The South Beach Diet
Type of Diet:
Low glycemic, low saturated fat

Foods You Eat on this Diet
Lean meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, low fat dairy foods, nuts, most vegetables, low glycemic carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners.

General Facts: There are three phases of this diet: the first phase eliminates most carbohydrates including fruits and starchy vegetables, the second phase reintroduces carbohydrates, and the third phase is a weight control phase.

Can you keep it off on this type of diet? 
Currently there is no evidence to show that eating low glycemic foods helps weight loss anymore than eating a normal reduced calorie diet that includes all types of carbohydrate sources, so studies need to be done to prove this idea. Keeping weight off depends upon the development of new eating habits and choosing the right amount of total foods from all sources including fat, protein, and carbohydrate and maintaining a increased activity level.

Positives: Drastic reduction of carbohydrates causes more rapid weight loss from losing body water in the first two weeks - some people may find this motivating until the real work begins. Emphasis on reducing "bad" fats and choosing "good" fats is a real plus for promoting good heart health and is an improvement over high fat, low carbohydrate diets. Recipes are appealing and different, using popular trendy restaurant recipes.

Drawbacks: Like many current diets, this uses the glycemic index improperly to  identify "bad" and "good" carbohydrates as it relates to weight loss and insulin resistance. The glycemic index is a very specific and complex measurement and can't be applied to a carbohydrate when it is eaten with other foods (the way most people eat) - it completely changes the index and the effect each food has on glucose metabolism. The South Beach Diet completely  ignores this important fact as do many low carbohydrate diet books. Overemphasis on glycemic index and using it to categorize foods misleads and confuses the dieter. - insulin response to food is affected by much more than just glycemic index.

 

Cost
Online Diet: YES

Safety and Health Issues
The first phase of the diet is extremely limited in carbohydrates so it may not be appropriate for certain people, even though the book says it is not a "low carbohydrate" or a "low fat" diet. There isn't scientific evidence to support that this phase adds real value beyond initial rapid weight loss, although the book has it's own individual testimonials. Once some carbohydrates are added back in, it is much like a typical heart healthy diet that emphasizes good fats and a variety of foods high in nutrition (although cholesterol in the diet doesn't appear to be restricted - this may be a problem for some). 

Diet Surf's Recommendation:  Recommended with reservations

Dietitians comments about the South Beach Diet
This diet gets it very right and very wrong at the same time. It's an improvement over many of other popular diets that emphasize reducing carbohydrates because it promotes eating heart healthy fats in appropriate amounts. The recipes are appealing but the actual menus lack important nutrition information (are they nutritionally adequate for long term use? How many calories per day?) and offers no way to make specific substitutions to foods that the dieter can't or won't eat, so they are very limited. This is important because Phase II is recommended indefinitely "until you reach your ideal weight" - that could take more than a year for some. The diet assumes that carbohydrates are the cause of weight gain in everyone (not eating too much food overall), and that a drastic reduction in

high glycemic index foods
for two weeks will remove the craving to overeat. There is just not any long term research to support this concept and until there is, reducing total calories (of all types) with a healthy balance of healthy foods is a better bet. In a recent Nutrition Action Healthletter, one of the researchers who developed the glycemic index, Dr. Thomas Woelver, is quoted "I've yet to see evidence that a low-GI (glycemic index) diet aids weight loss". For more on this, read "weighing the diet books" Nutrition Action Healthletter, January/February 2004.


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