The South Beach Diet is one of the most publicized diets of recent decades. Developed by a Florida cardiologist, Arthur Agatston, the diet is one that emphasizes natural foods, ‘good’ (that is, complex) carbohydrates, and ‘good’ fats. In other words, this is a diet that has the potential, at least, to be very healthy, in that it emphasizes the consumption of natural foods – foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. You shouldn’t feel deprived while following the South Beach Diet, and you shouldn’t be putting yourself at risk for nutritional deficiencies.
What are ‘good’ carbohydrates? Basically, good carbohydrates are those that are close to their natural form, and not refined. In general, ‘white’ carbohydrates are the less desirable ones, according to this way of thinking about nutrition. So, while brown rice is healthy, white rice isn’t – and so on. The problem is that ‘white’ foods tend to raise insulin resistance. They provoke an insulin response in much the same way that sugar does, and over time, this takes its toll. Eventually, the insulin response gets ‘worn out’, so to speak. That is, because it has been used so much, it stops functioning. That’s a big problem, because it can lead to diabetes and heart problems. It can also lead to weight gain, especially around the stomach area, which is also bad for your heart and raises your possibility of developing diabetes later in life.
Eating ‘good’ carbohydrates, on the other hand, stabilizes the insulin response. This is one way in which the South Beach Diet is a big improvement on other diets such as Atkins, which limits all carbohydrates. For many of us, cutting out carbohydrates altogether would make us feel deprived, and as a result, we might end up eating more than our fair or healthy share of saturated fats. If you are allowed carbohydrates, your diet is more varied. Also, the ‘whole’ or unrefined carbohydrates add a lot of vitamins and minerals to your diet that may be lacking in other popular diets.
As far as ‘good fats’ go, they are fats that carry essential acids such as omega 3’s and omega 6’s, and minimize saturated fats, which are bad for your heart. Cholesterol is also kept to a minimum – at least, ‘bad’ cholesterol is – and foods with trans-fats are eliminated altogether. Unlike other diets, though, the South Beach diet does not insist on an elimination or drastic reduction in fats. Again, if you eliminate fats altogether from your diet, you have a much higher possibility of feeling deprived, and when you feel deprived, you are more likely to cheat.
The other component of this diet if fruit – the South Beach diet has you eating quite a lot of fruit, and this is another source of ‘good’ carbohydrates, too. Also, the sugar in the fruit will keep you from feeling deprived, and help keep you on the diet in the long term. Sometimes this diet has been criticized for its inclusion of tropical fruit, that tends to be high in sugar. However, the diet argues, the benefits from eating this type of fruit outweigh the corresponding risks.
Because fats aren’t eliminated altogether or drastically cut, the South Beach Diet is not a rapid weight-loss diet. Rather, it is an eating plan that allows you to lose weight slowly and steadily, and to keep it off over time. It is a plan that promotes overall good health, and good eating habits. People do best if they follow a modified version of this diet for life. It is very nutritionally sound.
The South Beach diet reached its zenith of popularity shortly after Atkins did, and for that reason, it is sometimes confused with the Atkins diet. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. The South Beach diet is much more balanced than Atkins, and does not eliminate any food group except for packaged or ‘unnatural’ foods. This is one of the most nutritionally sound diets out there, and though the preparation of natural foods like fish and whole grains may take some time to get used to, there are great benefits to be had in terms of weight loss, nutrition and overall health.
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