How To Eat to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes
Many conventional diabetes diets rely on meat or grains as the major calorie source. However, these strategies have serious drawbacks.
High-nutrient, low glycemic load (GL) foods are the optimal foods for diabetics, and these foods also help to prevent diabetes in the first place.
1. Green Vegetables
Nutrient-dense green vegetables – leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and other green vegetables – are the most important foods to focus on for diabetes prevention and reversal.
Higher green vegetable consumption is associated with lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and among diabetics, higher green vegetable intake is associated with lower HbA1c levels.
A recent meta-analysis found that greater leafy green intake was associated with a 14% decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes.
2. Non-Starchy Vegetables
Non-green, non-starchy vegetables like mushrooms, onions, garlic, eggplant, peppers, etc. are essential components of a diabetes prevention (or diabetes reversal) diet.
These foods have almost nonexistent effects on blood glucose and are packed with fiber and phytochemicals.
Beans, lentils, and other legumes are the ideal carbohydrate source.
Beans are low in glycemic load due to their moderate protein and abundant fibre and resistant starch, carbohydrates that are not broken down in the small intestine.
This reduces the amount of calories that can be absorbed from beans; plus, resistant starch is fermented by bacteria in the colon, forming products that protect against colon cancer.
4. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are low in glycemic load, promote weight loss, and have anti-inflammatory effects that may prevent the development of insulin resistance.
The Nurses’ Health Study found a 27% reduced risk of diabetes in nurses who ate five or more servings of nuts per week.
Among nurses who already had diabetes, this same quantity reduced the risk of heart disease by 47%.
5. Fresh Fruit
Fruits are rich in fiber and antioxidants, and are a nutrient-dense choice for satisfying sweet cravings.
Eating three servings of fresh fruit each day is associated with an 18% decrease in risk of diabetes.
For those who are already diabetic, I recommend sticking to low sugar fruits like berries, kiwi, oranges, and melon to minimize glycemic effects.
6. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel are great sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which have major benefits for heart health.
Getting enough of these fats on a regular basis is especially important for diabetics, who have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Fatty fish contains omega 3 fats that reduce inflammation and other risk factors for ehart disease and stoke.
The Worst Foods for Diabetics
The worst foods for diabetes – the foods that elevate blood sugar, reduce insulin sensitivity and increase type 2 diabetes risk – are the foods that are most common in the standard American diet.
1. Added Sugars
Since diabetes is characterized by abnormally elevated blood glucose levels, of course, it is wise to avoid the foods that cause dangerously high spikes in blood glucose – primarily refined foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages, devoid of fiber to slow the absorption of glucose into the blood.
Fruit juices and sugary processed foods and desserts have similar effects. These foods promote hyperglycemia and insulin resistance, and promote the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the body.
AGEs alter the normal, healthy function of cellular proteins, stiffen the blood vessels, accelerate aging, and promote diabetes complications.
2. Refined Grains (White Rice and White Flour Products)
Refined carbohydrates like white rice, white pasta, and white bread are missing the fiber from the original grain, so they raise blood glucose higher and faster than their intact, unprocessed counterparts.
In a six-year study of 65,000 women, those with diets high in refined carbohydrates from white bread, white rice, and pasta were 2.5 times as likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate lower-glycemic-load foods, such as intact whole grains and whole wheat bread.
An analysis of four prospective studies on white rice consumption and diabetes found that each daily serving of white rice increased the risk of diabetes by 11%.
In addition to the glucose-raising effects, cooked starchy foods also contain AGEs, which promoteaging and diabetes complications.
3. Fried Foods
Potato chips, French fries, doughnuts and other fried starches start with a high-glycemic food, and then pile on a huge number of low-nutrient calories in the form of oil.
Plus, like other cooked starches, fried foods contain AGEs.
4. Trans Fats (Margarine, Shortening, Fast Food, Processed Baked Goods)
Diabetes accelerates cardiovascular disease. Because the vast majority of diabetics (more than 80%) die from cardiovascular disease, any food that increases cardiovascular risk will be especially problematic for those with diabetes.
Trans fat intake is a strong dietary risk factor for heart disease; even a small amount of trans fat intake increases risk.
In addition to their cardiovascular effects, saturated and trans fats reduce insulin sensitivity, leading to elevated glucose and insulin levels, and greater risk of diabetes.
5. Red and Processed Meats
At first glance, it may seem like the dietary effects on diabetes would be only relevant to carbohydrate-containing foods. The more low-carbohydrate, high-protein foods in your diet, the better; those foods don’t directly raise blood glucose.
However, that is a too simplistic view of the development of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is not only driven by elevated glucose levels, but also by chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and alterations in circulating lipids (fats).
Many diabetics have come to believe that if sugar and refined grains and other high-glycemic foods raise blood sugar and triglycerides, they should avoid them and eat more animal protein to keep their blood glucose levels in check.
However, several studies have now confirmed that high intake of meat increases the risk of diabetes.
A meta-analysis of 12 studies concluded that high total meat intake increased type 2 diabetes risk 17% above low intake, high red meat intake increased risk 21%, and high processed meat intake increased risk 41%.