South Beach Diet Reviews: Criticism and Top Five Reasons to avoid the South Beach Diet

South Beach Diet Reviews: Discover The Top 5 Reasons To Avoid The South Beach Diet


The South Beach Diet

by Dr. Arthur Agatston ©2003 311 pages

Review written by: Dr. Kendra Pearsall

Dr. Pearsall’s Scorecard (3 out of a possible 10) customer reviews (67% approval out of 614 reviews) 7  
Popularity: number of Amazon reviews and books sold 10  
Accuracy of nutrition information 5  
Well written, organized, engaging, understandable, original 2  
Advocates foods that are whole, natural, clean, organic and raw 3  
Advice on other weight factors (hormones, food allergies, toxicity, lifestyle) 1  
Uses a holistic weight loss approach, addressing the body, mind, and spirit 1  
SSensible meal plans and tasty, healthy quick recipes 4  
Detailed exercise advice includes weight training and cardio 1  
Easy to follow for life 4  
Reviews effective weight loss products e.g. supplements, videos, techniques 1  
Author is an experienced, credentialed professional in the weight loss field 7  
Research studies support the efficacy of the program 2  
Advises how to individualize program for your unique biochemistry and dietary needs 0  

Grade: C- Weak content: The South Beach Diet book is filled with trite common sense advice we've all heard before


With 5 million copies sold to date, The South Beach Diet is one of the best selling diet books of all time. It was written by Dr. Arthur Agatston, a Miami cardiologist who became disillusioned with the American Heart Association’s low-fat, high-carb diet and switched his patients to a “good carb” diet based on the glycemic index (a measure of how quickly food is broken down into glucose). The goal according to Agatston, is to choose only foods with a low glycemic index in Phase one and gradually add higher numbered foods later on. The book provides a meal plan for the first 14 days with recipes.

Praise for The South Beach Diet:

1. Simple And Easy To Read

Unlike Dr. Atkins’ 540 page information packed book, which took me two days to read and review, you could skim Dr. Agatston’s book in 20 minutes.

2. Contains Some Useful Tips

The emphasis on eating foods that keep blood sugars steady is good but this is hardly a new concept. But South Beach received many high ratings on because it worked for many people and they loved the fact that it wasn’t as restrictive as Atkins.

Helpful tips from the book

  • Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat the whole fruit instead.
  • Drink 2-3 quarts of water a day. Mix a spoonful of fiber like psyllium in a glass of water before eating and it will slow the absorption of your food.
  • Order consommé or a broth before your restaurant meal to take the edge off your hunger.
  • When you eat Italian, eat like the Italians do by having a small serving of al dente pasta followed by a main course of meat and vegetables.

Criticism of The South Beach Diet :

1. Weak content

More than half the book is recipes and case studies; its content is rather superficial and unorganized. There is a 28-day meal plan for phase one and phase two of the diet and after that you can reintroduce other carbohydrate foods. The foods to avoid list is relatively small (which I’m sure is another reason for its popularity): anything with white flour, white rice, beets, corn, potatoes, bananas and ice cream.

2. Much ado about nothing

The reason South Beach sold over 3 million copies and became a household name was NOT due to being a revolutionary new concept in dieting. Rodale Publishers hired a PR firm that spent $1 million a month to dupe the public into thinking it was The Best Diet Book Ever Written! It just goes to show how powerful marketing can be and how easily the masses are manipulated.

3. Nothing new

South Beach is filled with trite common sense advice we've all heard before like: “Avoid refined foods like white bread. Eat less carbs to lose weight.” Furthermore, South Beach heavily borrows from Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and the Mediterranean Diet for its diet advice. One glaring difference is Dr. Atkins’ book is 508 pages packed with science and great information and South Beach is 311 pages of mostly recipes and testimonials.

4. Agatston’s Torrid Love Affair With The Glycemic Index Is Out Of Control

Unlike the Atkins’ Diet, where carb counting is more important than the glycemic index, Agatston relies completely on the glycemic index for a guide on which carbs are “good” and which are “bad”. Unfortunately, the glycemic index is flawed and not the best evaluator of which foods to eat.

5. The biggest problem with The South Beach Diet is the vast amount of incorrect statements such as:

“Eat healthy fats like olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil.”

(Dr. Pearsall's response)--Olive oil is fine but there are far healthier fats than canola (genetically modified and should be avoided) and peanut oils.

“Move from one phase to another whenever you cheat.”

--Dr. Atkins specifically warns against this as this can lead to habitual yo-yo dieting and screw up your metabolism.

“Atkins is wrong because he recommends saturated fats which cause dysfunction in arteries. You should fry your food with soy, canola or olive oil instead of butter.”

--There is nothing wrong with moderate saturated fat intake, in fact it is better to cook with saturated fats such as coconut oil as other oils such as canola and soy are delicate and become damaged when heated. Arteriosclerosis is much more linked to trans-fats such as hydrogenated oils and margarine and excess carbohydrate intake, not saturated fat.

“This diet is not low-carb.”

--I don't understand why Agatston misleads the reader by saying that. The first four weeks are definitely low-carb. It is anyone’s guess how one is supposed to eat after that.

“I strongly recommend eating dessert after dinner to prevent late night snacking.”

--Eating dessert after every dinner is a bad habit. Better to eat a small snack when hungry.

“Eat sugar-free foods made with artificial sweeteners.”

--Studies show that artificial sweeteners actually cause weight gain in addition to poisoning your body with toxins.

“Even French fries are better than a baked potato…because of the fat in which they’re cooked.” (pg. 54) “You’d be better off having a small ice cream or dark chocolate bar instead of a baked potato.”

--Wrong! Eating foods found in nature is always superior to processed refined foods, not to mention that French fries are the most toxic food on the planet. Let’s not have the values on the glycemic index replace common sense intelligence.

“The Asians use brown rice and here in America we use white rice.”

--I don't think Agaston has ever visited Asia because he would see that this is not true. Unfortunately, the whole world eats white rice except for the rare people who know better.

“A 20-minute walk a day is all you need for exercise.”

--Only if you are 100 years old or over because at that point you have license to do whatever the heck you want. The rest of us have to work harder than that to get fit.

“I, personally, take aspirin, fish oil capsules, and a statin drug [for my high cholesterol].”

--Spoken like a true cardiologist. I have two responses:

1) There is a long list of longitudinal studies that show no correlation between heart attack risk and cholesterol levels. "High cholesterol" is a manufactured disease by the drug industry to sell cholesterol lowering drugs.

2) If you are at risk for heart disease you can address it with lifestyle changes. Drugs should only be used as a last resort.

“Use liquid egg substitute instead of whole eggs which are high in saturated fat.”

1) Whole organic eggs are one of the most highly nutritious foods on the planet.

2) A research study at University of Illinois compared lactating rats who ate fresh raw eggs with those who were fed Egg Beaters (egg substitute). The rats who ate real eggs were in perfect health while those on Egg Beaters had a variety of physical abnormalities and a short lifespan.

3) Saturated fat was unfairly demonized by Ancel Keys in the 1950s based on flawed epidemiological studies. Unfortunately his "lipid hypothesis" that saturated fats and cholesterol in our food raise cholesterol levels in the blood leading to heart disease has been wrongly accepted as fact ever since. The fact is prior to the 1920's heart attacks did not exist. By 1950s, 30% of all deaths were due to heart attacks. What had changed is that Americans decreased their consumption of meat, eggs, butter and cheese and greatly increased their consumption of liquid vegetable oils, margarines and foods containing hydrogenated oils. These "foods" cause heart disease, saturated fat is just a patsy.

In conclusion, The South Beach Diet does not live up to all the hype. Dr. Agatston made a good move abandoning the conventional low-fat diet for heart disease and weight loss but he still parrots too much of the conventional nutritional myths (and created some of his own) for his advice to be healthy or effective for weight loss.


About the Author:
Dr. Kendra Pearsall, N.M.D. is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor specializing in natural weight loss and food addiction. She created to help millions of people achieve optimal health, natural weight loss and life success with her free weekly e-newsletter (sign up at the top of this page.)