Another, dare I say “fad,” diet that had its own bout of significant popularity is the South Beach Diet, created by a cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston. As a cardiologist he made a diet for his patients that would prevent, or reduce the effects of, heart disease. In no time, the diet’s original plan was expanded and adopted by the weight loss industry and eager dieters. This diet focuses on incorporating “good” carbohydrates and fats, while eliminating “bad” carbohydrates and fats.
History of the Diet’s Concepts To understand the reason behind the basic concepts of this diet, it is important to understand two medical terms relating to the way food is used in the body. When glucose (sugar) enters the bloodstream, insulin is secreted by the pancreas that prompts cells to absorb this sugar. If insulin is not secreted properly, or not at all, the sugar gets left in the bloodstream. Another problem is if quick bursts of sugar are introduced into the bloodstream for consecutive years, the cells may become insulin resistant—this is the first of the two terms. At this point, since the blood sugar levels are so abnormally high, the pancreas is signaled to keep producing insulin that will supposedly do the job. Eventually, this excess insulin causes too low levels of sugar in the blood. This can result in a variety of serious problems, including Diabetes, and also causes cycles of hunger. Feelings of hunger lead to more sugar intake, starting the cycle all over again.
The second term is glycemic index. This is the measure of the effects that different carbohydrates have on the levels of sugar in the blood. Carbohydrates have a high glycemic index when they break down quickly during digestion, therefore releasing glucose much quicker. Carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index break down more slowly, releasing glucose in a more gradual manner. Low glycemic foods are certainly more healthful, cause less insulin resistance, and should be number one on the “good carbohydrates” list.
Good vs. Bad Carbs Hunger cycles, which cause overeating, and not overeating necessarily healthy foods, are brought on by eating foods that are high on the glycemic index list. They cause quick spikes in blood sugar, leading to the problems discussed in the previous section. Therefore, low glycemic index carbohydrates are considered to be “good” for the purposes of this diet. Refined sugars and grains are all on the “no” list, while unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains are all on the “yes” list.
Good vs. Bad Fats An additional component to this healthy eating program is watching fat intake. Typically, fats do not have any effect on the hunger cycle, but they certainly have an impact on heart health. Trans fats, which are eliminated while on this diet, and saturated fats, which are highly discouraged, both contribute to heart disease and high cholesterol. This diet focuses on the healthy fats, such as unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids that can provide health benefits related to the heart and other bodily organs and functions.
Phases Like many diets, the South Beach Diet is done in phases: kick-start, steady weight loss, and maintenance.
- Phase 1, Kick-start: This phase lasts for only 2 weeks. It eliminates high glycemic index foods, including sugars, processed carbohydrates, fruits, and some vegetables. This part of the plan is supposed to stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Phase 2, Steady Weight Loss: This phase primarily focuses on weight loss, and is ideal as a starting point for those who desire to lose 10 pounds or less. It can last for however long the dieter desires to lose weight, or however long it takes him or her to reach their ideal weight. It includes more good carbs, such as whole-grain breads, brown rice, fruits, sweet potatoes, and peas.
- Phase 3, Maintenance: This phase begins once the healthy weight goal is reached, and it is designed to maintain this weight for the rest of the dieter’s life. It incorporates phases 1 and 2, but allows for complete freedom of choice in the foods that are eaten. By this point, the dieter should be well aware of what constitutes good and healthy food choices.
Before Starting the Diet… This diet may not be appropriate for, or may not work for, everyone. Talking this over with your healthcare provider is the best place to start. There has been some controversy as to the research behind these dieting principles in how they pertain to every person. Many people say that the phases only work for those who have blood sugar problems, or diabetics.