How it works, benefits and more

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The South Beach Diet may bring back images of Mai Tais salads and fresh salmon, but it’s really about eating healthy for weight loss.

This interestingly named diet was created by Miami-based cardiologist Arthur Agatston, MD in the 1990s. The diet is so named in honor of Dr. Agatston’s area of ​​practice, and the diet first became popular. in the Miami area. Dr. Agatston wanted to change the way his patients ate to protect them against serious medical conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The same plan was published in 2003 as a book called The South Beach Diet. The book is very popular and has sold millions of copies since then.

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How to Follow the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach diet is divided into three phases: two for weight loss and one for weight maintenance.

Stage 1

This phase of the South Beach Diet lasts 14 days and is quite strict with what you are allowed to eat.

It limits fruits, grains, and many other carbohydrate-rich foods in an effort to decrease in blood sugar and insulin levels, stabilizing hunger and reducing cravings. This phase requires you to eat three meals a day with an emphasis on lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables, and small amounts of healthy fats and legumes.

For your two (required) snacks of the day, you can have a combination of lean protein and vegetables. This phase is designed to get your body used to digesting more protein and less carbohydrate. This will prime your body and prepare it for the weight loss process.

You can expect to lose between 8 and 13 pounds (3.5 to 6 kg) of body weight during this phase.

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Foods to include (for exact amounts, refer to The South Beach Diet book or website):

  • Lean meat (beef, pork, lamb), skinless chicken and turkey breast, fish, eggs and egg whites, low-fat ricotta and cottage cheese, soy-based protein sources, low-fat dairy products.
  • You can eat any vegetable except beets, carrots, corn, turnips, yams, peas, white potatoes, and most types of winter squash.
  • Varieties of beans and lentils.
  • Nuts, nut butters and seeds.
  • Preferably olive, avocado, macadamia or canola oil.

Foods to avoid:

  • Foods prepared with refined sugar, honey, maple syrup and agave nectar.
  • Fruits and fruit juices.
  • Beets, carrots, turnips, peas, white potatoes, yams and winter squash.
  • Cereals, alcohol.
  • Fatty meat and poultry.
  • Whole milk, butter and coconut oil.
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Phase 2

This phase of the South Beach Diet begins on day 15 and continues for as many weeks as needed to help you reach your weight goals. On average, you should lose 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kg) of weight per week. This phase involves more gradual weight loss.

Foods to include (for exact amounts, refer to The South Beach Diet book or website):

During the first week, Phase 2 includes all of the Phase 1 foods and gradually introduces carbohydrate-rich foods, starting with a daily serving of fruit and whole grains or starches.

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You can consume 1 to 3 fruits per day, with the exception of dates, figs, pineapple, raisins and watermelon. Serving size should be 1 small fruit or 3/4 cup of berries, cherries or grapes.

You can also include whole grains in the form of breads, cereals, pastas, and starches like yams, turnips, winter squash, etc. You can have a daily serving of light beer or dry wine.


Phase 3

After reaching your target weight in Phase 2, you move on to Phase 3 of the South Beach Diet. This phase is about weight maintenance. Now that you have reached your goal weight, you must maintain it in phase 3.

You should generally follow the Phase 2 guidelines during this phase. However, since no food is completely forbidden, you can include “treat” foods on occasion.

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If you overdo it and gain weight, you can go back to phase 1 for one to two weeks before moving on to phase 3.

Dr. Agatston also recommends regular physical activity and offers a three-phase fitness program to accompany the dieting phases in The Supercharged South Beach Diet.


Benefits of the South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet is particularly popular for its ability to induce weight loss without starving too much.

As the diet promotes the consumption of protein-rich meals that will keep you full longer, it is a great way to keep the body full. Protein can also increase metabolic rate and alter hormone levels to reduce hunger and promote satiety. So you will naturally eat less.

The diet also focuses on leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables — foods that have been shown to fight inflammation. The South Beach diet also promotes the consumption of oily fish, which is very beneficial for brain health.

Other components of the diet like eggs, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and fish are known to improve heart health. Plus, adding carbs to your diet gradually will help you stick to the diet in the long run.

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Cons of the South Beach Diet

The South Beach diet may be too restrictive when it comes to fat intake. It also allows potentially harmful fats in the form of vegetable oils (safflower and soybean oils) into the diet. These oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids, which can be harmful in high amounts.

It also limits the consumption of butter and coconut oil. Although both are high in saturated fat, coconut oil is known to be beneficial for heart health, weightlossand reducing obesity.

Overall, you might want to limit yourself to olive oil and canola oil if you want to stick to this diet religiously.

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Richard V. Johnson