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What is the Bernstein Diet?

Bernstein DietThe Bernstein diet was created by Richard K. Bernstein, a physician who set out to develop a program to help diabetics take control of their glucose (blood sugar) levels.

Also certified as a fellow of the American College of Nutrition, Bernstein has focused his entire medical practice in the treatment of diabetes through dietary and lifestyle changes.

The Bernstein Diet’s Background

Bernstein originally created the famous diet for himself. A diabetic since the age of 12, Bernstein began experimenting with the reduction of carbohydrates long before he became a physician. Within a year of altering his dietary habits, his blood sugar levels had stabilized and he also experienced a drop in his cholesterol level and an increase in energy.

When he tried to share his knowledge with people in the medical profession, he was ignored because he wasn’t a doctor himself. So at the age of 45, he enrolled in medical school and things started moving from there.

Banned Foods

The official position of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is that diabetics need to eat carbs – it all depends on which carbs are chosen and the amount you consume. The Bernstein Diet takes the exact opposite position, recommending about four times fewer carbs (30g) than the ADA (130g) per day.

In fact, the Bernstein Diet requires avoiding all grains and foods made with flours or from grains, including all breads (even whole grain, dark breads), cereals and rice. All starchy vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beans, and corn) are also banned. According to Bernstein, these foods are just as bad as eating a teaspoon of sugar, so they must be avoided completely in order to see results and control glucose levels.

Why the Diet is Controversial

Perhaps even more controversial is the fact that all fruits are banned as well, regardless of whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned – and so are fruit juices. Again, Bernstein points out that all fruits contain fructose, a form of sugar that immediately affects the levels of glucose in your blood when consumed.

Finally, the Bernstein diet also requires you to avoid all dairy products, with just a few exceptions. That’s because dairy also contains sugar (in the form of lactose). The only dairy products you can consume on this diet are fermented cheeses, butter, and cream.

In total, the Bernstein Diet suggests an intake of just 30 grams of carbohydrates per day, divided into three meals: 12g for lunch and 12g for dinner, plus 6g for breakfast. This is just slightly more than the amount recommended in the Atkins Diet’s Induction Phase (20g), with the difference being that Induction is only supposed to last for two weeks, while the Bernstein Diet is meant to be a lifestyle commitment.

One thing to keep in mind: the Bernstein Diet is not meant to be a weight loss diet for everybody. Although it does lead to weight loss, it’s primarily a diet for diabetics that need help controlling their blood sugar. If you have diabetes, either talk to a nutritionist or doctor, or get in touch with the Bernstein clinic for more information on how to incorporate this diet into your life.


Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution
Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: ADA’s Latest Low-Carb Stance Is Severely Flawed, Says Longtime Low-Carb Advocate Dr. Bernstein
Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Diabetes Diet, Chapter 3 Part 3