At the heart of Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Diet is a very low-carb diet designed to help people with diabetes achieve and maintain normal blood sugar levels and reverse and/or reduce the risk of complications.
it is no A weight loss diet, although anyone who follows it will likely lose some weight.
The Bernstein diet is based on three meals a day, choosing from a list of “allowed” foods, avoiding “forbidden” foods, and sticking to a prescribed amount of carbohydrates. There are no restrictions or guidelines on protein or fat intake.
Diet is the cornerstone of a holistic approach to managing diabetes, including adjusting insulin supplements and getting some exercise.
Because it restricts carbohydrates so significantly, the Bernstein diet differs from the diabetes dietary guidelines advocated by major medical societies.
This diet has been criticized for this reason. However, it has a lot of supporters and seems to be safe for most people.
Sample Diabetes 1,200 Calorie Meal Plan
The Bernstein diet has an interesting history. It was created by an engineer-turned-endocrinologist named Richard K. Bernstein. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1946 at the age of 12 and has experienced severe complications of the disease for many years.
In 1969, before he changed careers, Bernstein purchased a blood glucose monitor, which at the time was only used in hospitals. He started testing his blood sugar throughout the day, trying to figure out what was causing his blood sugar levels to rise and fall.
Eventually, he found he could manage them with a low-carb diet, exercise, and a smaller dose of insulin than he had been taking. What’s more, many of his diabetes complications were resolved.
Reduce the risk of diabetes complications
To earn the respect of the medical community for his ideas, Dr. Bernstein went to medical school and became an endocrinologist. Since then, he has written six books on his diet and overall approach to managing diabetes.
His first was “Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solutions: A Complete Guide to Achieving Normglycemia,” originally published in 1997 and updated in 2011 to include information on new technologies such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors , medications (including inhaled insulin), and recipes.
Now in his 80s, Dr. Bernstein maintains a thriving medical practice with a large number of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics who have successfully maintained normal blood sugar levels by following his diet.
What is a normal blood sugar level?
how does this work
The Bernstein diet limits the number of carbohydrates a person eats to 30 grams per day. To put this into perspective, on average, most people with diabetes get 45 percent of their total calories from carbohydrates, according to the researchers.
For someone who eats 2,000 calories per day, about 900 calories come from carbohydrates, or 225 grams.
The Bernstein Diet has no rules or guidelines for protein, fat, or total calories.
In addition to diet, Dr. Bernstein’s regimen includes advice on taking supplemental insulin and exercising.
what to eat
Dr. Bernstein divides foods into two categories based on the amount of carbohydrates they contain and how they affect glucose levels.
Foods known to cause a rapid rise in blood sugar are prohibited; foods that do not have this effect are allowed.
Any vegetable not on the fasting list
cottage cheese (very small amount)
Full fat unsweetened yogurt
Butter and Margarine
unsweetened soy milk
certain bran crackers
Unsweetened artificial sweeteners
Herbs and Spices
Sugar-Free and Low-Carb Salad Dressing
Sugar-Free Flavours and Extracts
Moderate amounts of water, soda, soda, diet soda, coffee, tea, low-carb alcoholic beverages
Ready-made unsweetened gelatin (check the label for hidden sugars like maltodextrin)
Sugar-Free Pudding Made With Low-Carb Dairy Alternatives (6g Carbs)
Homemade Low Carb Desserts
Fructose, corn syrup, molasses; agave nectar, glucose, sorghum; maltitol, sorbitol and other sugar alcohols
Most desserts (pies, cakes, cookies, etc.)
Powdered artificial sweeteners with added carbohydrates
Bread and Cookies
grains, including oatmeal
Pancakes and Waffles
Foods or flours made from wheat, barley, corn, rice, quinoa or rye
Certain vegetables, including potatoes, parsnips, winter squash, beets, carrots, corn, yellow peppers
raw tomatoes (except a small amount)
cooked tomatoes; tomato paste or sauce
Packaged vegetables with sugar or flour
All fruits and juices
Sweetened yogurt; most low-fat and nonfat yogurts with added carbohydrates
milk powder substitute; coffee whitener
Evaporated or condensed milk
Nuts (except small amounts)
Most processed and snack foods
Most condiments, including balsamic vinegar
Meat and protein: No meat, poultry, or other forms of protein are fasted, except for anything with added carbohydrates (for example, breadcrumbs in meatloaf, flour on fried chicken, or fried fish).
Vegetables: Eligible vegetables include asparagus, avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and sauerkraut, cauliflower, eggplant, onions (in small amounts), peppers (any color except yellow), mushrooms, spinach, green beans, zucchini and zucchini.
Note that cooked vegetables tend to raise blood sugar faster than raw vegetables because the calories make them easier to digest and convert some of the fiber into sugar.
Dairy: Yogurt is allowed, but only in plain, unsweetened, full-fat varieties. For all types of cheese, count 1 gram of carbs per ounce. While cottage cheese is generally considered non-compliant, some people may be able to eat up to 2 tablespoons without causing a spike in blood sugar.
Nuts: While nuts do contain carbohydrates, Dr. Bernstein says they tend to raise blood sugar levels slowly. However, because it’s difficult to eat just a few nuts, it’s important to look at the carbohydrate count in a serving of any type of nut when following a diet to avoid overeating. Peanut butter, even without added sugar, may raise blood sugar levels. One tablespoon may be too much for some people.
Artificial sweeteners: Permitted include saccharin tablets or liquid (Sweet’n Low); aspartame tablets (Equal, NutraSweet); acesulfame potassium (Sunette, The Sweet One); stevia (powder or liquid) ; sucralose tablets (Splenda); and neotame.
Alcoholic beverages: An ounce and a half of distilled spirits or a can of beer tends to have a negligible effect on blood sugar levels. Spirits should not be mixed with sugar-sweetened mixers.
Dr. Bernstein’s diabetes diet limits total carbohydrate intake to 30 grams a day. The recommended segments are as follows:
- Breakfast: 6 grams
- Lunch: 12 grams
- Dinner: 12 grams
There are no built-in snacks and no guidelines for meal times.
The list of foods published in Dr. Bernstein’s book includes some of the brand-name foods that are considered diet-friendly, including:
- WestSoy Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk
- G/G Scandinavian Fiber Shortbread
- Wasa Fiber Rye
- DaVinci Gourmet Sugar Free Syrup
- Instant Sugar Free Jelly Brand Gelatin
pros and cons
Easy to learn
Wide Variety of Compliant Foods
good for weight loss
A growing body of research shows that a low-carb diet can be effective in managing type 2 diabetes
Contrary to dietary guidelines for diabetes management endorsed by major medical institutions
Allowed carbohydrate intake may feel too low for some people
Like food may not be allowed
Because Dr. Bernstein’s list of foods allowed and not allowed in the diet is so exhaustive and specific, following it requires little guesswork.
What’s more, there are at least as many “allowed” foods as “forbidden” foods, and a wide variety to prevent boredom and promote well-rounded nutrition.
By default, this diet is also low in calories. In addition to normalizing blood sugar levels, it can also lead to weight loss for most people. This may be especially important for people with type 2 diabetes, for whom even modest weight loss can reduce the risk of complications such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
Evidence suggests that a low-carb diet may be effective in normalizing blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of diabetes complications.
For example, in a Duke University study, researchers found that people who were obese and ate 20 grams or less of carbohydrates per day (10 grams less than Bernstein’s limit) had better blood sugar compared to participants Controlled and more effective weight loss in people following a low-glycemic/low-calorie diet.
Low-carb diet can reverse type 2 diabetes
The diet restricts carbohydrates to 30 grams per day and allows specific amounts for each of the three meals, which may be limited and require planning.
Snacks between meals do not appear to be incorporated into the basic diet. For people who are used to eating more carbs, this can be highly restrictive.
While the list of approved foods is long, at least a few that don’t conform are likely to be loved. This may put some people on a restricted diet.
Perhaps the most significant blow to the Bernstein diet is that it goes against the recommendations of major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association.
It also conflicts with recommendations made by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Board of Physicians for Responsible Medicine.
How does it compare to the guide
The biggest difference between it and standard medical guidelines is its emphasis on limiting carbohydrate intake substantially to 30 grams per day.
The ADA acknowledges that “monitoring carbohydrate intake and considering the response of blood sugar to dietary carbohydrates is key to improving postprandial blood sugar management.” However, the organization’s diabetes medical standards do not quantify how many grams of carbohydrates should be eaten per day. Their position is that macronutrient intake should be tailored to individual circumstances.
The Bernstein diet also views dietary protein differently than most medical guidelines. While protein restriction has always been a mainstay of classic diabetes nutrition advice, Dr. Bernstein sees no reason to limit protein intake.
Again, Dr. Bernstein goes against the standard view that high-fat diets are unhealthy and are a major cause of obesity. His diet does not restrict protein or fat.
There is no doubt that diet plays a key role in the management of diabetes—especially type 2 diabetes, which can sometimes be stopped or reversed with lifestyle changes.
Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Diet aims to do this with a regimen that differs significantly from traditional guidelines, but is actually in keeping with emerging research on the value of carbohydrate restriction.
Even so, if you have diabetes and want to try it, you must first talk to your healthcare provider and/or a dietitian who specializes in diabetes.