Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can be devastating, but more research is pointing to the fact that it’s a metabolic condition that can be reversed.
A recent study published in the Lancet found that a low-calorie diet can reverse type 2 diabetes, even after 6 years of the diagnosis. Out of 298 adults, participants lost an average of 22 pounds and half reverted to a non-diabetic state.
“Once we understand that insulin resistance is the root cause of the problem,” says Dr. Rajsree Nambudripad, an integrative medicine specialist in Orange County, Calif., “we can select foods based on glycemic index, which is a measure of how quickly it raises blood sugar,” she explains.
For example, Nambudripad says that a fluffy piece of bread has a glycemic index of 90, while the glycemic index of broccoli is only 15. She says a lower glycemic index translates to less strain on the pancreas to produce insulin.
There are many foods to choose from when it comes to specific foods to reverse diabetes. According to Nambudripad, green vegetables and good fats are the cornerstones of satiety.
She says to consume plenty of greens of all varieties such as broccoli, arugula, spinach, brussels sprouts, and kale. Ideally, she says greens should be consumed at every meal.
“People with diabetes also benefit from adding more ‘bitters’ to their diet,” she adds. “Bitter melon, arugula, and collard greens are beneficial to sugar regulation and have a detoxifying effect on the body.” Green vegetables cut insulin secretion and reduce inflammation in the body, helping keep blood sugars stable.
Also, good fats, like avocados, nuts, and seeds, as well as olive oil keep you full and satisfied. Nambudripad says these should be used at every meal.
For non-vegetarians, good quality proteins like eggs, organic chicken, wild fish, grass-fed beef are also important to maintain and gain muscle mass. The more muscle one has, the better it is for the metabolism.
When sweetness is desired, Nambudripad recommends using cinnamon, which actually helps insulin sensitivity in the body. “It also adds a sweet aroma and hence a sweet taste, without having any sugar,” she says.
Cinnamon is also available in higher “therapeutic” treatment doses in good quality supplements. Another great idea is vanilla extract, which makes things taste sweeter, without adding any sugar or carbohydrates.
Foods to Avoid if you have Type 2 Diabetes:
- All refined sugars
- Grains (including wheat, oats, rice, quinoa, etc.)
Nambudripad warns that many so-called health foods like oatmeal and granola bars are actually terrible for people with diabetes and will spike insulin levels.
She also generally advises avoiding tropical fruit, like bananas, pineapple, papaya, and mangos because these fruits have a high sugar load.
Depending on the severity of diabetes and patient’s dietary preferences, she often also recommends avoiding corn, dairy products (which contain a lot of sugar due to lactose, which is the “sugar” in milk products), and legumes (beans).
While beans offer some protein and fiber, they are generally still 80% carbohydrate. Some of these changes are harder if the patient is vegetarian, so the plan has to be customized to the patient and their dietary preferences.
What Else Can be Done?
Along with making changes to food choices, Nambudripad supplements her patients with a high dose B complex vitamin daily. She checks patient’s blood level of “homocysteine,” a cardiac toxin that is eliminated from the body with the help of B vitamins, to determine their B vitamin needs.
“This is often much more accurate than a simple blood B12 or folate level which are often elevated and don’t reflect the body’s needs for optimal health,” she explains.
“I supplement the B vitamins to get the homocysteine down to an optimal range, usually around 6.” She says this helps tremendously in boosting energy and in cutting sugar and carb cravings. It also helps with mood, which is an added plus.
Good Fats are your Friends
Nambudripad likes to remind her patients that good fats are your friends.
“For decades, we have been afraid that eating fat will make us fat,” she adds. “This is a big misconception,” she states. Rather, eating good fats keeps you full, and this helps keep you away from bad carbs and sugars.
Another tip she offers is to try herbal teas, which are often soothing, calming and can have an appetite suppressive effect.
For example, instead of rice, one can enjoy “riced cauliflower” which is available in local grocery stores. Alternatively, you can make it yourself by putting cauliflower in a food processor. Also, zucchini can by spiralized into noodles to enjoy in place of pasta.
Paleo flours like coconut and almond flours can be used in recipes to make muffins, pancakes, and other familiar items without carrying the carbohydrate load.
Nambudripad leaves us with the thought that learning how to substitute familiar foods with other alternatives can make the transition easier. She emphasizes small steps like the ones she mentions can, in fact, reverse a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
“Primary care-led weight management for the remission of type 2 diabetes (DiRECT): an open-label, cluster-randomized trial.” Accessed March 19, 2018. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)33102-1/fulltext?elsca1=tlpr