The South Beach diet was originally developed by a cardiologist named Arthur Agatson and dietician Marie Almon as a way to prevent heart disease amongst Agatson’s patients. The South Beach diet is neither a low-fat or a low-carb diet. Instead, the program bans unhealthy fats and discourages the consumption of unhealthy carbs while not focusing on calorie-counting or strict portion control. Somewhat akin to the Atkins diet, South Beach has several stages including a strictly carb-limiting stage at the beginning and a final long-term maintenance stage at the end.
Phase one of the South Beach diet prohibits all starches and sugary foods, grains, as well as alcohol. It focuses on lean protein, vegetables, low-fat dairy and unsaturated fats. In this time the body begins to adjust to healthier eating and cravings for sugary foods begin to drop off. The next phase of the diet reintroduces some of the carbohydrates previously removed from the diet in phase one, such as whole wheat products and fruits. This phase continues until weight loss goals are met. The final phase introduces a healthy way to eat for life with the goal of maintaining weight lost and promoting good health.
The South Beach diet is based on the notion of the glycemic index (GI). The GI is measure of the rate at which blood glucose levels increases after eating a certain food. It is obtained by comparing how much one gram of carbohydrate in a given food raises blood sugar compared to the consumption of pure glucose. Lower GI foods will take longer to digest, high GI foods digest quickly and cause rapid changes in blood sugar. It is thought that a diet of low-GI foods may contribute to weight loss as well as provide a longer sense of satiety after meals.