The act of healing can arise from different sources if you keep an open eye and open mind. To the chagrin of the multi-billion dollar diabetic pharmaceutical industry, healing can occur from your food and spices, not just from expensive pills. Most medications can also generate serious side effects to complicate the healing process. Consuming food in its whole format can slowly add minerals and nutrients back into your body to stimulate natural cellular reactions that can heal the damage done by diabetes. Those who have reversed their type 2 or prediabetes have done so with the best foods for diabetics. There have been no documented cases of anyone reversing their diabetes through pill-based medication alone. If you are subscribed to this diabetic meal plan, you will recognize many of the items below from the weekly grocery lists and recipes.
FRUIT: NATURE’S DESSERT
Fruit is defined as the fleshy part of a flower-bearing plant used to spread seeds. But we know it is as the naturally sweet produce with some of the most diverse flavors in the culinary world. While fruit makes its sugars naturally, it can still spike your blood sugar levels significantly. For diabetics, it is best to consume fruits in moderation and in whole format. Diabetics should never drink juice! The act of juicing separates the fiber from the sugar, making it more concentrated. A glass of orange juice is just as toxic to a diabetic as a glass of sugary soda. It’s good practice to consume sweet fruit with fat to lower the resultant blood sugar spike. For example, a diabetic could eat an apple with some almond butter on it as a healthy midday snack.
One of the most versatile fruit groups for cooking is the citrus family. These tart fruits are not just limited to dessert, but can be incorporated in sauces, dressings and entrees. This group includes the common lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits and the less common kumquat and pomellos. They are all high vitamin C and can encourage good digestion. Citrus, while acidic in taste, is surprisingly alkalizing to our digestive track, which helps to mitigate the other acidic items in your diet. Citrus fruits have many detoxifying properties to them making them one of the best foods for diabetics.
Lemons are antibacterial and have the most calcium citrate of all the citrus fruits. This is important because it can decrease the rate of formation of kidney stones. Drinking lemon juice with hot water can be used to counteract nausea, heart burn or acid indigestion. The mighty lemon can also reduce swelling, water retention and inflammation in your body. It’s antibacterial properties can help to rid the body of the bacteria that causes UTI’s (urinary tract infection).
If there was a fruit designed specifically for the needs of diabetics, it would be the grapefruit. This bitter-sweet flavor profile rarely makes it in any mass-produced foods, but can be used to make drinks, teas, desserts or dressings. A study using grapefruit, grapefruit juice and grapefruit capsules found excellent results when grapefruit was consumed three times per day before meals. This is why it is one of the best foods for diabetics. After 12 weeks, the study found that those people eating half of a grapefruit before each meal lost the most amount of weight comparatively, an average of 3.5 pounds lost. Those people in the study that also suffered from metabolic syndrome demonstrated the weight loss significantly higher than the average. The group consuming the grapefruit also had a significant reduction in insulin levels two hours after the meal. The outer peel of the grapefruit also has beneficial healing properties and works to regulate the digestive energy of the spleen and pancreas. To consume the properties of the peel, make a simple tea with a few 2-inch pieces and steep for 20 minutes covered.
These small fruits pack a big amount of flavor and healing benefits. This flavor profile has found is way into processed, inflammatory foods (think: Boo-Berry cereal) but the healing properties are non-existent since the simulated berry flavors come from a food lab, not its whole food counterpart. You can only reap the healing benefits from consuming whole foods, not through processed ones. The berry family has properties that are excellent for combating metabolic syndrome. Other benefits include being anti-cancer, supporting vision, chock full of antioxidants and much more. Trader Joe’s offers a wide choice of frozen berries that are organic or at least wild and not sprayed with fertilizers.
Blueberries are one of the most common berries in grocery stores across the country. They are native to North America and delicious when consumed fresh. These dark berries are full of antioxidants to improve eyesight and antibacterial to combat intestinal bugs. Studies have found that blueberries can slow the growth of cancerous cells, specifically prostate cancer cells, due to their concentration of proanthocyandin compounds. This makes them one of the best foods for diabetics. Consider using frozen blueberries in smoothie recipes for maximizing the absorption of all of its healing properties.
Strawberries are the most popular berry and with good reason. They are seasonal but delicious when consumed fresh. Sadly, all berries are heavily fertilized, so try to buy organic or wild if your budget allows it. Strawberries are high in vitamin C and the good flavonoids of quercetin and kaempferol, both of which promote the good type of cholesterol and reduce atherosclerosis. The leaves of the strawberry plant can also aid indigestion. Make a simple tea with the leaves by steeping them for 5 minutes.
Cranberries are not just for the Thanksgiving table, but can be eaten year round. Most cranberry sauces do come with a lot of added sugar to balance out this sour berry. Diabetics should avoid cranberry juice and cranberry chutneys/sauces/relish with added sugar. The best way to consume this berry is to buy it in its whole, raw berry format, whether fresh or frozen. In addition to the antioxidants and antibacterial properties, the cranberry can promote good gum health. As most folks know, the cranberry is also good for preventing UTI’s (urinary tract infection) and bladder and kidney infections due to its nondialyzable material.
The main picture of this article is of the vine fruit bitter melon. It has healing properties ideal for diabetics, but is native to Asia, Africa and South America and hard to find in the US. Asian markets are most likely to carry this melon. As the name suggests, it is quite bitter. In Vietnam, they slice this melon very thin and serve it raw with noodle dishes. Bitter melon has complex compounds, such as charantin, vicine, and polypeptide-P, which function very much like insulin. These healing compounds help your body metabolize sugars in your blood stream.
Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.
The diverse world of vegetables are defined as plant-based matter that are consumed by humans. It’s a definition as wide as the selection of colors, flavors and textures of vegetables found around the planet. Consuming a vegetable dense diet can help prevent or reverse diseases such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and more. These nutrient packed foods can help your skin clear up and look younger, as well as being great sources of natural fiber to increase mineral absorption and speed up your digestive tract.
One of the powerhouses of the plant kingdom comes with a long list of healing vitamins and minerals. Kale alone has vitamin C, K, chlorophyll, iron and more calcium than milk per the same serving. It is also a strong anti-inflammatory which makes it key for diabetics, as metabolic syndrome is defined as an inflammation of various organs and body tissue. Swiss chard, or sometimes called rainbow or green chard, has many antioxidants and syringic acid which has been recently studied due its blood sugar regulating properties.
Native cuisines across the globe usually have some fermented foods consumed regularly with most meals. The Germans have their cabbage fermented to sauerkraut. The Koreans have many varieties of kimchi, which captures a sweet and sour flavor profile. Indonesia ferments soybeans into tempeh, while the Japanese ferment soy into miso. Unfortunately, the American palate is dominated by fast foods and highly processed food-like items, none of which have anything fermented. It may not be a flavor that ranks well in food testing labs for our food industry, but that’s no reason to shy away from it. Several recipes used on this diabetic meal plan incorporate fermented components and with good reason, it makes for a healthy gut.
The fermentation process grows healthy bacteria in a controlled environment to keep the food from rotting or otherwise going bad. The bacteria from this fermentation process can help to form a healthy flora in your gut and digestive tract, thus reducing intestinal disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and more. A research study in Brazil found that evidence “suggests that some chronic inflammatory diseases are mediated or affected by the dysfunction of the gut microbiota and its metabolic products.” They continue to conclude “based on these observations, manipulation of intestinal microbiota may prevent or alleviate chronic inflammatory disease. The composition of the microbiota can be manipulated by antibiotics, probiotics, and dietary components.” Adding in kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi or by supplementation with probiotics, you can help reset the importance balance of the good bacteria you might not have known existed in your body.
RED HOT CHILE PEPPERS
The vast group of different chiles extends from jalapeño to cayenne to guajillo to habañero. Peppers all may taste very differently but all have similar health benefits to diabetics. The heat from the plant originates from the volatile oils in the pod. As most of us have experienced, the heat from peppers can cause sweating and a burning intensity if too much is consumed. Controlling the amount of heat to keep food palatable allows you to reap its benefits. The slight increase in sweating is good to stimulate detoxing. The pepper also stimulates blood circulation throughout the body, even when your face is not melting off. And peppers are chock full of anti-oxidants and can lower bad cholesterol, too. A side effect of the heat is that it can cut food cravings and greatly slow down your pace of eating. The slower that you eat means the more nutrients you can extract from your food and the sooner your body will release leptin, the satiety hormone. This tells your brain that you’re full and should stop eating. Anyone who eats too quickly should consider adding 1/8 tsp of cayenne to your savory meals.
MUSHROOMS: THE FUNGUS AMONG US
There’s an entire world of edible fungi with healing properties. Grocery stores are starting to carry a wider selection, but some mushrooms can be ordered online at Amazon since they take well to drying. The canned button mushrooms are most widely known and sold in the US, but keep an eye out for fresh shiitakes, oysters, and portobellos. Most mushrooms contain the amino acid ergothioneine which helps to reduce inflammation in the body. When eaten raw, on salads for example, mushrooms can contain higher levels of prebiotics to help foster healthy gut bacteria. The benefits continue, as mushrooms are also antibacterial, antiviral and anticancer.
GOOD FAT ONE OF THE BEST FOODS FOR DIABETICS
Many people, with or without diabetes, are quite surprised to see that butter is okay and even encouraged for diabetics to consume. To clarify, the butter that is good to eat is real butter made from milk from cows raised without antibiotics nor hormones. The butter-like spreads are not real butter and typically packed with poor sources of palm oil and transfats. As Dr Hyman has stated, good fats do not make you fat, but sugar makes you fat. Real butter is a good source of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which promote heart health. Long-chain fatty acids are the ones to avoid and are linked to heart disease. Ghee or clarified butter has been used for thousands of years in the Indian subcontinent. It has healing properties and even is used on wounds and as a hair tonic, as well as cooking.
Olive oil is another excellent source of healthy fatty acids and has not been vilified as butter has in the past. It is a staple in the Mediterranean Diet, which is endorsed by the ADA. This oil raises healthy (HDL) cholesterol levels and has the most monounsaturated fatty acids of any of the natural oils. Olive oil’s low smoke point means it is best used for low-temp cooking or for salad dressings and sauces.
Coconut oil is another great source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), the healthy fatty acid. Some of the healthiest cultures around the globe use lots of coconut oil in their diets. One study done on the Tokelauans (a country in the south Pacific) found low levels of cholesterol because of the higher amounts of fat they consumed. The lauric acid found in coconuts is also antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal. The marketing campaigns by the corn and soy industry, in the 70’s, still affect the common “nutritional” beliefs that coconut oil and saturated fat are bad for us. It’s this type of marketing disguised as science that has led to us one of the highest obesity rates of any nation. Corn and soy oils happen to be some of the highest in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) which are high in the pro-inflammatory omega-6’s, both of which are not good for us. Stick to virgin, unrefined coconut oils for the healthiest choices.
HERBS AND SPICES
Spices are truly a gift to cooking and to your health. Most spices are relatively affordable and can add a great deal of flavor to even the most pedestrian of dishes. The spices listed below have macronutrients (calories, fat, sugar, etc.) at levels of low to none and come with varied healing benefits as their “side effects.” Those folks who are heat intolerant of chili’s need not shy away – these kinds of spices have flavor without setting your face on fire. If you’re coming off of the SAD (standard American diet) it could take some time for your taste buds to readjust to whole foods with flavor profiles beyond just fat and salt.
STEVIA: THE DIABETIC’S SPICE
Some may have heard of stevia, but it is still lacking in presence when compared to the artificial sweeteners on the market. Stevia is native to South America but is being cultivated around the world. It is a natural plant that happens to be quite sweet and pictured above. Stevia has no calories, when used in a pure extract form, does not cause dental problems, like sugar, and has been shown to reduce post postprandial blood sugar spikes. A study done by a panel of medical doctors at the University of Florida found that those participants in the stevia group consumed much less food than compared to those in the sugar group. They also found that the stevia group had much lower postprandial blood sugar levels than the sugar group did. Amazon and some grocery stores have the pure liquid stevia extract. Avoid Stevia In The Raw® at all costs – it has dextrose in it. Dextrose is a sugar (easy to spot since it ends in -ose) derived from corn, one of the top six inflammatory foods.
TURMERIC: NATURE’S PAIN RELIEVER
The bundle of roots from this plant are often dried or used fresh as a spice in food, a dietary supplement, or topical ointment. Turmeric is native to India which is why it is an ingredient in so many India dishes. It has been documented for its healing properties for thousands of years without a side effect or overdose ever documented. A mind-blowing study published in the ADA Diabetes Care journal back in 2012 showed great promise with turmeric and its active component, curcumin. They concluded the following: “A 9-month curcumin intervention in a prediabetic population significantly lowered the number of prediabetic people who eventually developed T2DM. In addition, the curcumin treatment appeared to improve overall function of β-cells, with very minor adverse effects. Therefore, this study demonstrated that the curcumin intervention in a prediabetic population may be beneficial.” You could add turmeric to every meal you consume, but a more effective way to get more curcumin in your diet is through dietary supplements. This is the reason curcumin falls in the top three supplements we suggest for diabetics. Turmeric is truly a healing and one of the best foods for diabetics.
CINNAMON FOR BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL
Cinnamon is a spice made from the sweet bark of trees. It is dried and sold in sticks or ground for convenience and comes in several varieties. Studies show that cinnamon is beneficial to controlling postprandial blood sugar levels. Stick to Ceylon or Saigon for the best results. Most types of cinnamon served in coffee shops is the sweet Saigon version. Max dosage: 1tsp per day.
IT’S ALWAYS TEA TIME
You do not need to be British to reap the benefits of daily tea consumption. It’s a great substitute for weaning yourself off of heavy coffee drinking. Tea, unlike coffee, comes with some widely studied and documented health benefits. This study concluded that drinking black tea daily lowered stress biomarkers, increased total antioxidant capacity, and decreased C-reactive protein in type 2 diabetics. And this is why tea is one of the best foods for diabetics. C-reactive protein is found in your blood stream and increases with inflammation, meaning that tea helped to decrease this effect, which is a good thing. Black tea has also been identified to increase relaxation and lower your cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone. Oolong tea, which is widely consumed in China, has been found to increase fat burning in men (sorry ladies). A study of over 40,000 people in Japan found that drinking green tea greatly reduced your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Green tea has also been found to have “a small, positive effect on weight loss and weight maintenance.” Tea is often heavily sprayed with pesticides, so buying organic is important to maximize the health benefits. Loose leaf tea is always the cheapest option, although it requires a tea strainer. Check out the teas we have listed on our shopping guide.
There are several types of mint – peppermint, spearmint, wild mint, and even chocolate mint. This plant is easy to grow and a good staple in every home garden since it thrives on neglect. Herbalists have long known that mint flavors and smells can be used as a mild natural stimulant and an appetite suppressant. In the recent past, we have had a few studies on how the mint smell can affect your appetite. A study at the Wheeling Jesuit University concluded: “The primary implication of these results is that peppermint scent can be used as an effective adjunct to decrease appetite, decrease hunger cravings, and consume fewer calories, which may lead to weight reduction and greater overall health.” It was specifically the scent that made the difference, not necessarily eating the mint. Conversely, chewing mint gum or sucking on a mint will not produce the same result. To replicate this result, use pure peppermint oil extract and an ultrasonic oil diffuser. I have tried it before and a few inhales of mint will certainly block the path in your brain from food cravings. It’s a better, safer choice than suffering delayed cardiac arrest from using fen-phen or other speedy weight loss pills.
MEAT AND FISH
Meat quality varies the greatest of all healing foods. Good meat is expensive but it does come with some health benefits, whereas bad meat will reliably decrease your health. Chicken has high levels of vitamin B, as does beef, along with being high sources of protein, the building block of muscles. Lamb is nearly always pasture-raised and has excellent omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc. The fat in lamb is mostly monounsaturated, which is a good type of fat. Turkey can actually help balance post-meal insulin secretion for more even blood sugar numbers. It’s no accident that turkey shows up often on this diabetic meal plan! It’s one of the best foods for diabetics.
Bone broth has got much press lately in the news and with good reason. This simple to make and affordable foodstuff has been used in cultures for thousands of years for its flavor and healing powers. Broth is an excellent source of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. By using joints and knuckles in a broth, it’s possible to extract natural and potent sources of gelatin. Gelatin is helpful for skin health, proper digestion, strong bones and fighting arthritis. Broth can be made from red meat or poultry or fish. Some stores sell it pre-made, but it’s easy to make at home and can be used in any recipe that calls for broth or stock. Bone broth is a perfect base for simple soups.
Fish and seafood are well-known for being a healthy piece of protein in a meal. Salmon and tuna are packed selenium, magnesium, potassium, and protein, not to mention high levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Research studies have shown that fish oil can be as potent as ibuprofen for arthritic relief while being a safer source than NSAIDs, with no known side effects. Sardines are one of the highest concentrated source of omega-3’s and with the least amount of mercury and other absorbed toxins from the sea. It’s best to buy wild caught fish. Check out Seafood Watch and their searchable database of sustainable fish & shellfish by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You can search by fish type or by one of their state by state guides. They also have convenient & free smart phone apps to use in the grocery store, fish market or farmers’ markets. Making wise seafood choices has never been easier.
PUTTING THIS TO GOOD USE
Hopefully you are more informed on picking best foods for diabetics reversing their disease. Please understand the context of healing foods. They should be eaten on a regular basis but are not substitutes for medication, such as metformin. Whole foods can supply a long and steady supply of nutrients to repair damage from highly processed, inflammatory foods which make up the standard American diet (SAD). Let your physician know if you are making changes to your diet that could affect the medications you are taking. If your biomarkers are showing improvement, your medications should be reduced under the discretion of your medical professional.
SHARING IS CARING
Has this article helped you learn more about the best foods for diabetics? If you enjoyed this article, others may also find it useful. If we’ve earned it, can we kindly ask that you share this article online or through email? A referral is the greatest compliment a customer can give a business and we thank you for helping us spread the good word to the millions who suffer from this troubling disease.
Photos by Fotolia.
References: Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition and Healing Foods