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Preventing and reversing diabetes with superior nutrition

The End of Diabetes

From Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of The End of Diabetes.

Diabetes rates have soared in recent years with the growing rates of overweight and obesity. Type-2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease whose chief risk factor is excess body fat, which interferes with the functions of insulin. Over 25 million people in the United States (about 11 percent of adults) have type-2 diabetes. If current trends continue, it is estimated that one-fifth to one-third of all Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050.[1]

Diabetes is a serious disease, with serious consequences:

  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Diabetes doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke—heart attack and stroke account for 84 percent of diabetes-related deaths.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults and the leading cause of kidney failure.
  • Sixty to 70 percent of diabetics have nervous system damage.[2]
  • Type-2 diabetes increases the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancers.[3]

Diabetes can be reversed, and its tragic complications can be avoided.

Fortunately, type-2 diabetes can be prevented and even reversed by removing its cause—the micronutrient-deficient, standard American diet of processed foods and animal products, and a sedentary lifestyle. Our food choices and level of physical activity are the major determinants of whether we develop insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.

Since excess weight is the primary risk factor for developing type-2 diabetes, the most effective treatment for type-2 diabetes is significant weight loss with a health-promoting diet. However, the primary mode of treatment by physicians today is glucose-lowering medication. These medications give patients a false sense of security, providing implicit permission to continue the same disease-causing diet and lifestyle that allowed diabetes to develop in the first place. Plus, many of these medications promote weight gain, essentially making the patient more diabetic; most importantly, these medications do not prevent diabetes from progressing and causing complications.

The key to diabetes reversal is superior nutrition and frequent exercise. It may take a little extra effort, but avoiding the tragic complications of diabetes and a premature death is well worth it. The core of my nutritional philosophy is to eat a diet with a high ratio of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals) to calories. My diabetes-reversal diet, as described in my new book, The End of Diabetes, is vegetable-based with a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio, containing lots of greens and beans, other non-starchy vegetables (such as mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes, and onions), raw nuts and seeds, and limited fresh fruit with no sweeteners or white flour products. The strategy is to minimize the rise in blood glucose after meals (glycemic load) while maximizing the intake of protective micronutrients. When diabetics eat in this style, they lose their excess weight—the cause of their diabetes—quickly and easily, reducing or eliminating their need for medications. Simultaneously, they flood the body with disease-protective and healing micronutrients and phytochemicals that aid the body’s healing and self-repair.

High-nutrient, low glycemic load (GL) foods are the optimal foods for a diabetes-reversal diet, and these foods also help to prevent diabetes in the first place:

  • Leafy greens and other low-calorie vegetables: Green and non-starchy vegetables have negligible effects on blood glucose, and are packed with fiber and protective phytochemicals. A recent meta-analysis of several studies found that greater leafy green vegetable intake was associated with a 14 percent decrease in risk of type-2 diabetes.[4] Another study reported that for each daily serving of leafy greens you add to your diet, you reduce your risk of diabetes by 9 percent.[5] Green vegetables are indispensable components of a healthful diet.
  • Beans: Greens and beans are central to my nutritarian eating style, especially for diabetics. Beans, lentils, and other legumes are the ideal starch source for diabetics; beans are low in GL due to their moderate protein content and abundant fiber and resistant-starch carbohydrates that are not broken down in the small intestine. The high levels of fiber and resistant starch reduce the amount of calories that can be absorbed from beans; plus, resistant starch is fermented by bacteria in the colon, forming fatty acids that protect the intestinal wall against colon cancer.[6] Accordingly, bean and legume consumption is associated with significantly reduced risk of both diabetes and colon cancer.[7]
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds have minimal glycemic effects, promote weight loss, reduce cholesterol, protect against heart disease, and have anti-inflammatory effects that help to prevent insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.[8] The Nurses’ Health Study found a 27 percent 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 percent.[9] Since diabetics are prone to heart attack and stroke, cardioprotective nuts and seeds provide a low-glycemic, high-nutrient source of healthy fats.
  • Fresh fruits, especially berries: 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.[10] For those who are already diabetic, I recommend sticking to low-sugar fruits like berries, pomegranate, kiwi, oranges, and melon to get the benefits of fruit phytochemicals with minimal glycemic effect. In addition to the low sugar content of these fruits, berry and pomegranate phytochemicals have been shown to reduce postprandial (after meal) glucose and insulin levels.[11] Berries, pomegranate, and their component phytochemicals also have several anti-cancer properties, increase the body’s production of natural antioxidants, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce atherosclerotic plaque.[12]

Learn more about using food to fight diabetes in my new book, The End of Diabetes. In this book, I outline my plan for preventing and reversing type-2 diabetes using superior nutrition, not drugs. This plan isn’t just for type-2 diabetics; this lifestyle program allows type-1 diabetics to maintain excellent health and quality of life into old age, and women with gestational diabetes to reverse their disease, have a healthy pregnancy, and prevent type-2 diabetes later in life. If you have type-2 diabetes, don’t just control it—get rid of it!

Dr. Joel Fuhrman is the author of The End of Diabetes and Super Immunity, available from HarperOne. Visit him online at www.drfuhrman.com.


[1] American Diabetes Association: Diabetes statistics [https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/]

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Diabetes Data & Trends. 2008 [https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/prev/national/figpersons.htm]

Boyle JP, Thompson TJ, Gregg EW, et al. Projection of the year 2050 burden of diabetes in the US adult population: dynamic modeling of incidence, mortality, and prediabetes prevalence. Popul Health Metr, 2010. 8(1): 29.

[2] American Diabetes Association: Diabetes statistics [https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/]

[3]  Campbell PT, Deka A, Jacobs EJ, et al. Prospective study reveals associations between colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes mellitus or insulin use in men. Gastroenterology. 2010 Oct; 139(4):1138-46.

Flood A, Strayer L, Schairer C, Schatzkin A. Diabetes and risk of incident colorectal cancer in a prospective cohort of women. Cancer Causes Control. 2010 Aug; 21(8):1277-84.

He J, Stram DO, Kolonel LN, et al. The association of diabetes with colorectal cancer risk: the Multiethnic Cohort. Br J Cancer. 2010 Jun 29;103(1):120-6.

[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.

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.

[8] Sabaté J, Oda K, Ros E. Nut consumption and blood lipid levels: a pooled analysis of 25 intervention trials. Arch Intern Med. 2010 May 10; 170(9):821-7.

Sabaté J, Ang Y. Nuts and health outcomes: new epidemiologic evidence. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1643S-1648S.

Casas-Agustench P, Bullo M, Salas-Salvado J. Nuts, inflammation and insulin resistance. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2010; 19:124-130.

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.

[9] 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.

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.

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.

[10] 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.

[11] McDougall GJ, Stewart D. The inhibitory effects of berry polyphenols on digestive enzymes. Biofactors 2005; 23:189-195.

Edirisinghe I, Banaszewski K, Cappozzo J, et al. Strawberry anthocyanin and its association with postprandial inflammation and insulin. Br J Nutr 2011; 106:913-922.

[12] Stoner GD, Wang LS, Casto BC. Laboratory and clinical studies of cancer chemoprevention by antioxidants in berries. Carcinogenesis 2008; 29:1665-1674.

Kim ND, Mehta R, Yu W, et al. Chemopreventive and adjuvant therapeutic potential of pomegranate (Punica granatum) for human breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2002; 71:203-217.

Kohno H, Suzuki R, Yasui Y, et al. Pomegranate seed oil rich in conjugated linolenic acid suppresses chemically induced colon carcinogenesis in rats. Cancer Sci 2004; 95:481-486.

Shih PH, Yeh CT, Yen GC. Anthocyanins induce the activation of phase II enzymes through the antioxidant response element pathway against oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007; 55:9427-9435.

Basu A, Wilkinson M, Penugonda K, et al. Freeze-dried strawberry powder improves lipid profile and lipid peroxidation in women with metabolic syndrome: baseline and post intervention effects. Nutr J 2009; 8:43.

Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr 2004; 23:423-433.

Cassidy A, O’Reilly EJ, Kay C, et al. Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident hypertension in adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2011; 93:338-347.

Aviram M, Dornfeld L. Pomegranate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure. Atherosclerosis 2001; 158:195-198

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One thought on “Preventing and reversing diabetes with superior nutrition

  1. Judy Griffin says:

    I loved having you as a guest teacher at IIN and really appreciate your message. You really helped me build a foundation for coaching my clients especially in my Diabetes Lifestyle Classes.

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