South Beach Diet Is Hot; Here's Why
The South Beach Diet produces rapid weight loss without counting carbs, fats, or calories.
It started out simply enough. Arthur Agatston, MD, a
cardiologist, decided to develop an eating plan that would improve the
cholesterol and insulin levels of his patients with heart disease. Now, the South Beach diet has grown into
something much bigger. That's because the plan Agatston created not only
improves cholesterol and insulin levels, but it also has helped many people
"We've had people lose anywhere from five to 100 pounds on
the diet," says Agatston, who is director of the Mount Sinai Cardiac
Prevention Center in Miami Beach, Fla. "That's great, but what it really is
good at is improving heart patients' lipid profiles."
In clinical trials, people on the South Beach diet see dramatic
reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases in HDL (good) cholesterol.
And they do so without much calorie counting.
Agatston's book about his plan, The South Beach Diet: The
Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight
Loss, has become a best seller and it appears to be poised to overtake the
controversial Atkins diet in popularity.
"My medical orientation has always been in prevention,"
he says. "The diet grew out of the frustration in seeing more and more
patients becoming obese, having metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and all the heart
disease associated with those conditions."
Despite the South Beach diet's glitzy title, Agatston's
research and inventiveness is well respected in cardiology circles. Among other
achievements, he is one of the developers of the electron beam tomography scan,
or EBT, a screening method used to detect coronary artery disease and other
diseases. EBT scans for this purpose are given a score on the "Agatston
Scale," to gauge the severity of the disease.
"This plan really does meet several criteria for a
health-promoting diet," says Cindy Moore, RD, a director of nutrition
therapy at The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and a spokeswoman for the American
Dietetic Association (ADA). "It appears to be scientifically based. It is
rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, and it doesn't omit
any major food groups."
So what is the South Beach diet all about?
In the first phase of the South Beach diet, which lasts two
weeks, you eat normal-sized helpings of lean meats, such as chicken, turkey,
fish, and shellfish. Vegetables are also allowed, as are nuts, cheese, and
eggs. A salad with real olive oil dressing is fine. Coffee and tea are OK, and
lots and lots of water is required.
The Atkins diet differs in that carbohydrates are severely
restricted during the initial phase. The South Beach diet instead groups
"good" and "bad" carbohydrates based on their glycemic index, a measure of how
foods affect your blood sugar.
"The goal is to eat three balanced meals a day, and to eat
enough so that you don't feel hungry all the time," Agatston says.