ATTENTION DIABETICS: Can You Really Eat Your Way Out of Diabetes?
Can we really reverse one of the leading health epidemics in the nation simply by changing the way we eat and live?
It appears we can.
Type 2 diabetes has gotten a lot of press over the last few years as one of the primary causes of chronic illness and death in the U.S. Indeed the statistics are staggering. In 2012, 1 in 10 Americans had diabetes. And it gets worse as we get older. Roughly 1 out of 4 Americans aged 65 and above are diabetics.
The disease contributes to a host of health problems including hypertension, cardiovascular illness, stroke, blindness, and more.
And type 2 diabetes costs us $245 billion annually,[i] which promises to bankrupt our national health care system if we don’t do something about it.
So if there were a simple, low-cost, easily accessible solution that would protect you from type 2 diabetes and maybe even reverse it if you already have it, wouldn’t you want to know about it?
Well, such a solution does exist, it’s one of the best-kept medical secrets around, and it’s as close as the end of your fork.
But before I tell you how to reverse type 2 diabetes, let’s dig a little deeper into what this disease really is and how it gets started.
Our bodies depend on glucose, a form of sugar, for its energy. We have this amazing regulation system that prevents sugar in our blood to go too low or too high.
When we eat carbohydrates, they are almost instantly converted into sugar inside our bodies. They go straight to our bloodstream.
Sugar in the bloodstream is a signal for the pancreas to make and release insulin. It’s a hormone that tells the cells to absorb the sugar from our blood and then turn it into energy (or store it as fat). If there’s no insulin, glucose will just float around the bloodstream because the cells won’t be able to absorb it.
Still with me so far? Great.
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the pancreas and prevents it from producing insulin. No insulin, no sugar in the cells, no energy. Okay, I’m oversimplifying but you get the idea.
In type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, the pancreas is still able to produce insulin. However, the cells in the body are not able to respond to insulin. So the pancreas makes more and more insulin in an effort to get the cells to respond. Soon, the pancreas begins to fail and becomes unable to produce enough insulin.
It’s true. Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease. Harvard’s School of Public Health has the following tips to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes:
- Control your weight – being overweight is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, you are 7 times more likely to develop diabetes compared to normal weight individuals. If you’re obese, the risk is multiplied 20 to 40 times.
- Stop being a couch potato – the more TV you watch, the higher risk of being overweight or obese which in turn increases your risk of diabetes and other diseases.
- Exercise – increased activity can help with metabolic function and weight control.
- Quit smoking – if you smoke, you are 50% more likely to develop diabetes.
- Drinking moderately helps – alcohol, in moderate amounts, has been shown to increase the efficiency of insulin. (Emphasis on the word moderate.) Moderate means up to 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men.
- Eat Right – changing your diet can have a huge impact in reducing your diabetes risk.
- Go for whole grains – because of the fiber and bran, whole grains take longer to break down in the gut. This means sugar spikes in the blood are avoided. The impact on the pancreas is lessened when there are no sugar spikes.
- Say no to sugary drinks – it’s so easy to take in too much sugar in drinks. Instead of drinking juices, soda, or shakes stick with water, coffee, or tea.
- Mind your fat intake – fats found in nuts and seeds help prevent diabetes. Avoid fats in margarine and those used in frying fast food.
- Be choosy with your protein source – there’s growing evidence that eating red meat even in small amounts increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Try other protein sources such as low-fat milk, fish, or poultry.
Now, let’s talk about reversing diabetes.
Just eat right and exercise. Sounds easy right? It also sounds too good to be true. Let’s just clear up this common misconception. What does ”reversal” really mean?
You see, ”reversal” is a medical term which means a diabetic can stop medication but still has to maintain a healthy lifestyle if he wants to stay off medication. Reversal doesn’t mean a patient can live life as if diabetes never happened.
So, yes, it is possible to reverse diabetes. It’s possible to stop taking medications as long as you adhere to a healthy lifestyle that includes choosing the right food and exercising regularly.
But be warned that this doesn’t always work.
Sometimes eating right and exercising regularly just isn’t enough. Still, the benefits of eating healthy foods and having a regular exercise regimen is tremendous for your overall health.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, the key to preventing and reversing diabetes is by eating a diet that balances your blood sugar level, reduces oxidative stress, fights or minimizes inflammation, and helps the liver do its job.[vi]
This diet must include fiber-rich whole foods, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, and the right kind of proteins and fats.
There’s a lot of confusion regarding carbohydrates. Some so-called experts recommend totally eliminating carbohydrates from the diet. This is absurd and can be dangerous. We need carbohydrates to fuel our body.
What we really should think about is the kind of carbohydrates that we consume.[vii]
Simple carbs are high in sugar and low on fiber and the kind of carbs to avoid include:
- Sugary drinks such as soda
- White rice
- White bread
- White pasta
Potatoes, while technically complex carbs should be avoided as they act like simple carbs.
Complex carbs are the ”good” carbs. The digestive system takes longer to break them down. So instead of sugar spikes in the bloodstream, eaten in moderation you get a steady supply of throughout the day. These kind of carbs are not that taxing to the pancreas.[viii]
They are also loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Complex carbs can be found in:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole grains
There are many benefits to adhering to a fiber-rich diet particularly if you’re trying to reverse diabetes. Fiber helps control the amount of sugar in your blood. Like discussed above, fiber-rich foods are slow to break down. This helps supply the body with a steady rate of sugar from carbohydrates.
Aside from that, fiber makes you feel full which means you’ll eat less and thus lose weight – helpful when dealing with diabetes. Just like with complex carbs, fiber comes naturally from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans and peas, and brown rice.
There’s ample evidence showing that high-fat diets are somehow related to impaired insulin action as seen in animal tests.[x] But not all fats are created equal.
There are different kinds of fats:
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
Several studies show that avoiding saturated fats and trans fats while replacing them with polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats can help strengthen insulin sensitivity.[xi]
So minimize eating:
- High-fat cheeses
- High-fat meat cuts
- Whole-fat milk
- Ice cream
- Palm and coconut oils[xii]
- Deep fried foods
- Baked goods such as
However, a recently published study shows that consuming high-fat dairy is associated with lowering type 2 diabetes risk.[xiii] But don’t get too excited. This is a new study and the subjects in the study are European. We don’t know yet if the findings will hold true in an American setting. So, for the mean time, everything in moderation.
No, cutting back on salt won’t help you reverse your diabetes. But it’s worth mentioning that diabetes patients are more prone to heart disease. And consuming a lot of salt can increase blood pressure which in turn increases heart attack risks. High blood sugar and high blood pressure is obviously NOT a good combination.[xiv]
Most of the processed foods we buy are laced with loads of salt. And if you regularly eat out, the food will, in all likelihood, contain a lot of salt. That’s why it’s better to cook your own meals.
Try experimenting with using different herbs and spices. A whole new world of flavor will open up for you. Salt is convenient to use. But most of us don’t realize what we’re missing by relying too much on salt to add flavor to our food.
Try these herbs and spices:[xv]
- Cayenne (if you like spicy)
Let’s now discuss timing your meals.
Timing your meals is just as important as controlling the amount of food you eat. Diabetes medication helps you use up the sugar in your blood stream. That’s why it’s important to eat after you take your medicine. Otherwise you risk lowering your blood sugar too much.
Instead of eating 3 big meals a day, a lot of diabetics find it better to eat 4 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day. This helps your body keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Eating smaller meals also helps with weight loss.[xvi]
Weight Loss And Diabetes
Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes. Preventing obesity does help with preventing diabetes. If you’re in the pre-diabetes stage, losing weight will definitely help.
It’s a little more complicated when you already have diabetes, though. You see, not all obese people get diabetes. And not all diabetics are obese. That’s why medical researchers believe that it’s a combination of genetic predisposition, excess weight and a higher carb diet that leads to diabetes.
With diabetes, resistance to insulin comes first. When the pancreas becomes overworked, it won’t be able to do its job of producing insulin properly. Thus, insulin deficiency follows. At this stage, even losing weight and controlling diet may not be enough to help the body control the amount of sugar in the blood.
To make it clear, losing weight can help with reversing diabetes. It just depends on how far you are in the progress of the disease.
Marion J. Franz, MS, RD, LD, CDE writes:
“It is likely that early in the course of the disease process, when insulin resistance is still prominent, either energy restriction or weight loss will improve blood glucose levels. But as the disease progresses and insulin deficiency becomes more prominent, it may be too late for weight loss to be helpful. In fact, at later stages of the disease, when medications, including insulin, need to be combined with nutrition therapy, prevention of weight gain often becomes the goal. However, glycemic control should take precedence over concerns about weight.”[xvii]
The following are foods that can potentially help with reversing the disease:
- Non-starchy vegetables – these vegetables allow slow release of energy. They are rich in fiber and are not easily broken down. They are also low in carbohydrates so they help you avoid blood sugar spikes. A study showed that patients eating non-starchy vegetables and diet drinks successfully reversed diabetes. [xviii]
- Blueberries – it’s proven that blueberries help increase insulin sensitivity. In other words, they help you use up the sugar in your blood more efficiently. And they contain antioxidants that are good for you, diabetic or not.[xix]
- Nuts – nuts in moderation make you feel full and help with weight loss which, we now know, contributes to reversing early stage diabetes. They also reduce blood sugar levels after meals.[xx]
- Beans – Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of “The End of Diabetes” has this to say about beans:
“Beans are the preferred starch source for diabetics -– my nutritarian eating style is unique in this regard. Low-fat vegetarian diets focus on grains as a major calorie source, which are higher in glycemic load than beans, and low-glycemic diets focus on animal products, which pose health risks. Beans are a unique food because their starch component is made up mostly of slowly digestible starch and resistant starch; so they do not raise blood glucose as much as other carbohydrates and all of their calories are not absorbed by the body. Plus, their resistant starch is broken down by gut bacteria to form compounds that protect against colon cancer.”[xxi]
Rockwell Nutrition Recommends
Our nutritionist, Julie Haugen, recommends the following supplements to help slow the absorption of carbs and improve blood sugar control:
Glycemic Foundation Chocolate 945 g by Ortho Molecular
945 g USD $73.50
Glycemic Foundation Vanilla 939 g by Ortho Molecular
939 g USD $73.50
Glycemic Foundation is an easy-to-prepare drink that helps the body maintain healthy blood sugar levels. It provides a helpful blend of protein, fiber, and key blood sugar supporting micronutrients which work on multiple levels to support the body’s response to sugar, signal optimal glucose disposal, increase cellular sensitivity to insulin, reduce glucose absorption, and support microcirculation.
With its high fiber (12 g) and high soluble fiber (9 g) content as well as fermentable fibers from inulin and FiberAid, and 10 grams of protein from brown rice, Glycemic Foundation helps manage the spike in blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal, as well as the associated afternoon drops, leading to less fatigue. Glycemic Foundation also provides 1.3 g of omega-3 fatty acids from organic flaxseed and has no added sugar. Lipoic acid is added for its powerful antioxidant support, insulin regulation, and AMPK signaling, to support optimal glucose disposal and weight management. Chromium is added to support GTF (glucose tolerance factor) production, critical for cellular uptake of glucose. Vanadyl sulfate is also included for its support of more optimal insulin sensitization.
This article does not replace advice you have or may receive by your doctor or dietitian. Please consult with a registered dietitian/nutritionist if you need specific diet guidance. We have a registered and licensed dietitian/nutritionist available for email and phone consultations. Please see: http://www.rockwellnutrition.com/consultations
It is possible to reverse type 2 diabetes with the right diet, exercise, supplementing, and medication, if needed. Although there are no guarantees that you can reverse diabetes if you follow the tips above, it will still be good for your overall health.
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[i] Statistics About Diabetes, American Diabetes Association, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[ii] Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes, Harvard School of Public Health, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[iii] Diabetes: How Big is the Problem and How Much Can Be Prevented?, Frank B. Hu, Harvard School of Public Health, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[iv] Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?, Sonya Collins, WebMD, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[v] A Healthy Type 2 Diabetes, WebMD, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[vi] 5 Steps To Reverse Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin Resistance, Mark Hyman, MD, drhyman.com, Published May 20, 2010, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[viii] Complex Carbohydrates, Linda J. Vorvick, MD, MedlinePlus, Last Updated May 16, 2012, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[ix] Best Fiber-Rich Food for Diabetes, Madeline Vann, MPH, Everyday Health, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[x] Dietary Fat and the Development of Type 2 Diabetes, Julie A. Marshall, PHD and Daniel H. Bessesen, MD, Diabetes Care, Published February 1, 2003, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xi] Dietary fats and prevention of type 2 diabetes, Ulf Risérus, Walter C. Willett, and Frank B. Hub, Progress in Lipid Research, Published January 2009, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xii] Saturated Fat, Nutrition for Everyone, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Last Updated: October 4, 2012, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xiii] High-Fat Dairy May Lower Diabetes Risk, Nicky Broyd, WebMD Health News, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xiv] Sodium and Diabetes: What You Should Know, Madeline Vann, MPH, Everyday Health, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xv] Cooking with Herbs and Spices, Patient Food and Nutrition Services, University of Michigan Hospitals and Clinics, Published May 2003, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xvi] What to Eat, How Much, and When, Group Health, Published March 1, 2014, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xvii] The Dilemma of Weight Loss in Diabetes, Marion J. Franz, MS, RD, LD, CDE, Diabetes Spectrum, Published July 2007, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xviii] Top 10 Diabetes Superfoods, Dana Sullivan Kilroy, Healthline, Reviewed April 26, 2013, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xix] Bioactives in Blueberries Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Obese, Insulin-Resistant Men and Women, Stull AJ, Cash KC, Johnson WD, et al. . Journal of Nutrition; 2010; 140(10): 1764-1768, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xx] Nuts and diabetes, Nuts for Life, Retrieved January 13, 2015.
[xxi] Diabetes Diet: New Book ‘The End Of Diabetes’ Highlights Ways To Prevent And Reverse The Disease, Shelley Emling, The Huffington Post, Published January 18, 2014, Retrieved January 13, 2015.