Feature Archive

The South Beach Diet

What It Is

They may seem similar, but the South Beach diet is more than just a heart-friendly version of the Atkins diet. All the same, they have a lot in common.

Both South Beach and Atkins diets are the creation of medical doctors. The father of the South Beach diet is cardiologist Arthur Agatston, MD, director of the Mount Sinai Cardiac Prevention Center in Miami Beach, Fla.

Both the South Beach and Atkins diets are best-selling diet books. Only someone living in a cave hasn't, by now, heard of Agatston's The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss.

Both South Beach and Atkins diets restrict carbohydrates -- carbs, as diet dilettantes like to say. True, "good carbs" are allowed. But South Beach dieters must say goodbye to potatoes, fruit, bread, cereal, rice, pasta, beets, carrots, and corn for the first two weeks. After that, most of these foods remain strongly discouraged.

Both South Beach and Atkins diets have a more severe induction phase, followed by a long-term eating plan.

The difference, really, boils down to two things:

  • Fats. The South Beach diet bans unhealthy fats but strongly promotes healthy ones.
  • Carbs. The South Beach diet doesn't count grams of carbs. The Atkins diet seeks to change a person from a sugar-burning machine into a fat-burning machine. The South Beach diet looks at how much sugar is in a carb. Low-sugar carbs -- those with a low glycemic index (they don't cause the blood sugar levels to rise and fall as quickly) -- are good (this point may sound very familiar to fans of the Sugar Busters diet)