When I describe my Way of Eating (WOE), I’m frequently asked, “Is Very Low Carb like the South Beach Diet?” Definitely not! Here’s a point-by-point comparison, from my (biased) perspective as a strong advocate of the Very Low Carb approach. For reference, I’ve used this description of the South Beach Diet from Wikipedia.
SBD: “high in fiber,” “low glycemic carbs,” “unsaturated fats (mostly monounsaturated),” “lean protein.”
VLC: Very low in fiber. All fiber is carbohydrate. You cannot eat both “high fiber” and Very Low Carb because, to get any fiber, you have to eat carbs, and to get high fiber you would have to eat too many carbs. The only fiber you eat in Very Low Carb is the incidental content in some of the low carb vegetables at some meals (supper, mostly), and the occasional snack (e.g. celery with anchovy paste). Typically, I eat maybe 5g of fiber a day.
SBD: Unsaturated fats (mostly monounsaturated): This suggests avocado and olive oil (mostly monounsaturated), but the SBD would necessarily include all processed and refined seed (“vegetable”) oils: soybean, corn, sunflower, Canola, etc, all polyunsaturated, all highly processed and oxidized, and all bad. The SBD implicitly excludes saturated fat: butter, ghee, coconut oil, tallow, lard, the latter two found in animal meats.
VLC: Includes monounsaturated fats (avocado and olive oil) and saturated fats as listed above, all as found in meats and dairy and used in cooking. No margarine. It is a refined seed oil and may contain trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils). We love to cook with bacon fat. My wife makes pie crusts with lard (not Crisco). I brown meats in ghee.
SBD: “lean protein.” Wikipedia doesn’t even mention the words “red meat” in the SBD piece! Or dairy either.
VLC: For VLCers, the fattier the meat, the better, including ground meats, lamb chops, chicken with the skin on, and pork roast. Salmon and sardines too, and full-fat yogurt (if you can find it!), heavy cream, and full-fat cream cheese. All saturated fat! It will raise your HDL-C. My last HDL-C was 92mg/dl, my TC 189, my LDL-C 83 and my trigs 56.
SBD & VLC: Generally, both diets advocate “low glycemic carbs.” This would include many above ground vegetables and leafy greens. VLC would exclude corn, beets, peas and carrots (too sugary) and of course all tubers. My favorite vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans and salad greens. More caveats below.
SBD: “3 steps,” “emphasis on carbs,” “exercise included”, “3 meals + 2 snacks a day,” a “high-fat” diet.
VLC: The best way to do Very Low Carb is “cold turkey.” In 2002, I started on 20g of carbs a day. My motivation, and the reason my doctor suggested it, was to lose weight. But within the first week, to avoid hypos, my doctor took my off virtually all my diabetes meds. Today I just take Metformin. And, over a period of years, I lost 180 pounds.
SBD: “with emphasis on carbs.” Wikipedia says Phase 1 includes “many carbs,” and Phase 2 includes “complex carbs” such as “brown rice” and “100% whole grain bread.” I can only imagine what Phase 3 allows you to eat!
VLC: Very Low Carb also emphasizes carbs, but just the opposite: you eat as few carbs as you can, but when you do you eat carbs choose ‘low-glycemic’ carbs and definitely no rice or bread (or pasta or potatoes, etc.), ever.
SBD: “choose the right fats and the right carbs,” “a ‘high-fat’ diet, not a ‘low-carb’ diet”
VLC: If you are a type 2 diabetic, you are insulin resistant and therefore carbohydrate intolerant. You need to make a permanent change in what you eat. Very Low Carb is not a temporary diet where you return to eating the foods you ate before. You’re not doing this to lose weight – although if you follow it strictly, you will lose weight (lots of it). You’re doing it to self-treat (through diet) your type 2 diabetes and avoid the dreaded complications.
When you eat VLC, your body will burn body fat, so it won’t be sending you hunger signals, and you will be able to eat fewer meals (just 1 or 2 a day), with NO between-meal snacks – and you won’t have to exercise if you don’t want to.
VLC & SBD: Both are “high-fat,” but saturated fats taste much better than those refined “vegetable” oils.