at the same rate to this way, as feeling tired and your body’s lack of nutrients might put you to overeating.

Also, the weight that is lost very fast can only be water weight or loss of muscle, and there is no proper evidence of long-term weight loss.

Some people consider this diet to be more time and money consuming as it is complex, and most things are up to the dieter. Protein-rich foods are also more costly than others.

The south beach diet depends on the glycemic index for the choice of foods. The glycemic index can change depending upon the way the food was cooked, the size, and a lot of other factors. So it has been criticized for not being a precisely reliable way to make food choices.

There is also no name of exercise in it too. Just dieting with very low activity levels will not promote healthy weight loss. It is just going to make you weak and lazy.

The Bottom Line

South beach diet is a comparatively better diet plan because of its emphasis on healthy foods. And secondly it is backed by science as well so it is not definitely a fad diet.

Every diet plan has different effects on different people, so you might feel like this one is for you. Experiment for yourself if you are still struggling about what diets work, and only then you will know. Also, speak to your doctor before starting any diet.

?This diet is sustainable and good for patients as well as people in general if they follow its specific set of rules. Thought it is not exactly a low carb diet plan but it is in sync with eating.


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