ONCE WE UNDERSTAND how type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance develop, we can implement strategies that carry a reasonable chance of reversing it.
Here are the top three food “rules” for reducing blood glucose, reducing insulin and reversing type 2 diabetes.
Rule#1: Avoid fructose
The most important rule, without exception, is to eliminate all added sugars from your diet. Recall that insulin resistance is the result of the fatty liver becoming overfilled and unable to accept more glucose. The most important determinant of fatty liver is not just carbohydrates, but the fructose contained in sucrose(table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup.
Remember that every single cell in the body can help disperse glucose, but the liver is the only organ that can metabolize fructose. Thus, fructose is many times more likely to cause fatty liver than glucose. Since sucrose is composed of equal amounts of glucose and fructose, it is the primary cause of fatty liver, bar none. Pure fructose is not commonly available but may be found in some processed foods.
Some obvious foods to eliminate are sugar-sweetened beverages, including sodas, iced tea, sports drinks, mixed alcoholic drinks, juices, smoothies, coffee drinks, and “enhanced” water. These liquids are loaded with sugar. Cookies, cakes, desserts, muffins, cupcakes and ice cream are the other obvious sources.
Virtually all processed foods contain added sugars for the simple reason that they enhance flavour and texture at virtually no cost. Check the labels on meat products, where sugar is often added to the sauce or during processing. Sugar is often hidden in condiments (ketchup, relish), spaghetti/tomato sauces, flavoured yogurts, salad dressings, barbecue sauces, apple sauce, and spice mixes. Cereals and granola bars are usually very high in sugar too. And ask about your restaurant meals; sugar is often included in savoury dishes because it’s a cheap way to make all foods taste better.
What about fruit? The truth is there is no chemical difference between the fructose contained naturally in fruit and the fructose contained within sucrose. As with anything, the dose makes the poison. My best advice is to avoid eating excessive amounts of fruit, especially as many modern varieties are now available year-round and have been bred t be sweeter than in the past. Dried fruits are usually high in sugar, so you’re probably best to avoid raisins, dried cranberries, fruit leathers and the like.
What about artificial sweeteners? I advise avoiding all sweeteners, whether they contain calories or not. The logic is simple. If non-caloric sweeteners could truly reduce diabetes and obesity, then we would not have an epidemic on our hands. We have used these chemicals extensively in our food supply for decades and the empirical evidence is clear: artificial sweeteners are no better than sugar. Avoid them all.
Three rules for reversing type 2 diabetes
Rule#2: Reduce refined carbohydrates and enjoy natural fats
Hyperinsulinemia and fatty liver are the key problems leading to the development of metabolic syndrome, including obesity. Since refined carbohydrates, of all the food groups, cause the highest rise in insulin levels, it makes sense to eat less of them. Most processed products made with wheat, corn, rice, and potatoes belong in this group.
Reduce or avoid refined wheat products such as bread, pasta, waffles, muffins, cupcakes, and doughnuts. Limit processed corn products, such as popcorn, corn chips and tortillas, and refined potato products, particularly french fries and potato chips. High-fructose corn syrup contains 55% fructose, which means it’s sugar, not corn. It’s found in many processed food products and should be avoided.
Remember that carbohydrates are not intrinsically bad foods. Many traditional societies ate diets heavy in carbohydrates and thrived. The refining process is a major problem. Removing the natural fats and protein and leaving behind a pure carbohydrate is not natural, and our bodies have not evolved to handle that change. Even many whole-wheat and whole-grain products are highly refined. The key is the insulin response to these foods, and whole, unrefined carbohydrates do not cause nearly the insulin response that white flour does.
Replace those refined carbohydrates with fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, and nuts. The natural saturated fats found in beef, pork, bacon, butter, cream, and coconuts are also healthy fats. Eggs are an excellent choice as are most seafood.
However, not all fats are benign. The industrially processed, highly refined seed oils that are high in omega-6 fats are not recommended because they can cause inflammation and adversely affect human health. These oils include sunflower, corn, canola, safflower and vegetable oils. In particular, do not use vegetable oils at high heat because they release harmful chemicals called aldehydes when heated. Stay away from deep-fried foods and all hydrogenated (trans) fats.
The diet I recommend is called a low-carbohydrate, healthy(high)-fat (LCHF) diet. It is designed to keep blood glucose low, decrease insulin, and therefore burn more fat. The result? Weight loss and an improvement in diabetes.
Three rules for reversing type 2 diabetes
Rule#3: Eat real food
As I’ve said, there are good fats and bad fats. There are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. What is the key distinguishing factor? Refining and processing.
Our bodies have had millennia to adapt to foods in their natural state. So some traditional societies, such as people living in the Far North, may eat an almost pure meat diet. And others, such as people living on the Japanese island of Okinawa, can eat a high-carbohydrate diet. Because these foods are not refined or processed, and because they contain little to no sugar, neither group has traditionally had trouble with high blood glucose, obesity or type 2 diabetes. When traditional societies eating traditional diets begin to eat highly processed foods and sugar, however, obesity and type 2 diabetes follow closely behind.
After all, you don’t pick dinner rolls from the tree. You don’t grow a bottle of vegetable oil. The most important rule of all is to just eat real food. If the food you are eating looks like it does when you see it in nature, it is probably good for you.
A FOURTH RULE, IN CASE THE FIRST THREE AREN’T ENOUGH
CERTAINLY, AVOIDING FRUCTOSE, eating an LCHF diet, and consuming real food is a great start, but these are often not enough to stop or reverse severe type 2 diabetes. The disease can take decades to develop, and so the vicious cycle of hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance can continue despite following all of the dietary rules. What if these simple dietary changes are not enough? Like many solutions, the answer is not new. It’s the oldest dietary intervention known to humans, its natural cleansing power has been harnessed by virtually all religions in the world, it’s free, and it can be done anywhere. What am I talking about? The power of fasting.