Can a real food diabetes diet improve the health of diabetics?
There are now 25.8 million people in the United States alone who have diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association. This number does not include the countless people who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, gestational diabetes, or the many who live with the symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed.
Diabetes is becoming a household norm in our country and as the numbers continue to rise, the results will continue to be devastating…unless we become educated about what really causes many cases of this disease and how it can be managed effectively or even reversed.
This is a guest post from Brandy of Living Water Health and Wellness.
My family and I know personally how diabetes can affect the person diagnosed as well as those around them. And I also know that if empowered with the RIGHT information regarding whole foods for diabetes, exercise, and lifestyle, it is completely and totally possible to live an abundantly healthy life!
My mother-in-law had a sudden double bypass, and helping her nail down a diet in the aftermath of heart surgery was a tremendous challenge. She was only 57 at the time, which helped the recovery, but she also has diabetes, which complicated everything dramatically.
“What to eat” would be a hard enough question if we just tried to follow the diet recommendations given at the hospital, because the “Heart Healthy Diet” and the “Diabetes Healthy Diet” have some contradictions. Me being the food lady, however, further complicated the matter. I knew some of the recommendations were a load of
crap bad research and misguided good intentions, but I needed some hard facts to back me up and a practical real food diabetes diet for my mother-in-law. Brandy’s story as told below, along with her recommendations on a real food diet for diabetes are the to-do’s that can help everyone, including diabetics improve their health.
My Story: The Diabetes Diagnosis
I was diagnosed with Type 1 (Juvenile Onset) diabetes when I was only 2 years old. Now that I am the mother of two young boys, I cannot imagine what must have been going through my parents’ minds when they received that news. At that time (1984), diabetes was not the norm, and the only thing my mom and dad knew of the disease involved kidney failure, amputation, and premature death, so to see their baby girl lying in a hospital bed with what they believed to be a guarantee of lifelong complications was nothing short of traumatizing.
Thankfully, we were referred to a wonderful endocrinologist who was ahead of his time in the treatment of diabetes. He helped restore me back to health, taught my parents how to cope with and manage my blood sugars and injections, and showed them that a diabetes diagnosis was not simply an early death sentence.
We returned home and began learning a new way of life, full of needles and finger pricks, scheduled blood sugar tests and shots, and the ever present worry (for my parents) of highs and lows. I am so thankful to have had a mother and father who did the very best they could, no expense spared, to help me grow up healthy and happy, in spite of what statistics said.
Living with Diabetes
Overall, my childhood and youth was pretty normal. However, my family was not terribly educated about what nutrition really was. The only dietary advice we had been given was according to the American Diabetes and American Dietetic Associations, which was based on the old food pyramid.
I grew up eating lots of carbs (a meat and potatoes kind of diet) because that is what my parents had been raised on. Even if my mom prepared vegetables, I would not eat them, except for the occasional canned corn or green beans.
As I grew into a teenager, I began to struggle with my weight and the only remedy I knew then was low fat and fat free foods, sugar laden snacks and desserts. After all, as long as there was no fat, it had to be good for me, right? This battle continued into my college years and I wasn’t winning it. I ate the typical college diet – pizza and soda, fast food, cereals, microwave dinners, etc. and didn’t really know how to change….until…
Starting a Family
Shortly after I married my wonderful husband of 7 years, we decided we wanted to have a baby. We had difficulty conceiving and the doctors found cysts on my left ovary. They told me that the only remedy was hormonal birth control, which the Lord had lead us not to use when we married. I knew there had to be another solution, so I began my search.
I stumbled upon a book called Hormone Deception by D. Lindsey Berkson. That book launched me on a journey that I have been traveling ever since and opened my eyes to the truth about our food supply, environmental toxins, etc. To put it simply, I was hooked!
I began to read, and read, and read, and read…anything I could get my hands on. The Makers Diet, Never Be Sick Again, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living, Eat Fat Lose Fat, The Coconut Oil Miracle, and the list goes on… I knew that God had sent me on this journey and that He had a mission for me to share what I had learned with others, which is why I began my blog.
Controlling Diabetes the Natural Way: A Real Foods Diabetes Diet
I have learned how to control diabetes by eating REAL foods, staying active, and using whole food supplements.
I learned that our loving Father and Creator designed certain things for food for us because He loves us and wants us to live in divine health.
It has now been almost 27 years since my diagnosis and I am perfectly healthy, have had two amazingly perfect pregnancies/deliveries, and have absolutely NO signs of diabetes complications. The success of my discoveries is what I want to share with you here. Editor’s note: Brandy still uses insulin, as all Type 1 diabetics must, but she hasn’t shown any of the physical degenerative complications of diabetes.
There are two types of diabetes: type 1, which is generally juvenile onset (most people who get it are children) and type 2, which used to be considered adult onset. Now though, we are seeing more and more children diagnosed with type 2.
In type 1, something basically attacks the insulin producing cells (beta cells) in the pancreas and shuts them down, so the body no longer produces insulin. Type 1 is considered incurable, although because I believe in divine healing through the power of God’s Word, the word “incurable” is not in my vocabulary.
In type 2 the body still produces insulin, but because of diet, lack of exercise, and lifestyle it becomes insulin resistant, no longer able to utilize the insulin that is there. Why? Because the Standard American Diet (appropriately abbreviated SAD) is, for the most part, lacking any real nutritive value, is loaded with sugars and artificial ingredients, and pretty much doesn’t even resemble REAL food.
Our bodies were not meant to live off of these imitation food products, and yet, most people in America get almost their entire daily caloric intake from them. If we want to stop and even reverse the diabetes epidemic, we have to get back to the basics and focus on what God created as food. It would take pages and pages of typed material for me to tell you everything you need to know, so I am going to focus on a few key things that can really help to fight this disease.
Controlling Symptoms Through a Real Food Diabetes Diet
If you are a regular reader here at Kitchen Stewardship, you already know something about most of the things I am going to talk about. And I hope that you are beginning to see that when the body is provided with the nourishment it needs from the sources it was designed to get it from, it can do amazing things to heal itself.
At our house, we drink raw milk, make our own homemade yogurt, butter and bread (most of the time), eat coconut oil by the bucket full as well as other nutritious fats, and try to buy most things organic/grass fed/free range/pastured, etc.
But hear me when I say that this has been a 6 year journey for us, and I know it’s not possible for everyone to do everything that I recommend. Here are the MOST important things you can do to begin your journey to better health when dealing with diabetes:
Note from Katie: Naturally, these steps also keep anyone in their best health!
1. EAT COCONUT OIL – THE ABSOLUTE BEST FAT IN A REAL FOOD DIABETES DIET
Number one on my list is to eat coconut oil! Coconut oil is, in my opinion, the healthiest fat choice for anyone, but especially diabetics. Unlike most other fats, coconut oil does not require insulin to get into your cells. Because of this, it can reduce insulin resistance and it provides almost instant energy. It also is considered a “low calorie fat” because it is burned more like a carbohydrate, so it is a perfect choice for those needing to shed some pounds. For more information about why coconut oil is, in my book, considered a super food, go to my post titled The Food You Should NEVER Go Without!
2. STAY AWAY FROM HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
One of the most common sweeteners found in foods and drinks today is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This modified sweetener wreaks havoc on many areas of the body, but particularly on the appetite control system.
HFCS stimulates a hormone in your body called ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for telling your body that it is hungry and needs food. It also suppresses the hormone leptin, which tells the body when you are satisfied and should stop eating.
HFCS is not recognized by the body as food, so it never gets the signal that you have had enough. Its interference with appetite hormones causes you to feel like you can eat, and eat, and eat and never get full. This is obviously not good for anyone, but especially for the diabetic who desperately needs to limit their sugar/carb intake.
Ever wonder why sodas and sugary snacks are so addictive? Now you know…they literally MAKE your body crave more and more and more. HFCS can be found in most processed foods, but is most heavily found in soft drinks, sweetened juices, and sugary snack foods and desserts. Please see this post about the dangers of processed foods for more information.
3. AVOID ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS LIKE THE PLAGUE
Yes, you read that right, and yes, we are still talking about diabetes. As you know, I have lived with type 1 diabetes for almost 27 years and I DO NOT consume ANY artificial sweeteners!
The most common artificial sweetener is called aspartame. It is found in pretty much all diet drinks, sugar free desserts and snack foods, and in the little blue packets. Also known as NutraSweet and Equal, aspartame is a toxic poison that should not be consumed by any human.
It is a known neurotoxin or excitotoxin. That means that it causes your nerves to fire over and over and over and eventually wear out. When aspartame is metabolized by the body it is broken down into formaldehyde and ethel alcohol. YUCK!!
It has been linked to all kinds of neurological disorders, seizures, migraines, brain tumors, and a host of other diseases. There is actually a named disease known as “Aspartame Poisoning”. And yet, it is still deemed safe for consumption. NO ONE should EVER eat or drink this stuff if they have any desire to be healthy.
Aspartame has been shown to cause neuropathy and retinopathy too…isn’t it odd that those are two of the most common complications of diabetes, and diabetics are generally some of the most loyal diet food and drink consumers???
Splenda is another common artificial sweetener that is claimed to be safe as well. While it may not be quite as toxic as aspartame, it should still be avoided in my opinion. Stevia (a natural herbal sweetener) is a much safer, and I think tastier, choice.
Note from Katie: The Sweet, Sweet Summer series includes a week on stevia, including an interview with Jim May, said to be the first to bring stevia to the U.S., and also a week on artificial sweeteners.
4. EAT WHOLESOME FATS
I know, I know…most dieticians would tell you to strictly limit your daily intake of fat, and to try to avoid saturated fats completely. But I assure you, that is not a recipe for health, weight loss or diabetes control. Your body needs good, wholesome, saturated fats to maintain the integrity of cell walls, protect vital organs, maintain hormonal balance, and even to lose weight.
I talked about coconut oil already, which should definitely be a staple in every household, but there are other fats that are beneficial to the body as well. You will not find the words “fat free” or “low fat” in our fridge or pantry.
Let me be clear though. While you do need much more fat than is generally advised, it HAS to come from the right sources. I would never tell anyone to drink a tall glass of conventional, pasteurized/homogenized whole milk, but whole raw milk from healthy grass fed cows is a nutritional powerhouse. And butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. made from this healthy milk is fantastic too!
Other good sources of nutritious fats include grass fed and organic beef, organic/pastured chicken (including dark meat and skin), free range eggs, coconut and coconut milk, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and organ meats. Try to find ways to incorporate these foods into your diet and you will see such a difference in energy levels, weight loss, blood sugar, and overall wellbeing.
5. AVOID REFINED SUGARS AND GRAINS
Much of America’s health crisis, including the diabetes epidemic, stems from our overconsumption of processed, refined, bleached sugars and grains. These so called foods send your blood sugar through the roof almost immediately after being eaten. Because they have been stripped of the nutrients found in their whole form, refined grains are absorbed super fast and have nothing to balance the effect.
Whole grains, on the other hand, are still intact, in that they contain all the fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc. that God put in them to begin with. This slows down absorption significantly and allows the body to break down the carbohydrate slowly rather than requiring a huge insulin spike.
Look for grain products that say 100% whole wheat/whole grain. (How to Read a Bread Bag) Otherwise they have definitely been processed and have lost a lot of their natural goodness. Better yet, buy sprouted grain breads which are more easily digested and higher in fiber and vitamins than non sprouted grains. Or try baking your own bread. I got my bread recipe here from Katie’s Seeking the Perfect Whole Wheat Bread series.
Pictured above are sprouted whole wheat rolls.
Anyone with diabetes needs to strictly limit their sugar intake, but we know that it is next to impossible to avoid it entirely. So what sweetener is safe to use? I mentioned stevia already, which is a safe sugar alternative and tastes great.
We also use raw, local honey in our house. While it is a sugar, it takes very little to sweeten things and can be used in moderation. We also occasionally use organic maple syrup, but again, in very small amounts.
6. STAY ACTIVE
We all know that it is important to live an active life if we want to be healthy. This is true for anyone, but those with diabetes in particular can benefit greatly from exercise. When we exercise, our bodies become more efficient at most processes. These processes include metabolism, removal of toxins, proper blood flow, fat burning, proper nerve function, and the list goes on. Just about every organ and cell in your body benefits from exercise.
So what are the best types of exercise and how can we make sure to incorporate it into our everyday lives? As a certified Group Exercise Instructor for LA Fitness, I can say that the most important part of choosing a fitness program is to find something that you enjoy. If you hate it, you won’t do it.
I love going to and teaching different formats of group exercise. Step aerobics, cardio kickboxing, indoor cycle (spinning), aqua aerobics, and group resistance training are FUN to me. That makes me keep going! It also helps when you’re the teacher and you HAVE to be there. But seriously, I have found what works for me and I love it.
I just recently went back to teaching after having my second child almost a year ago, so I know how hard it is to fit in physical fitness when you’re a busy wife and mom who has to take care of everyone, including yourself.
Before going back to the gym, I needed something that I could do at home that wouldn’t take a lot of time. I found that in Peak 8. Peak 8 is a form of interval training where you do a series of eight 30-second sprints with 90-second recovery periods in between. Throw in a warm up and cool down and the whole thing only takes about 20 minutes, three times a week!
And it really works.
Peak 8 can be done on a treadmill, elliptical, exercise bike, or outdoors. Sprinting and interval training really rev up the metabolism and increase lean muscle mass, so it is a fantastic way to shed extra weight and strengthen your body. Ideally, you would want to add in some resistance training too, but there were lots of weeks when I could only fit in the sprints.
Walking, of course, is a great workout and can be done anywhere as well. Like I said, find what works for you. Just make sure you commit to being active no matter what form of exercise you choose!
I didn’t discuss my favorite whole food supplements, but if you would like to know which ones I use and recommend, you can read this post.
The Tip of the Iceberg
There is so much I could talk about on the subject of diabetes and health in general, but I know I can only say so much in this post. 🙂
I have given you what I believe are the six most important things you can do to begin taking control of your diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2. These 6 things will allow you to be in control of your blood sugar, give you increased energy, and put you in the driver’s seat concerning your health.
I believe that it is completely possible to reverse type 2 diabetes through proper nutrition and exercise. Knowledge is power. After all, God Himself said, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)
Don’t be one of those people. I pray that you have been empowered by what you have read today and that my personal story proves to you that it IS possible to live in abundant health in spite of diabetes. Many blessings to you and your family as you continue on your journey to divine health!
Beloved I pray above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)
My mission is to share the message of health and wellness according to the Word of God and traditional wisdom. I am a full time homemaker, have been married to the love of my life for 7 years and am the mommy of two amazing boys, ages 5 and 1.
I feel so blessed to have an opportunity to make people aware of the truth about the foods we eat, and I pray that everyone who reads my blog will see the fruit of health and wellness in their lives. The two most important things in my life are my relationships with God my Father and with my family.
I am living the abundant life with my wonderful husband and sons and am constantly learning how to walk in the fullness of the promises of God. His Word is our life map, and He is our Source, our Healer, our Provider, our Protector, and our Shield, Whose redemptive power has made all things new in every area of our lives! My God is the inspiration and the wisdom behind everything that is shared and taught on my blog and I am so grateful for the opportunity to help people live in the divine health and abundance that His Word promises.