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. A recent meta-analysis found that greater leafy green intake was associated with a 14 percent decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes. One study reported that each daily serving of leafy greens produces a 9 percent decrease in risk
- 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. Accordingly, bean and legume consumption is associated with reduced risk of both diabetes and colon cancer.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts are low in GL, promote weight loss, and have anti-inflammatory effects that may prevent the development of insulin resistance.
- 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 percent 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. A diet of vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and fresh fruit can prevent and even reverse diabetes while promoting long-term health.