5 Best Foods for Preventing or Reversing Diabetes
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 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:
- 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.2,3 A recent meta-analysis found that greater leafy green intake was associated with a 14% decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes.4 One study reported that each daily serving of leafy greens produces a 9% decrease in risk.5
- 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: 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.6 Accordingly, bean and legume consumption is associated with reduced risk of both diabetes and colon cancer.7,8
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts are low in GL, promote weight loss, and have anti-inflammatory effects that may prevent the development of insulin resistance.9,10 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%.11-13
- 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.5 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 90 percent of participants were able to come off all diabetic medications, and the mean HbA1c after one year was 5.8%, which is in the non-diabetic (normal) range.14 A diet of vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and fresh fruit can prevent and even reverse diabetes while promoting long-term health.
Learn more about using these foods to fight diabetes in my book The End of Diabetes. In this book, I outline my plan for preventing and reversing type 2 diabetes using superior nutrition, not drugs. No one has to have type 2 diabetes, and those with type 1 diabetes can improve their life expectancy, health and quality of life with this plan.
1. American Diabetes Association: Diabetes statistics [http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/]
2. Montonen J, Jarvinen R, Heliovaara M, et al: Food consumption and the incidence of type II diabetes mellitus. Eur J Clin Nutr 2005;59:441-448.
3. Takahashi K, Kamada C, Yoshimura H, et al: Effects of total and green vegetable intakes on glycated hemoglobin A1c and triglycerides in elderly patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: the Japanese Elderly Intervention Trial. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2012;12 Suppl 1:50-58.
4. Carter P, Gray LJ, Troughton J, et al: Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2010;341:c4229.
5. Bazzano LA, Li TY, Joshipura KJ, et al: Intake of Fruit, Vegetables, and Fruit Juices and Risk of Diabetes in Women. Diabetes Care 2008;31:1311-1317.
6. Hamer HM, Jonkers D, Venema K, et al: Review article: the role of butyrate on colonic function. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2008;27:104-119.
7. Villegas R, Gao YT, Yang G, et al: Legume and soy food intake and the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the Shanghai Women's Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:162-167.
8. Aune D, De Stefani E, Ronco A, et al: Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay. Cancer Causes Control 2009;20:1605-1615.
9. Casas-Agustench P, Bullo M, Salas-Salvado J: Nuts, inflammation and insulin resistance. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2010;19:124-130.
10. Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Bes-Rastrollo M: Nut consumption, weight gain and obesity: Epidemiological evidence. Nutrition, metabolism, and cardiovascular diseases : NMCD 2011;21 Suppl 1:S40-45.
11. Jiang R, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, et al: Nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. JAMA 2002;288:2554-2560.
12. Kendall CW, Esfahani A, Truan J, et al: Health benefits of nuts in prevention and management of diabetes. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2010;19:110-116.
13. Li TY, Brennan AM, Wedick NM, et al: Regular consumption of nuts is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women with type 2 diabetes. J Nutr 2009;139:1333-1338.
14. Dunaief DM, Fuhrman J, Dunaief JL, et al: Glycemic and cardiovascular parameters improved in type 2 diabetes with the high nutrient density (HND) diet. Open Journal of Preventive Medicine 2012;2.