Low-carb diets have been around for decades. Some of them are overly restrictive, leaving only about 10% of daily calorie intake from carbohydrates. Alternatively, others are more flexible and allow the consumption of “good” carbs.
The South Beach diet is an eating plan created by cardiologist Arthur Agatston in 2003. It focuses on lean protein, carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, and healthy fats. This nutritional approach aims at weight loss and improving levels of “bad” and “good” cholesterol and insulin. Therefore, the South Beach diet may benefit people with type 2 diabetes and improve heart health.
The South Beach diet consists of three phases, with the first two focusing on weight loss and the last one – on weight maintenance.
This phase lasts for 14 days and aims at reducing cravings, stabilizing hunger, and decreasing blood sugar and insulin levels. In addition, phase 1 kick-starts your weight loss.
Among the South Beach diet phases, it is the most strict one. During phase 1, you eliminate almost all carbohydrates from your diet. Therefore, you cannot eat fruits, grains, potatoes, bread, pasta, baked goods, juices, and alcoholic beverages. At this time, you focus on lean proteins, healthy fats, and high-fiber non-starchy vegetables.
Phase 2 is dedicated to weight loss over the long term. It lasts until you reach your weight goal.
During this phase, you can add back some carbohydrates prohibited in phase 1. Reintroduced foods include brown rice, whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, fruits, and more vegetables.
The third phase of the South Beach diet focuses on weight maintenance. This phase is the least restrictive and can be kept for life. You continue to base your diet on the guidelines of phase 2 of the South Beach diet. However, now you can have occasional treats and eat all types of food in moderation.
In addition to diet changes, the South Beach diet promotes regular exercise to boost your metabolism and avoid the plateau effect.
People with conditions like kidney disease, anorexia, allergies to peanuts, soy, or latex, pregnant women, people with conditions requiring a gluten-free or ketogenic diet, and people under 18 years should not try this diet.
In addition, breastfeeding women, men with a weight more than 450 pounds, and women with a weight more than 400 pounds require consultation with the dietitian before starting this diet.
How to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies
The South Beach diet has many food restrictions, especially in phase 1. Therefore, you may develop a deficiency of some essential nutrients while following this eating approach In particular, you may have inadequate levels of calcium, vitamin B-1, vitamin B-9, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, and iron. To ensure you meet your body’s requirements for these nutrients, try including some of the following foods in your diet:
- calcium: milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, lentils, leafy greens, amaranth, rhubarb, seeds (chia, sesame, poppy, celery), almonds, sardines, salmon;
- thiamin (vitamin B-1): sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pork, fish, mussels, yogurt, green beans, asparagus;
- folate (vitamin B-9): seafood, liver, eggs, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, beans, beets, leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, bananas, citrus fruits;
- vitamin C: citrus fruits, strawberries, papaya, kiwi, tomatoes, bell pepper, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale;
- vitamin D: salmon, herring, sardines, canned tuna, cod liver oil, egg yolk, mushrooms;
- vitamin E: wheat germ oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, asparagus, pumpkin, spinach, avocado, red bell pepper, mango;
- magnesium: dark chocolate, legumes, cashews, seeds (flax, pumpkin, chia), avocado, tofu, leafy greens;
- iron: legumes, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, tofu, red meat, organ meats, turkey, shellfish, canned tuna, dark chocolate;
Sometimes, it is hard to ensure you get enough of the listed nutrients. An alternative way to fulfill your body’s requirements is by taking supplements. Consult with your doctor to discuss possible supplements you may need.
Tips on improving your dieting experience
Excluding almost all carbs sounds impossible for many people. However, this challenging transition to a low-carb diet can be eased with a few tips discussed below.
- Plan your meals. This simple hack will help you make grocery shopping easier, manage your time, avoid choosing unhealthy options, and make your diet diverse.
- Schedule time for meal prepping. By cooking ahead, you can save your time and money, avoid takeaways or frozen processed foods, and improve the quality and diversity of your meals.
- Find tasty alternatives. Many low-carb options exist to make your transition to a new nutritional approach easier and help diversify your diet.
- Have a low-carb snack with you. It will help you avoid diet violations when you are hungry but can’t cook.
It is essential to mention that you should pay attention to how you feel when transiting to a low-carb diet. Not all people can follow this type of nutritional approach. Consult with your doctor if you notice headaches, brain fog, nausea, constipation, cramps, lack of energy, or any other unpleasant feeling.
Overall, the South Beach diet can be a sustainable eating plan promoting healthy eating and regular exercising. However, some people can find this diet overly restrictive, especially in the first phase, since it eliminates almost all carbohydrates.
It should be noted that there is no one-fit-all approach. Therefore, the South Beach diet cannot be suitable for everyone. If you notice unpleasant symptoms while following the South Beach diet, consult with your doctor.