South Beach Diet designed by the cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston and the dietician Dr. Marie Almon, was aimed to prevent heart diseases in Dr. Agatston’s own patients. However, the word diet spread and gained popularity. South Beach Diet was looked as an alternative to low fat diets such as Ornish Diet and Pritikin Diet advocated by American Heart Association in 1980s.
Cardiologists then believed that low fat diet would reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease. However, Dr. Agatston realized that the patients had problems practicing and sticking to these diets. To overcome this failure, he started working on insulin resistance. Pancreas secrete insulin to trigger the cells to absorb the sugar in the bloodstream. Inducing quick bursts of sugar for a prolonged period would cause the cells to resist insulin. This resistance would cause pancreas release more insulin to absorb the left over sugar in the blood, thus driving blood sugar levels below normal. This would finally result in diabetes and frequent hunger pangs. Thus, excess sugar lead to excess insulin which led to low blood sugar and hunger pangs which led to further consumption of sugar. Thus low fat diets failed as patients had simply compensated for the fat by consuming carbohydrates and additional sugar, leading to the cycles of hunger and pursuing the patients to consume more calories and gain weight thus increasing heart diseases.
The South Beach Diet principle is relatively simple. All the bad carbs are replaced by good carbs and bad fats with good fats.
Good Carbohydrates sources have low glycemic index. Bad carbohydrate sources like heavy refined sugars and grains digest quickly increasing the blood sugar levels. The South Beach Diet usually replaces these carbs by the relatively good carbs like vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Foods rich in bad fats (trans-fat and saturated fats) contribute to LDL cholesterol and heart disease. The South Beach Diet replaced these foods with the good fat foods rich in unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acid which contribute to HDL cholesterol. This diet specifically replaces red meat and poultry with lean meats, oily fish and nuts.
South Beach diet usually has three phases. The first phase of two weeks eliminates processed carbs, all sugars, fruits and vegetables rich in glycemic. The purpose of this phase is to eliminate the hunger cycles, thus resulting in significant weight loss. Phase two introduces some fruits, vegetables and whole grains and last for as long as the dieter achieves the target weight. Phase 3 last for life and is the maintenance phase. The dieter needs to understand the principles of diet and live by them. There is no specific list of permitted or non-permitted food.