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The South Beach diet was developed by Arthur Agatston, MD, cardiologist, director of the Mount Sinai Cardiac Prevention Center in Miami Beach, Florida, and author of the best-selling book, The South Beach Diet  (Rodale Press, 2003), and several follow-up books. Dr. Agatston originally created the dietary plan to improve the cholesterol and insulin levels of his heart disease patients, as well as help them lose weight. Although the South Beach diet has similarities to the Atkins diet, is does have important differences. Both the South Beach and Atkins diets have a severe induction phase that restricts carbohydrates (carbs). However, unlike the Atkins Diet, the South Beach diet doesn't count grams of carbs and allows carbs with a low-glycemic index. The glycemic index ranks carbs according to the effect they have on blood sugar levels. Carbs with a low GI value slowly release sugar into the blood, which curbs cravings and provides a steady supply of energy. The South Beach diet also eliminates unhealthy fats but includes healthy fats.

The 14-day induction phase of the South Beach diet allows lean poultry and red meats, fish, low-fat dairy, low-glycemic vegetables, nuts, cheese, eggs and olive oil. High-glycemic carbs are eliminated including bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, some vegetables (such as beets, corn and carrots), fruit, baked goods and alcoholic drinks. During the second phase, some of the eliminated foods are reintroduced into the diet including high-fiber carbohydrates such as fruit, whole-grain breads and pasta. After reaching your goal weight, the third phase, or weight maintenance phase, allows for most foods following healthy eating and lifestyle guidelines.

The South Beach diet is based on the theory that highly processed carbs (such as white bread) cause a cycle of overeating. Highly processed carbs get digested quickly, making insulin levels spike. Once the carbs are digested, too much circulating insulin causes the body to crave more carbs. The diet minimizes carbs to break the cycle and help people stop craving carbs. The South Beach diet promises an 8 to 14 pound weight loss over the 14 day induction period. However, experts warn that much of the weight loss is water weight that will eventually be regained. Because the water weight loss may also cause an electrolyte imbalance, some experts recommend following the diet with a registered dietitian or your doctor. You will eventually lose weight on the diet by eating less and eating better foods.

"My medical orientation has always been in prevention," writes Agatston. "The diet grew out of the frustration in seeing more and more patients becoming obese, having metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and all the heart disease associated with those conditions."

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  6. The South Beach Diet: How It Works, WebMD:

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  8. The South Beach Diet: What the Experts Say, WebMD:

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  10. Casey J. South Beach Diet Is Hot; Here's Why. WebMD:

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