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Difference Between Atkin's & South Beach

By Kirstin Hendrickson ; Updated July 18, 2017

The Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet are two popular diet plans designed to help you lose weight and, ideally, maintain your weight loss. While the Atkins Diet focuses on radically reducing carbohydrates in the diet, the South Beach Diet instead differentiates between "good carbs" and "bad carbs," helping you learn to make appropriate carbohydrate choices. The diets also have different approaches with regard to fat intake.

The Atkins Diet

The principles of the Atkins Diet were developed by Dr. Robert Atkins. He outlines the diet basics in his book "Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution." Atkins' theory is that when you eat carbohydrates, you train your body to burn carbohydrates instead of fat for energy. This allows you to store excess calories as body fat, but discourages the body from ever utilizing that stored fat, meaning that you increase your body fat over time. The diet therefore removes carbohydrates from the diet to a radical extent.

Atkins Diet Basics

If you start the Atkins Diet, you first enter an "induction" phase designed to "train" your body to stop using carbohydrates and start burning fat. To accomplish this, Dr. Atkins requires that you consume fewer than 20 grams -- less than 80 calories -- of carbohydrate each day. This quickly depletes stored carbohydrate in the liver and muscles. A major criticism of the Atkins Diet is that it doesn't differentiate between heart-healthy plant-based fats and unhealthy saturated fats, which the American Heart Association notes increase your risk of heart disease.

South Beach Diet

The principles of the South Beach Diet were developed by Dr. Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist. In his book "The South Beach Diet," Dr. Agatston notes that while the low-fat diets recommended for weight loss and heart health had much to recommend dieters, they often left dieters hungry and unsatisfied. He developed the South Beach Diet to offer an alternative to traditional low-fat diets that would be more sustainable over time.

South Beach Diet Basics

When you start the South Beach Diet, you learn to differentiate between "good carbs" and "bad carbs." Dr. Agatston explains that "good carbs" are those that your body digests and absorbs slowly; they don't tend to encourage fluctuations in blood sugar or excess storage of body fat. "Bad carbs" include most sugars and refined flours. You also differentiate between "good fats" -- which include healthy, plant-based oils -- and "bad fats." "Bad fats" are saturated and trans fats or processed fats and generally tend to be heart-unhealthy.

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