By Joel Fuhrman MD
Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S., and doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke.1 However, type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease – our food choices can either prevent or promote insulin resistance and resultant diabetes.
Many conventional diabetes diets rely on meat or grains as the major calorie source. However, these strategies have serious drawback. 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:
Leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables:
Green and non-starchy vegetables have almost nonexistent effects on blood glucose, and are packed with fiber and phytochemicals. A recent meta-analysis found that greater leafy green vegetable intake is associated with a 14% decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes.2 One study reported that each daily serving of leafy greens produces a 9% decrease in risk.3Greens, mushrooms, onions, garlic, eggplant, peppers, etc. are essential components of an anti-diabetes (or diabetes reversal) diet.
Beans, lentils, and other legumes are the ideal carbohydrate source. Beans are low in GL due to their moderate protein and abundant fiber 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 Accordingly, bean and legume consumption is associated with reduced risk of both diabetes and colon cancer.5,
Nuts and seeds: Nuts are low in GL, promote weight loss, and have anti-inflammatory effects that may prevent the development of insulin resistance.7, 8 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%.9-11
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.3 For those who are already diabetic, I recommend sticking to low sugar fruits like berries, kiwi, oranges, and melon to minimize glycemic effects.
This approach works. In a recent study on type 2 diabetics following this diet, we found that 62% of the participants reached normal (nondiabetic) HbA1C levels within seven months, and the average number of medications required dropped from four to one. 12 A diet of vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and fresh fruit can prevent and even reverse diabetes while promoting long-term health.