South Beach Diet - Summary and Introduction

Introduction of the South Beach Diet:

Arthur Agatston, M.D., is a cardiac physician who initially designed the South Beach Diet to help his patients who had signs of insulin resistance syndrome, a risk factor for heart disease. The traditional “heart-healthy diet,” which is low in fat and high in carbohydrate, was not working for these people. The South Beach Diet combines some of the basic elements of Atkins, ​Protein Power, and the Zone in a simple, easy-to-follow way.


Arthur Agatston, M.D.

Main Books:

The South Beach Diet, 2003
The South Beach Diet Good Fats Good Carbs Guide, 2004
All Books

Restricted Foods:

The diet starts out restricting saturated fats and most types of carbohydrates. Sources of carbohydrates are progressively added over the course of the diet, and a little more saturated fat in the final phase.

Amount of Restriction:

The South Beach Diet starts out with a lot of restriction in the Phase One, which lasts two weeks. After that period, the diet becomes progressively less restrictive.

Amount of Structure:

Dieters are encouraged to eat three meals and three snacks per day. Beyond that, after the first two weeks, there is almost no structure. No measuring or weighing of food, and no counting carbs. There are suggestions for adding carbs back in, but a lot is left up to the individual.

Individual Variation:

Agatston encourages dieters to focus on how added foods are affecting them for guidance as to which foods to add and in what quantities.

Learning Curve:

Very easy to learn. There are lists of foods to avoid and to “enjoy,” and you eat what you want within those lists.

Diet Phases:

Phase One lasts two weeks, and excludes most carbohydrates, including all fruit, most dairy products, and most sources of saturated fat. Phase Two lasts until the dieter has completed weight loss.

Phase Three is maintenance. Carbohydrate is progressively added after the first phase.

As dieters proceed through the phases, they add more carbohydrate, focusing on foods with a low glycemic index (though Agatston seems inconsistent in some of his examples in this regard). All the while they are monitoring their weight and staying at a carb level where they are still losing. At Phase Three, individuals are eating at a carb level which allows them to maintain their weight, though they are encouraged to go back and forth between phases as needed.

For a step-by-step guide, see: How to Start the South Beach Diet

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