South Beach Diet vs. the Zone Diet

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
diet success

You can lose a significant amount of weight by following the South Beach Diet or Zone Diet. The weight loss diet that's right for you is a healthy plan you can stick with long-term. Comparing the South Beach Diet with the Zone Diet can help determine if one of these diets is a good match with your lifestyle and weight loss goals.

Similarities

The South Beach and Zone diets have some things is common. These include:

  • Both diets are considered low-carbohydrate weight loss diets that advocate consuming low-glycemic index, or low-GI, foods.
  • Both restrict high-glycemic index, high-carbohydrate foods such as refined grains and added sugars.
  • Both diets help you feel less hungry and eat fewer calories.
  • Both diets can help you lose weight.

A study published in a 2011 edition of Physician and Sports Medicine found that in obese women, low-carbohydrate diets resulted in more favorable fat loss, weight loss, blood sugar control, and markers of health compared with obese women who followed high-carbohydrate diets. Both groups of women who participated in this study engaged in exercise programs in addition to dieting.

Food Lists

Types of Foods Consumed South Beach Diet Zone Diet

Low-Carb Foods

  • Lean meats
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Turkey
  • Seafood
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Non-starchy, high-fiber vegetables
  • Vegetable Oils
  • Avocados
  • Emphasized during phase 1
  • Encouraged during phases 1, 2 and 3
  • Encouraged throughout the diet

Low-GI Carbohydrates

  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Rye bread
  • Barley
  • Legumes
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Skim milk
  • Encouraged during phases 2 and 3
  • Encouraged throughout the diet

High-GI Foods

  • Table sugar
  • Syrup
  • Sweets
  • Doughnuts
  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Potatoes
  • Dried dates
  • Avoided during phases 1 and 2
  • Limited during phase 3
  • Avoided as much as possible throughout the diet

Healthy Fats

  • Vegetable oils
  • Avocados
  • Omega-3s
  • Encouraged in phases 1, 2, and 3
  • Encouraged throughout the diet

Differences

South Beach Diet Zone Diet
Creator Arthur Agatston Barry Sears
Different phases? Yes; the South Beach Diet consists of three different phases No
Amount of carbohydrates consumed
  • Almost no carbs in phase 1
  • Slowly add in low-GI carbs in phase 2
  • 28 percent of your total daily calories are from carbs in phase 3
  • 40 percent of your total daily calories are from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein, and 30 percent of your calories are from fats
Expected weight loss
  • 8 to 13 pounds in the first two weeks
  • 1 to 2 pounds per week during phase two until you reach your goal weight
  • No weight loss in phase 3 because it's a weight maintenance phase
  • 5 pounds the first two weeks
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds per week after the first two weeks

Advantages and Disadvantages

Both Diets South Beach Diet Zone Diet
Advantages
  • Foods lists, food products and recipes available
  • Weight loss likely
  • Fat loss likely
  • Helps improve blood sugar control
  • Rapid weight loss, at least initially
  • Healthy rate of weight loss anticipated
  • Less restrictive than South Beach Diet
Disadvantages
  • The American Dietetic Association does not recommend low-GI diets for weight loss or weight maintenance
  • Long-term diet adherence difficult for some people
  • More restrictive than the Zone Diet, especially during phase 1
  • Different phases make the South Beach Diet more difficult to follow for some people
  • Planning meals that consist of a 40/30/30 carbohydrate, protein, and fat ratio is time consuming

Which Diet Is Right for Me?

Talk with your doctor before beginning any type of weight loss program to make sure it's safe for you. If you are able to adhere to the South Beach Diet or Zone Diet long-term, you can likely achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. If you find that these two diets are too restrictive, you can also lose weight by simply reducing your current energy intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day for a weight loss rate of about 1 to 2 pounds per week, which is recommended by the American Dietetic Association. The Institute of Medicine recommends you consume 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates.

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South Beach Diet vs. the Zone Diet