Is The South Beach Diet For You?

Is The South Beach Diet For You?
Launched in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston and dietitian Marie Almon, the South Beach Diet was designed to prevent heart disease and help patients lose weight. But does the research live up to the claims, and how easy is the diet to stick to in the long term? Here we explain the South Beach Diet and examine whether it can help you achieve success on your weight loss journey with Phen Caps.

South Beach Diet Author & History

The South Beach Diet’s author, Dr. Arthur Agatston, was inspired to create a new diet plan when he observed that patients had trouble sticking to low-fat diets prescribed to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease.

Drawing conclusions from David J. Jenkins’ work on the Glycemic Index, Dr. Agatston proposed that patients on low-fat diets often felt hungry because they were consuming additional sugars and simple carbs. These foods are rapidly reduced to sugar by the digestive process and, as a result, left patients feeling hungry between meals regardless of caloric intake. Worse yet, the extra sugar consumption led to an over-production of insulin and low blood sugar, which made dieters crave even more sugar.

Following these realizations, Dr. Agatston approached Marie Almon, RD – the hospital’s chief dietitian - to help him develop the South Beach Diet Plan. This new way of eating was based on replacing ‘bad’ carbs and ‘bad’ fats with ‘good’ carbs and ‘good’ fats to promote sustainable weight loss.

How the South Beach Diet Works

According to the South Beach Diet creators, it’s quick-digesting carbohydrates that spike blood sugar and cause vicious hunger cycles. These “bad” foods include the heavily refined sugars and grains that make up a relatively large part of the typical Western diet.

The South Beach Diet eliminates these foods in favor of relatively unprocessed foods such as vegetables, beans and whole grains. Trans fats and saturated fats are also discouraged, so followers replace fatty portions of red meat and poultry with lean meats, nuts, and oily fish. These alternative proteins contain more unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids – the “good fats.”

Like many weight loss diets, the South Beach Diet uses phases to transition people into a healthier lifestyle. Dieters start with phase 1 – a strict, two-week weight loss plan – and then gradually transition through phase 2 and eventually into phase 3: a more liberal, lifetime maintenance plan.

Phase one lasts for two weeks and aims to eliminate cravings. It is a rapid weight loss phase and only intended for those with more than 10lbs to lose.

Phase two can continue for as long as necessary to reach goal weight. It involves a gradual reintroduction of more diverse foods, but should still allow for gradual weight loss.

Phase three is the lifetime maintenance phase. It uses the glycemic index of foods as a guide to make nutritious & healthy choices.

Phase Allowed Prohibited
1 low GI vegetables, lean meat, fresh fish, eggs, low-fat dairy, nuts & seeds, unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados) simple carbs (bread, rice, pasta, cereal), high GI vegetables (peas, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, corn), fruit & fruit juice, sweets, alcohol, saturated fats (butter, cheese, fatty meats)
2 all Phase 1 foods plus: medium GI vegetables and legumes, whole grains, low GI fruit, dark chocolate, red wine white carbs, high GI fruit and vegetables, fruit juice, alcohol, sweets, saturated fats
3 Use the GI index as a guide to what to eat. No foods are banned, but limit high GI foods and choose good fats over saturated fats.

South Beach Diet Pros and Cons

Since its creation almost 20 years ago, the South Beach Diet has remained surprisingly popular. Despite its many merits, however, it is not the perfect diet. Here we examine the South Beach Diet’s pros and cons in detail.


The South Beach Diet is preferable to other fad diets because it encourages a balanced diet, was created by medical professionals and transition dieters from a plan for weight loss to a plan for weight maintenance.

  • Promotes a balanced diet
    The South Beach Diet does not eliminate any major food groups, nor does it require dieters to follow overly-strict rules after Phase 1. Followers eat fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats.
  • Created by medical professionals
    The South Beach Diet author is a doctor and he worked with a dietitian to design this famous eating plan. While some of the claims are disputed (see cons), the creators of the diet at least came into the book with a medical background.
  • Transitions users from diet to lifestyle
    One of the greatest benefits of the South Beach Diet is its built-in transition from intentional weight loss (Phase 1) to weight maintenance (Phase 3). Short-term outlook is a major weakness with most fad diets, but the South Beach Diet helps users develop healthy eating behaviors that that can maintain long-term.


The South Beach Diet has received mixed reviews in scientific studies and some people find the lifestyle difficult to maintain:

  • Difficult initiation phase and many rules
    The South Beach Diet may prove difficult to follow, especially during Phase 1. As with any eating plan with specific rules, eating out and eating socially will likely become much harder, particularly during the early weeks of the diet.
  • Unfounded nutrition and health claims
    In 2006, the Journal of General Internal Medicine evaluated the nutrition and health claims made by the South Beach Diet book and found that only 33% of the claims made in the book could be confirmed by findings in scientific literature, drawing the fundamental principles and potential for success of the diet into question. Two studies have shown favorable results with the South Beach Diet, but one of these was run by Dr. Agatston and the other was conducted by Kraft Foods – makers of the South Beach Diet food line.

GlycemicProblems with the Glycemic Index

In addition to the benefits and drawbacks of the South Beach Diet itself, there is also a lot of doubt controversy about the glycemic index (GI) – the diet’s main guiding principle.

Problems with ranking foods by glycemic index include:

  • Imprecise GI values
    Each food has a GI value, but this can be based on one study performed anywhere in the world or as average of many studies. Moreover, additional factors – such as ripeness of fruit – may affect how fast a food is processed through the digestive system, and therefore GI value.
  • Difficult to establish the GI of a mixed meal
    The index only considers food in isolation, but we don’t eat this way. For example, potatoes average a high score of 85, although it is not often that we eat potatoes without some kind of fat or protein, both of which lower the GI of a food.

Given these South Beach diet pros and cons, we would like more information before accepting or rejecting this diet for weight loss.

The South Beach Diet meets important criteria for a healthy diet by emphasizing vegetables, fruit, lean protein and whole grains while not omitting any major food group. However we would appreciate more information on how effective the diet is and how easy it is to follow. We can see a potential for confusion, misinterpretation of the glycemic index and accordingly, the over consumption of some foods that may have a low to medium GI, but that should be restricted by amount due to calories. And, while counting calories is not always necessary in the long term to eat healthily, calories should certainly be taken into account when establishing a degree of moderation in food consumption.

In the end, moderation is the key to healthy eating. Most foods provide benefits to your health as part of the balanced diet, which means they will all help you reach your goal weight with Phen Caps.

Boost your weight loss with Phen Caps


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Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, April 20). South Beach Diet. Retrieved from

Agatston, A. (2003). The South Beach diet. London: Headline.

Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation (1998, April 14-18). Chapter 4 - The role of the glycemic index in food choice. In Carbohydrates in human nutrition. (FAO Food and Nutrition Paper - 66). Retrieved from