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The Promise

South Beach and Atkins are the celebrities of the low-carb scene. But though they share top billing, they choose different paths to weight-loss fame.

The key to losing weight quickly and getting healthy isn’t cutting all carbohydrates and fats from your diet, says Miami-based cardiologist Arthur Agatston, M.D., author of The South Beach Diet. It’s learning to choose the right carbs and the right fats.

This approach is part of a three-step program Agatston developed to help his heart patients lose weight and lower cholesterol.

Emphasizing foods that are loaded with fiber and nutrients, the South Beach Diet promises to help you kick your cravings, jump-start your weight loss, and keep those unwanted pounds off -- for life.

In the first 2 weeks, Phase 1 of the diet, you can expect to lose between 8 and 13 pounds, Agatston says.

Does It Work?

Yes. It's a healthy approach to eating that can help you shed pounds.

There are three phases, with Phase 1 the most restrictive: no bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, or fruit.

In Phase 2, you gradually add back in some of these foods. You move into Phase 3 when you hit your goal weight, and you stay there for life.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

That depends on the phase you’re in. Phase 1 is the strictest and includes:

  • A lot of protein, such as beef, poultry, seafood, eggs, and cheese
  • Some fats, including canola oil, extra-virgin olive oil, and avocado
  • Carbs with the lowest glycemic index, including vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and eggplant

What’s off-limits in Phase 1: Fruit, fruit juices, starchy foods, dairy products, and alcohol.

In Phase 2, you slowly reintroduce healthy carbs into your diet -- fruit, whole-grain bread, whole-grain rice, whole wheat pasta, and sweet potatoes. Expect weight loss to slow to 1 to 2 pounds a week, on average.

Phase 3 is about maintaining your weight. There’s no food list to follow. By this time, you’ll know how to make good food choices and how to get back on track if you overindulge once in a while. If cravings return or your eating gets off track, the plan recommends going back to Phase 1 or 2.

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