Which Diet is Best? Atkins, South Beach, or Mediterranean Diet

lose weightA few tried-and-true diets in the market today include: the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, and the Mediterranean Diet. All of these weight-loss diets have had great popularity throughout the years and have contributed to tremendous weight loss among its followers. In this case, the question stands, which diet is simply the best weight loss plan today?

Speaking from personal experience, losing weight can be very stressful and difficult. Granted, I’m not overweight, however I have tried to lose a few pounds here and there in the past. I have had some success, but I never managed to stay on the diet for very long. I would always succumb to my guilty food pleasures such as fried chicken, barbecue, cake or ice cream.

Even if I could eat healthy for a couple weeks or so, being around my family makes my weight loss plan ten times as challenging. At my brother’s or sister’s houses, there are usually a lot of snacks and really delicious yet fatty foods around. I can’t help but be seduced by the aroma of the food. I’m aware that my problems with trying to lose weight are not uncommon. Many people have gone through exactly what I have described.

Some people try the easy weight loss method of taking pills or having liposuction. Others try the traditional approach of eating less unhealthy foods and exercising a little more every day.  Most try a change in eating habits or a popular diet. A few tried-and-true diets in the market today include: the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, and the Mediterranean Diet. All of these weight-loss diets have had great popularity throughout the years and have contributed to tremendous weight loss among its followers. In this case, the question stands, which diet is simply the best weight loss plan today?  To properly answer the question, this article intends to compare the diets in terms of its effectiveness and health benefits. The information provided is meant to give the reader a general understanding of the diets. For detailed information, please visit the official websites for the diets mentioned.

History of the Atkins Diet
The Atkins Diet, named after the cardiologist who created it in 1972, is a “low carbohydrate diet.” Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes has become an epidemic in the United States. Because of these startling facts, the Atkins Diet strives to change the mindset of the American public through a strict weight loss plan. The goal of the diet is to change people’s eating habits while losing weight at the same time. The diet focuses on limiting the carbohydrate intake of the dieter. Carbohydrates is defined as “a substance (as a starch or sugar) that is rich in energy and is made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen” by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Examples of carbohydrate include, but are not limited to the following: rice, pasta, bread, oats, barley, flour, and sugar.

Eating More Protein
According to the official Atkins website, it states that by limiting carbohydrates the “body burns fat, including body fat, for fuel”. Instead of eating large amounts of carbohydrates, you would eat more protein such as fish, seafood, poultry, beef, pork, and eggs. It is recommended to eat high-fiber vegetables such as black beans, lima beans, artichokes, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and avocados. The diet currently recognizes the importance of regular exercise as a part of the weight loss process. On the Atkins Diet, people can expect to lose an average of 7 or 8 pounds in the first week and a few pounds each week after that period.

Health Benefits of the Atkins Diet
The health benefits of the Atkins Diet, according to Atkins, are listed below:

  • Ease symptoms of acid reflux
  • Lessen acne
  • Decrease occurrence of headaches
  • Decrease heart disease risk factors
  • Decrease chances of developing cancer
  • Lowering the risk of dementia
  • Improves symptoms of Narcolepsy

Image: Atkins Products www.Atkins.com

Risks and Long-Term Effects of the Atkins Diet
Contrary to the information listed above, Mayo Clinic states that “Some experts believe that eating a large amount of fat and protein from animal sources can increase your risk of heart disease or some cancers. It’s not known what risks, if any, the Atkins Diet may pose over the long-term because most of the studies about it have lasted for two years of less.”  There is still some mystery around the long-term effects of “low-carb” diets. Also, the diet is not for everyone. Those who have high cholesterol might not be able to depend on a diet that emphasizes large consumption of proteins and fat.


What is the Diet?

The South Beach Diet was created by cardiologist Arthur Agatston in 2003. He wrote a book titled, The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss, which became very successful after its release. The South Beach Diet is a low-carb diet that focuses on lean proteins and healthy fats. The goal of the diet is to help people not only lose weight and reach their target weight, but to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating delicious low-carb meals and exercising regularly.


Drink Healthy
Benefits of the South Beach Diet
While on the South Beach Diet, participants can eat a variety of categories of foods such proteins, whole gains, beans, starchy vegetables, sweet treats, and dairy products. The South Beach Diet provides hundreds of recipes for its participants to make the weight-loss process a little easier. The diet limits the intake of carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. It encourages eating more foods with unsaturated fats. The diet recommends eating fibrous foods such as almonds, peanuts, cashews, and walnuts. If participants follow the guidelines of the South Beach Diet, they will lose about 14 pounds in two weeks. Most of the weight loss is contributed to water weight. After this period, losing 1-2 pounds is normal until you reach your goal weight.vegetables

The health benefits of the South Beach Diet include the following:

  • Decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) i.e. bad cholesterol
  • Increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) i.e. good cholesterol
  • Decrease risk of cancers, strokes, and heart diseases

South Beach Diet

Image: South Beach Diet meals: www.southbeachdiet.com

South Beach Diet Concerns and Long-term Effects
Overall, the South Beach Diet helps promote good health. However, there are a few concerns in regards to long-term health benefits. Mayo Clinic explains that “no long-term, randomized controlled clinical trials have measured the health outcomes of the South Beach Diet. Nor have there been such studies of the overall health or cardiovascular benefits of following a low-glycemic-index diet.”  The diet is still relatively new in the market; therefore, we will have to wait and see if the diet has any long-term detrimental health effects on the participants.


Origin and History of the Mediterranean Diet
The origin as to the discovery of the Mediterranean Diet is still a mystery; however, a few prestigious organizations introduced the diet to the American public. The titles of the organizations are Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the European Office of World Health Organization. After many years of research and experiments done by these organizations, they introduced the diet to the rest of the world in 1993. This diet is an adapted version of the type of diet of the people from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea such as Italy, Greece and Spain. People in these countries who follow this particular diet are healthier and live longer than people from the United States.

Mediterranean Diet PyramidImage: Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid Oldways

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid helps participants visualize the importance placed on certain foods and how much of each type of food to eat. The diet emphasizes the consumption of mostly plant-based foods. Vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, olive oil and spices are incorporated in the largest section of the pyramid because these foods should be eaten in almost every meal. Seafood such as fish, mussels and shrimp should be eaten maybe twice a week. Dairy products are eaten almost every day and red meat is eaten one a month. Drinking wine is permitted, but is limited to once a day. The diet can also be tweaked to cater to vegetarians and vegans. The pyramid supports the idea that eating should be done with good friends and close family members. The main purpose of the Mediterranean Diet isn’t merely helping people lose weight. The concentration of the diet is on developing and implementing a new healthier lifestyle. There is no average weight-loss amount for participants or set time frames. Everyone loses weight at their own pace.


The health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, according to Oldways, are:

  • Longer life span
  • Improve brain function
  • Defend you from chronic diseases
  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Protect you from diabetes
  • Aide your weight loss and management efforts
  • Keep you away from depression
  • Safeguard you from Alzheimer’s disease
  • Ward off Parkinson’s disease
  • Improve rheumatoid arthritis
  • Improve eye health
  • Reduce risk of dental disease
  • Help you breathe better
  • Lead to heathier babies
  • Lead to improved fertility

Some research studies from the New England Journal of Medicine and the International Journal of Obesity have shown that after one year on the Mediterranean Diet, participants lost about the same amount of weight as those on many other typical weight-loss diets.

All of the diets mentioned in this article has advantages and disadvantages, as well as, similarities and dissimilarities. The Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet both emphasize the importance of limiting the intake of carbohydrates, while the Mediterranean Diet doesn’t restrict participants’ consumption of carbohydrates, as long as the food is whole grains and healthy. On the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet, participants lose about the same amount of weight in the first two weeks, give or take a pound or two. The Mediterranean Diet doesn’t place a lot of importance on losing weight right away. The general purpose of the all the diets is to help the dieter maintain a healthy weight and to live a healthier lifestyle. The Atkins, South Beach and Mediterranean Diet all have excellent health benefits from decreasing heart disease risk factors to improving brain function. One of the downsides of the Atkins and South Beach Diet is that there are no research studies, which we know of, being done right now on the long-term effects of the diets on the participants. There is numerous evidence that the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are lifelong.

As a result, it’s challenging to determine which diet is the most beneficial in terms of weight loss and overall effectiveness. In my opinion, it seems that the Mediterranean Diet has an edge over the other two diets because of its long list of health benefits and minimal problems associated with it. With that being said, the Atkins, South Beach, and Mediterranean Diet are all exceptional diets that are all doctor recommended. Each diet caters to a certain lifestyle and food preferences. Participants on all of the diets can enjoy good food and lose weight at the same time.

Atkins. (2015). How does Atkins Work? Retrieved on August 17, 2015, Atkins

Dart, Jean, What Is Good Fat?, Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, WordPress, Retrieved on October 2, 2015

Dart, Jean, 30 Ways to Lose Weight Fast and Permanently, Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, WordPress, Retrieved on October 2, 2015

Mayo Clinic. (2015). Healthy Lifestyle: Weight Loss. Atkins Diet: What’s behind the claims?Retrieved on August 22, 2015, Mayo Clinic

Merriam-Webster. (2015). Dictionary. Carbohydrate. Retrieved on August 22, 2015,

New England Journal of Medicine. (2009). Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates Retrieved on August 23, 2015, NEJM

Oldways: Health Through Heritage. (2015). Oldways Resources. Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. Retrieved on August 21, 2015, Med Diet 

The Official Site: South beach Diet. (2015). About the South Beach Diet. What Is the South Beach Diet? Retrieved from August 21, 2015, South Beach Diet



This articleHang Pham, MBHA Health Educator is written by Hang Pham. Hang Pham is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Hang Pham was born in Hoc Mon, Vietnam. She came to America in 1994, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011. Hang graduated from Seaside High School with diploma and received her AA in General Studies from Monterey Peninsula College in 2011. She received her BA in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. In addition to working as a volunteer staff with the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, she currently works as a Clerical Aid in the Human Resources Department of Salinas City Hall. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.   All images are copyright free, from www.pixabay.com unless otherwise noted.

Disclaimer:  The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

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