Type II diabetes is an epidemic in our country. I want to do something about it.
When I first learned I had this disease, it was overwhelming, to say the least. Sadly, I joined a quickly growing population in the United States who will be struggling with this major health issue for the rest of their lives.
I began doing a lot of research on what I could do to improve my chances of avoiding complications and get myself in better shape. There’s a lot of data out there that suggests improved diet and increased exercise can have a remarkable and positive impact on those with this disease.
The information that resonated with me the most came from Dr. Neal Barnard. The material below is from his organization, Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. Their goal is to provide alternatives, whenever possible, to drug therapy.
Here’s a clear video presentation by Dr. Barnard. If you or someone you know is dealing with a recent pre-diabetes or diabetes diagnosis, please watch it:
I followed the information found in Dr. Barnard’s book on reversing diabetes, and I have had great results, exactly like those spelled out in the book. I have lost 65 pounds, and now all my blood tests are in the non diabetic range, and have been for nearly a year and a half. All without prescription medicine. But, that’s how it worked for me, and every person is different. I’ve learned that even little changes to your diet and exercise routine can help dramatically, so don’t be afraid to start small and work yourself up to all that Dr. Barnard suggests.
Here’s some general information:
Diet changes are the cornerstone to treating type 2 diabetes. Current diet recommendations require restricting portion sizes, measuring and weighing foods, and limiting the total amount of carbohydrate. However, evidence suggests that a different dietary approach (Dr. Barnard) may be more effective and easier to follow.
Part of the value of a low-fat, plant-based diet is that it is very low in saturated fat—that is, the kind of fat that is found especially in meats, dairy products, and tropical oils (coconut, palm, or palm kernel oil). To cut fat effectively, you’ll want to do two things: avoid animal-derived products and avoid added vegetable oils. Although oils are often thought of as healthier than animal fats, they are just as high in calories.
The way of eating explained below does not require weighing or measuring, and you will never go hungry.
1. A Vegan Diet: Avoiding Animal Products
Animal products contain fat, especially saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, and certain forms of cancer. These products also contain cholesterol, something never found in foods from plants. And, of course, animal products contain animal protein. It may surprise you to learn that diets high in animal protein can aggravate kidney problems and calcium losses. Animal products never provide fiber or healthful complex carbohydrate.
A vegan diet is one that contains no animal products at all. So, to be specific, here are the foods you’ll want to avoid: red meat, poultry and fish, dairy products, and eggs.
2. Avoiding Added Vegetable Oils and Other High-Fat Foods
Although most vegetable oils are in some ways healthier than animal fats, you will still want to keep them to a minimum. All fats and oils are highly concentrated in calories. A gram of any fat or oil contains nine calories, compared with only four calories for a gram of carbohydrate.
You’ll also want to avoid foods fried in oil, oily toppings, and olives, avocados, and peanut butter.
3. Low Glycemic Index
The glycemic index identifies foods that increase blood sugar rapidly and allows you to favor foods that have much less effect on blood sugar. High-glycemic-index foods include sugar itself, white potatoes, most wheat flour products, and most cold cereals.
4. Go High-Fiber
Aim for 40 grams of fiber a day, but start slowly. Load up on beans, vegetables, and fruits. Choose whole grains (try barley, oats, quinoa, millet, whole wheat pasta, etc.). Aim for at least 3 grams per serving on labels and at least 10 grams per meal.
Here is an optional step that can help with weight control. The idea is to eat foods that have fewer calories than grams per serving. Try adding lots of soups, salads, and foods cooked in water (like oatmeal) to your daily diet. These “heavy” foods will make you fill up without taking in a lot of calories.
6. Focus on the ‘New Four Food Groups’
Choose unlimited amounts of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Small amounts of nonfat condiments, fat-free vegan cookies and crackers, alcohol, and coffee are also OK.
Protein: Plant foods have plenty of protein. The recommended amount of protein in the diet for postmenopausal women is 10 percent of calories. Most vegetables, legumes, and grains contain this amount or more. Those seeking extra protein can choose more beans, asparagus, mushrooms, and broccoli.
Calcium: Because diets rich in animal protein cause the body to lose more calcium, a person on a vegan diet needs less calcium to stay in calcium balance. Good sources of calcium include broccoli, kale, collards, mustard greens, beans, figs, fortified juices and cereals, and soy or rice milks.
Vitamin B12: Those following a diet free of animal products for more than three years (or at anytime in childhood, pregnancy, or nursing) should take a B12 supplement of 5 micrograms per day. Any common multiple vitamin will provide this amount.
If you want to learn more, here is the link to an article from PCRM, which is Dr. Neal Barnard’s organization from George Washington University in Washington DC.
I recently watched the following presentation by Dr. Robert Lustig entitled Sugar: The Bitter Truth. The You Tube clip is long, about 90 minutes. That being said, it is really, really worth watching.
Robert H. Lustig, MD, is UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. He explores the damage caused by sugary foods and argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.
In the video he clearly shows, down to a molecular level, how fructose(from all sources) metabolizes similarly to alcohol. Both convert to fat quickly and both fail to give satiety signals causing us to eat more and want more. Fructose consumption has incrementally increased 5-fold compared to a century ago while fat consumption decreased. High intake of sugar is linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. Quit blaming butter!
If you can’t spare the time, here’s a pdf document which does an adequate job summarizing the clip.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or health care provider, and therefore the information above should not be considered medical advice. It is provided for informational use only. If you are dealing with any health issue, see your doctor.