Foods that Fight Diabetes
Nothing seems more controversial today than nutrition. What diet is right for me? What is known is that four main food groups can protect against the silent war diabetes rages within the body eventually leading to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and many other chronic conditions. Prevention is key to winning this battle. Limiting the fuel used by diabetes including sugar, highly digestible carbohydrates and saturated fats while bolstering the defenses that support a healthy body can not only prevent type 2 diabetes but even reverse it. So, what is this special formula? If one looks historically at what forces best equipped human evolution with longevity and vitality then some simple solutions prevail. Added bonus, there is no real need to monitor calories or even macronutrients.
The Fabulous Four
In my office, we make it simple and focus on four main food groups that are used to both bolster our defenses and limit the fuel that drives diabetes. By limiting the intake of saturated fat and highly digestible carbohydrates like sugar and flour, the fuel source for diabetes is cut off. Then adding nutrient-rich foods with abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants the body’s defenses are bolstered.
- Vegetables. Perhaps no other food source can provide us with the diversity of nutrients than vegetables. Loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they both nourish the body’s energy needs and protect it from harm. Eat a variety of vegetables and include with each meal. Aim for 4 or more servings daily.
A serving is 1 cup of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup cooked vegetables.
- Fruits: Loaded with fiber and antioxidants, fruits support the body by fighting oxidative stress and help get rid of toxins by providing healthy amounts of fiber. Eat a vareity of colors, berries are especially nutrient packed. Aim for 3 or more servings a day.
A serving is 1 medium piece of fruit, 1/2 cup cooked fruit or 4 ounces of freshly made juice.
- Legumes. Beans, peas, and lentils are packed with fiber, protein iron, calcium, zinc and B vitamins. Legumes make a meat substitute. Eat 2 or more servings a day.
A serving size is 1/2 cup cooked beans, 4 ounces of tofu or tempeh, or 8 ounces of soy milk. Try sprouted legumes as well.
- Whole grains. Let me make it clear, whole grains do not cause diabetes or lead to an unhealthy gut, unless you have Celiac disease, where you should eliminate wheat, barley and rye. Whole grains actually protect against diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity and protect gastrointestinal health. There are a variety of types of whole grains including whole wheat, whole oats/oatmeal, whole grain cornmeal, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, and sorghum. Other less common whole grains include amaranth, emmer, farro, grano (lightly pearled wheat), spelt, and wheat berries. Include these in your meals to make them more hearty. Eat 5 or more servings daily.
A serving size is 1/2 cup of rice or other grain, 1 ounce dry cereal or 1 slice of bread.
In all, these four foundational food groups should occupy over 80% the lunch or dinner plate and can readily be used for healthy snacks.
There are at least 3 nutrients found in everyday food that foster the battle against diabetes.
- Fiber. A whole food, plant-based diet is the primary source of dietary fiber. Fiber helps maintain gut health, protects against cancer and heart disease and limits the absorption of highly digestible carbohydrates from the gastrointestinal tract.
- Chromium. This feisty mineral helps insulin do its work thus promoting lower blood sugar levels, otherwise known as improved insulin sensitivity. Additionally, chromium may help prevent carb cravings. Chromium-rich foods include whole grains, whole grain bread, brown rice, broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, brewer’s yeast, corn, potatoes, and fresh vegetables. Herbs such as wild yam, nettle, catnip, oat straw, licorice, horsetail, yarrow, red clover and sarsaparilla are also rich in chromium and can be added to the diet.
- Magnesium. This elemental metal is an essential participant in over 300 biochemical reactions that occur within the body. Elevated blood sugar, especially when detectible in the urine causes magnesium to be depleted from the body. Additionally, it is well known that magnesium helps to lower blood sugar by enhancing insulin sensitivity. Magnesium-rich foods include beans and nuts, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, organic raw cacao beans, chlorella, spirulina, seaweed. Some herbs and spices to consider include basil, Chinese parsley, cilantro, caraway seed, cardamom, celery seeds, rosemary, saffron, oregano, thyme, red clover, burdock root, yellow dock and chaparral.
While there are many other potential nutrients that may help prevent diabetes and limit the damage diabetes causes, this information is something that begins with the dinner plate and requires no special prescription.
Next week I will review simple measures that can be taken to burn away diabetes.