The Bread for Life Diet
Olga Raz Reviewed by Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson
A high-carbohydrate, low-glycemic diet consisting of six small meals consumed every three to four hours will increase serotonin levels in the brain. If serotonin levels remain at this higher level, the dieter will feel satiated between meals, won't crave sweets and will therefore eat less and lose weight without having to count calories.
Like many diets, The Bread for Life Diet is divided into stages, in this case two. The primary food ingredients in the diet are whole-grain bread products. Bread, however can be substituted for other complex carbohydrates considered comparable. The author gives an extensive list of substitutions. Women must eat eight to 12 slices of "light" bread per day and men 12 to 16 slices. Light bread is defined as 35 to 45 calories per slice. During Stage 1, lasting up to two weeks, the dieter must consume all allotted slices of light bread with no substitutions. Various sandwich additions, such as cottage cheese, avocado, low-fat cheeses etc., are allowable in small amounts (no specific measurements are given, however).
Meat fish and poultry are permitted only three meals a week and the dieter may consume as much as they want of these foods during that meal, "within reason." The author does not define "within reason" or offer any guidelines on appropriate portion sizes. One serving of fruit and no more than an eight ounce serving of dairy products are allowed per day. The dieter also must consume two to three tablespoons of olive or canola oil a day and take a multivitamin and calcium supplement.
During Stage 2 the dieter can start substituting other complex carbohydrates for the bread. Interestingly enough, the substitutions allowed do not equate to the same number of calories as the designated bread slices (e.g., one cup of legumes = >200 calories, considered the equivalent of two slices of light bread = 70 to 90 calories.).
Nutritional Pros and Cons:
The allotment of only one serving of fruit per day and no more than eight ounces of dairy products is far less than recommended by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Guidelines reflect the most current scientific research and are considered the gold standard of diet planning for Americans. For a 2,000-calorie diet, the Guidelines recommend two cups of fruit per day (2 cups equates to four servings) and three eight ounce servings of dairy products per day for optimal health. While applauding vegetables and whole grains, Raz undermines the health benefits of consuming additional fruit, saying their high sugar content causes the dieter to eat them in excess, thus limiting weight loss. No explanation is offered for the restriction of calcium-rich dairy products. Likewise no explanation is given as to why the dieter can consume as much meat, fish and poultry as he or she likes during allowed meals.
While scientific research supports high-carbohydrate meals indeed raise serotonin levels and high levels of serotonin result in satiety, the science is less clear that a high-carbohydrate diet will result in weight loss due to increased serotonin from the carbohydrate alone. Furthermore, diet planning employing the glycemic index is still somewhat controversial. The author's reasoning that serotonin levels are directly tied to consuming low glycemic carbohydrates is confusing and at times appears contradictory. As far as not needing to count calories, a rough estimate of the six meals on a non-meat, fish and poultry day reveals approximately 1,200 calories. This will more than likely result in weight loss due to a low-calorie intake by the dieter, but is lacking in some nutrients, most notably calcium. Presumably the multivitamin and calcium supplement are included to fill those deficits. There's no telling how many calories the dieter can consume during a meat meal.
The Bread for Life Diet (continued)
Excluding the limitations of fruit and dairy products, The Bread for Life Diet does promote a healthful high-fiber way of eating by putting emphasis on whole-grain foods, unlimited amounts of vegetables, unsaturated oils and lean protein sources. The many rules, substitutions and stringency of sticking to six small meals per day may take more planning than most dieters are willing to do. To her credit, Gaz spends much of the book offering excellent behavioral tips on how to combat diet blockades and acknowledges it's not easy.