Pros and Cons of the South Beach Diet

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The South Beach Diet is a popular diet that takes you through phases. In Phase 1, you’ll cut out virtually all carbohydrates to get rid of bloat and “reboot” your body. Throughout Phase 2, you’ll slowly start adding carbohydrates back into your body. By the final phase, Phase 3, you’re expected to have met your goal weight and learned new healthy eating habits. 

The South Beach Diet touts many benefits, including reduced hunger and lower blood pressure, blood glucose, and triglycerides. But like all diets, not everyone takes well to the South Beach Diet. If you're considering using this diet to lose weight, be sure to review the following pros and cons before you begin.

  • Simple and convenient

  • Versatile

  • Low in saturated fat

  • Encourages experimentation

  • May prevent food cravings

  • Allows carbohydrates

  • Encourages exercise

  • Emphasizes healthy eating patterns

  • Restrictive first phase

  • Relies on the glycemic index

  • Can be expensive

  • Not enough structure

  • May contribute to disordered eating

Pros of the South Beach Diet

Overall, the South Beach Diet can be healthy and well-rounded, with the exception of the first phase, which restricts carbohydrate intake. 

Simple and Convenient

There's no need to count calories or measure much of anything on the South Beach Diet. Simply choose any food contained on the extensive list and enjoy.  

South Beach Diet goes a step further by delivering fully prepared, pre-portioned meals and snacks directly to your doorstep every month. This easy-to-follow system saves you tons of time in the kitchen, making it that much easier to stay on track.


South Beach Diet also offers a keto-friendly version. It's designed to be a low-carb, high-fat dietary pattern similar to the keto diet. In phase 1, carbs are limited to 40 per day, and users are encouraged to remain in phase 1 for a longer time than in the usual South Beach Diet.

This plan caters to people who want to try the keto diet but with fewer restrictions. It's also good for people who already follow the keto diet and want to integrate the South Beach Diet into their eating plans.

The keto-friendly South Beach Diet makes the keto diet more accessible and easier to maintain.

Low in Saturated Fats

The foods recommended on the South Beach Diet are low in saturated fats. This is important, because research shows that reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level. Instead, the diet encourages people to enjoy heart-healthy unsaturated fats from sources like nuts, seeds, and avocados.

Encourages Experimentation

One of the biggest advantages of this diet is that it encourages people to pay attention to how different foods and food groups affect their bodies. When they stop eating cookies in the afternoon, they may notice that they have more energy later in the day. If they swap their morning bagel for eggs and veggies, they may stay full longer. 

For instance, when you remove specific foods from your diet, such as simple carbohydrates, then add them back one by one, it becomes clear when something isn’t working well

May Prevent Food Cravings

When you eat excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates such as pasta, white bread, and sugary foods, you may crave them more often, because these types of foods are metabolized quickly. The body breaks them down and uses them for energy or stores excess as fat. Once they are metabolized, blood sugar can drop, causing a craving for more carbohydrates. Following a diet, like South Beach, that is full of complex carbohydrates which contain fiber can help to keep blood sugars stable and reduce cravings.

Allows Carbohydrates

Unlike other diets that view carbs as the enemy, the South Beach diet actually encourages people to eat carbs—the right carbs, that is. 

After the initial phase, the South Beach eating plan encourages people to consume complex carbohydrates and reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates they eat. Complex carbs—like beans, unprocessed whole grains, and starchy vegetables— help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes. Not only do these foods keep you feeling fuller longer, but they also decrease carb cravings.

Encourages Exercise

In addition to nutritional recommendations, the program provides exercise recommendations. You can go for a brisk walk, dance, ride a bike, do jumping jacks—anything you like, as long as you break a sweat. This is key, because getting exercise each day can expedite your weight loss goals.

Emphasizes Healthy Eating Patterns

The South Beach diet is a healthy way of eating, whether you're in it to lose weight or not. After the initial phase, the South Beach Diet emphasizes the importance of creating and maintaining a healthy eating pattern that fits your nutritional needs.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a healthy U.S.-style eating pattern is one that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods. This includes foods across and within all food groups, including vegetables, fruits, grains, protein foods, dairy products, and oils.

Cons of the South Beach Diet

Like most diets, the South Beach Diet presents some drawbacks, most of which revolve around its restrictive and difficult Phase 1.

Restrictive First Phase

The limitations of the first phase may be a real turn-off for some people. On the other hand, it's short-term, and the program doesn't recommend staying with it longer than three or four weeks at most (for people who have quite a bit of weight to lose).

Part of what makes this first stage so difficult is because you're eliminating many foods that are physically addictive, like sugar and alcohol. Doing this cold turkey can result in physical withdrawal symptoms (also referred to as a "carb crash"), such as fatigue, shakiness, and irritability.

Relies on the Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbs according to how quickly they raise your blood sugar. Food and beverages are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100—pure sugar has a value of 100. Foods with a low GI (less than 55) cause a slow rise in blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI (more than 70) make your blood sugar and insulin levels spike rapidly. Sounds simple enough.

However, though the glycemic index has some benefits, it is not without its disadvantages. Most notably, GI values aren't static. A food's GI value can change depending on how ripe it is, how it's cooked, even what else you eat with it. As you can imagine, this can create quite a bit of confusion.

Not Enough Structure

For some people, there may not be enough structure when it comes to adding carbs back in. This diet leaves a lot up to the individual, which is good in the long run but is probably harder in the short run. Also, some people just aren't all that tuned in to their bodies' signals and might not be motivated to become so.

Can Be Expensive

South Beach Diet ranges in price from about $10 to $12 per day ($70 to $85 per week) depending on the plan and the options you choose. This comes to about $280 to $340 per month for the full meal-delivery service.

In addition to what you'll pay for the South Beach Diet every month, you will also need to supplement your delivered meals with fresh fruits and vegetables.

May Contribute to Disordered Eating

Any diet can lead to disordered eating and a strained relationship with food. Because the South Beach Diet places such an emphasis on “good” and “bad” carbohydrate sources and fats, it may also lead to food fear. 

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Laura Dolson
Laura Dolson is a health and food writer who develops low-carb and gluten-free recipes for home cooks.