Diabetes is usually referred to as a lifelong, chronic disease, one that affects more than 20 million Americans. But now a new book claims that most diabetics can get off medication and become 100 percent healthy in just a few easy steps. In "The End of Diabetes," Dr. Joel Fuhrman explains how one can prevent and reverse diabetes and its related symptoms, while losing weight at the same time. Designed for anyone eager to enjoy a healthier and longer life, Fuhrman's plan is simple: consume certain foods heavy in nutrients for improved health and to, ultimately, end diabetes and other diseases.
We recently had the chance to ask Fuhrman a few questions about how a diabetes diet can prevent and reverse the disease.
What are the absolute best five foods one can eat to reverse diabetes?
The high-nutrient (nutritarian) diet I recommend is very high in fiber and low in glycemic load, which helps to keep blood glucose levels in the normal, healthy range. In addition, it floods the body with protective phytochemicals that fuel detoxification and self-repair mechanisms, healing the body from the inside out. The five most important foods for diabetes reversal are:
Beans: Beans are the preferred starch source for diabetics -– my nutritarian eating style is unique in this regard. Low fat vegetarian diets focus on grains as a major calorie source, which are higher in glycemic load than beans, and low glycemic diets focus on animal products, which pose health risks. Beans are a unique food because their starch component is made up mostly of slowly digestible starch and resistant starch; so they do not raise blood glucose as much as other carbohydrates, and all of their calories are not absorbed by the body. Plus, their resistant starch is broken down by gut bacteria to form compounds that protect against colon cancer.
Greens: Greens have almost nonexistent effects on blood glucose, and are packed with fiber and phytochemicals. Leafy green intake is a known factor that reduces diabetes risk, and green vegetables contain specialized phytochemicals that protect blood vessels. The salad is the main dish –- the more raw greens and other raw and cooked green vegetables you eat, the less you will desire of everything else -– a great, nutrient-packed weight loss tool.
Non-starchy vegetables: Cooked non-starchy vegetables like mushrooms, onions, garlic, eggplant, peppers, etc. are also essential components of a diabetes reversal diet. Their glycemic effects are negligible; they add lots of flavor, fiber and phytochemicals; and they can be eaten in virtually unlimited quantities. Plus mushrooms, onions and garlic have potent anti-cancer effects.
Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds have minimal glycemic effects, promote weight maintenance, reduce the risk of heart disease and have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. Nuts and seeds are a healthful fat source to include in the diet, as opposed to the animal products and oils in a standard diet.
Berries: Berries are rich in fiber and antioxidants, have only a small effect on blood glucose and are a nutrient-dense choice for satisfying sweet cravings. Berries also have powerful anti-cancer and blood pressure reducing effects.
What are the most harmful foods -- foods that people might not realize are as harmful as they are?
Barbecued meat, processed meat and commercial red meat. These foods contain a number of potentially carcinogenic substances, such as N-nitroso compounds in processed meats and heterocyclic amines in high temperature cooked red meats. Actually, every type of meat (not just red meat) produces carcinogenic compounds when cooked at a high temperature. Red and processed meat consumption is now considered a convincing cause of colon cancer. Furthermore, several studies have linked higher red meat consumption to an earlier death. Animal protein in general also raises blood levels of IGF-1, a hormone linked to increased cancer risk and worsening of diabetes.
Full-fat dairy products (cheese, butter, whole milk, ice cream) and trans fats (margarine). These are dangerous, calorie-dense foods that are loaded with saturated fat, contributing to weight gain, elevated cholesterol levels, reduced insulin sensitivity and several cancers. Of all animal products, milk has the greatest IGF-1-raising effect, potentially increasing cancer risk.
Fried foods and baked goods. In addition to the empty calories provided by cooking oils, high-heat cooking (including frying) of starchy foods (French fries, potato chips, crackers, cookies, muffins, breakfast cereals, etc.) produces acrylamide, a toxic and potentially cancer-promoting substance. In addition, these cooking methods produce advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which contribute to diabetes complications.
Soft drinks, sugars and artificial sweeteners. Sugary foods and soft drinks produce dangerous spikes in blood glucose and provide huge amounts of excess calories; there is also substantial evidence that these elevated blood glucose levels contribute to the development of cancer. Contrary to popular belief, artificial sweeteners are not the answer and not even helpful for weight loss. The safety of every artificial sweetener has been questioned, and the possible dangers are still unknown. Sweetened foods enhance appetite and weight gain (even if the calories from the sweetener are insignificant) and perpetuate the desire for excessively sweet foods.
Processed foods, white flour products and white rice. Most processed foods are primarily a combination of refined grains, sugar and oil. These foods do more than simply add a few extra calories; they can produce harmful nutritional deficits and cellular inflammation. Devoid of fiber and stripped of vital nutrients, they act in the body just like sugar, rapidly elevating blood glucose while providing almost no micronutrient value, promoting diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Why are diabetics often given inadequate -- or just plain wrong -- dietary advice?
Much of the inadequate and dangerous advice stems from a belief that diabetic patients will not be sufficiently motivated to make the necessary lifestyle changes to heal their diabetes. The typical watered-down, nutritional guidelines are designed to merely manage blood glucose by balancing carbohydrate, fat and protein to keep medication needs consistant. These guidelines are not designed to promote long-term health or fix the problem. To achieve excellent health, it is not the ratio of carbohydrate, protein and fat that is important; it is the combination of micronutrient quantity, micronutrient variety, and staying within our caloric requirements to achieve and maintain an ideal weight.
Many physicians are unaware or skeptical that type 2 diabetes can be reversed with superior nutrition. Other physicians agree that weight loss and high-nutrient eating can lead to diabetes reversal, but either don’t know how to motivate their patients or simply doubt that their patients would be willing to make or capable of making the necessary changes. Instead, well-meaning physicians prescribe drugs to bring dangerously high glucose levels down; they want to protect their patients against complications, but the medications cause more problems. Insulin and several oral diabetes medications promote weight gain, which makes the patient even more diabetic, increasing risk for heart disease and necessitating even larger doses of medications -- the patient is caught in a never ending cycle of more and more drugs. Patients are told that medications will take care of their blood glucose.
This reliance on medication gives patients a false sense of security and allows them to avoid personal responsibility –- exercising frequently and eating right is not a life-or-death matter when you can “just take a pill.” Many patients don’t realize that their health will continue to deteriorate over time, even with their somewhat more “controlled” glucose levels. Medications can’t do what removing the cause of the diabetes (the standard American diet and a sedentary lifestyle) can do. I say that people with diabetes deserve to know that drugs are a poor option, because my nutritarian diet is infinitely more effective and protective which can grant them the potential to reverse their disease and live healthfully into old age.
What's the most important meal of the day for diabetics and why?
Lunch is the most important meal of the day, because most people are usually away from home -– their safe haven of healthful foods. They are often in social situations at work or school and are in danger of being tempted by disease-causing foods. Planning lunches ahead of time is essential; when you pack healthful foods for lunch that you thoroughly enjoy, it is easier to stick to your healthy habits, and it makes your work day more pleasant. A large salad topped with beans and a delicious, creamy nut-based dressing, and or a bowl of lentil soup, followed by a piece of fruit for dessert is perfect.
What will readers be most surprised to learn from your book?
They will be most surprised to learn that not just type 2 diabetes, but heart attacks, strokes and even dementia can be almost totally prevented with a nutritarian diet. In other words, people have accepted that the typical risks, suffering, and premature death is normal or unavoidable and accepted that medical care is the answer to our health problems. I think the book will also shock people when they learn how typical medications used for these disease cause much harm and can actually make the underlying disease worse. In other words, superior nutrition gives us a unique opportunity to live a long, healthy and disease-free life.
What specific advice or insight can you offer to people age 50 and older?
That the most important deposit to put in their savings account for their future is not money, it is excellent nutrition. What good is money when you are crippled with a serious disease or dead? Now is the time that is most important to structure your live; enjoy your life and pay attention to your health, because your health is your greatest wealth.
The right foods and nutrients do not just make you live longer, but keep your brain healthy and maintain your intelligence and emotional well-being, enabling you to fully live with pleasure each day of your life. Place the healthiest foods in your health bank account and don’t waste this gift of life.