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How to Lose Weight on a Low-Carb or Glycemic-Index Diet

        Health | Weight Loss

South Beach Diet
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.South Beach Diet encourages high-fiber vegetables.

The South Beach Diet eliminates carbs for the first two weeks, then gradually reintroduces "good carbs."

South Beach Diet: The Premise

The South Beach Diet was developed by Dr. Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist, out of frustration with his patients' lack of results when they followed high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets. His plan is neither low carb nor low fat. Instead, Agatston concentrates on teaching you how to eat the right carbs and the right fats to help you lose weight and reverse health problems associated with being overweight.

He blames highly processed carbohydrates for creating food cravings and says that learning to control the cravings will lead to weight loss. Considered by some to be a relaxed version of the Atkins diet, the South Beach Diet starts with a two-week phase that eliminates most carbohydrates. After this, the diet gradually reintroduces "good carbs," including fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber grains, and healthier unsaturated fats.

What's for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner? Agatston believes that hunger undermines weight-loss plans, so he doesn't require you to count calories, carbohydrate, protein, or fat. If you follow his eating plan, he says, your hunger will be under control. In the first two weeks of the plan, you cleanse your body by eliminating carbs altogether. There are no limits on allowed foods, but meals should be just enough to relieve your hunger. In Phase 2 you liberalize your carb intake gradually while watching your weight and how you feel. Preferred carbohydrates during this phase are those with a low glycemic-index score (a measure of the degree to which a certain food increases blood glucose levels), such as whole grains, some fruits, and plain yogurt). But you should not go overboard on the good carbs, either, because large portions of these foods can still increase your blood glucose and insulin levels. Once you reach your goal weight, you can move into Phase 3, the maintenance phase. At this point, any food is allowed, including desserts on occasion, but if you begin to gain weight, you are directed to go back to Phase 1 or 2 to get back on track. Two weeks of sample meal plans and dozens of recipes are provided for each phase of the diet. More recently, Agatston released The South Beach Diet Cookbook offering many more recipes and tips. At most supermarkets, you can find various packaged foods carrying the South Beach Diet name, including snacks, cereals, cookies, crackers, frozen entrees, wraps, and desserts. These are healthy and convenient options, but considerably more expensive than buying whole foods.

Fact or Fiction: What the Experts Say After the first phase, the diet is much more moderate than the Atkins diet. However, there are no limits on any of the allowed foods during Phase 2 and 3, which could be a concern. While Agatston instructs dieters to eat normal-size meals, this could be a problem for those who have problems interpreting their feelings of hunger and fullness. On the flip side, the plan does encourage snacking and desserts, which can help keep hunger at bay and reduce feelings of deprivation. Many experts contend that making food choices based on glycemic index is a limited way of looking at foods. Doing away with carbs such as carrots, potatoes, pasta, bananas, pineapple, and watermelon during the early phases of the diet simply because of their higher glycemic score ignores the fact that these foods contain essential nutrients.

Gains and Losses/What's the Damage?

Overall, the diet recommended in Phases 2 and 3 is fairly well-balanced and moderate. You can expect to have lower glucose, insulin, and cholesterol levels, though more likely as a consequence of weight loss than the diet itself. Agatston recommends exercise but says it's not necessary to lose weight; rather, it's key for faster weight loss and for reducing insulin and glucose levels. The recommendation to go back to Phase 1 or 2 any time you start gaining weight could cause nutrient shortfalls if you stay on the restrictive Phase 1 diet too long. Since weight loss will slow during Phase 2 and pounds may creep back on during Phase 3, dieters may get frustrated and want to return to, or stay on, Phase 1. The online program allows you to better personalize the diet compared to the book alone, but plan to pay about $65 for 3 months of this service. With the online ability for personalization, The South Beach Diet has more potential for lasting and healthy results.

Now you've got "the skinny" on low-carb and glycemic-index diets. Consider whether one sounds right for you.

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.