Dr. George Guthrie, author of the book “Eat Plants Feel Whole,” had a patient named James. The 48-year-old sales professional was dealing with the prospect of triple bypass surgery and an earlier diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Weighing in at 245 pounds, a previous doctor had told James he was “obese and a ticking time bomb.”
While James and his wife tried without success to follow various diets and exercise programs, nothing was helping. Still, they kept trying. Part of their efforts involved researching the whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. They decided to try it and eventually committed to a plant-based diet.
By taking a holistic approach — eating whole and plant-based foods and exercising regularly —James was able to lose 42 pounds within a year, bring his blood sugar into the normal range, eliminate one diabetes medicine and cut the other in half.
Put Plants On Your Plate
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently published a report on research that sought to answer the question: What is the role of eating plants in preventing type 2 diabetes among adults?
The study found that adults who ate plants regularly — even if they didn’t eat only plants — had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The results were even stronger when adults stuck closely to eating healthy plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
These findings are one more confirmation of what has become commonly accepted in health care: Diet is one of the biggest risks for being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The good news is, it’s also what can help you lower your risk of this disease. Change your diet, change your outcome. For people who’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, diet choices can often slow or reverse its progression.
Superfoods for Health
There are certain plants the American Diabetes Association calls “superfoods.” They aren’t miracle foods or something new that’s burst on the scene to cure diabetes. But they may make an impact on your well-being. These plant foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. They not only enhance your overall health they can also help prevent diseases like diabetes.
Beans such as navy, black or kidney are loaded with healthy minerals, including heart-healthy potassium. They also deliver important fiber. You can get your protein from beans without the saturated fat found in meat.
These are a goldmine of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber: vitamins C and K, potassium and manganese to name just a few. They’re also a great way to give your sweet tooth a healthy treat.
Get your folate, potassium, vitamin C and daily dose of fiber. Pick grapefruits, oranges, lemons and limes. Tart and tasty, they benefit your body from the inside out.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
These veggies aren’t just super, they’re super powerful. Go for spinach, collards and kale — they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, E and K. They don’t skimp on iron, calcium and potassium, either.
Nuts are a great source of healthy fats. Just one ounce of nuts can go a long way toward keeping away hunger pangs. Most nuts are high in fiber, and some also provide a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Whether you like them raw, pureed, sauced or sliced, you’ll get vital vitamins C and E, and potassium from versatile and delicious tomatoes.
“Whole grain” should be the first two words on a nutrition label. Whole grains are packed with vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, chromium, magnesium, folate and iron. They’ll give you a boost of fiber in your diet, too.
Meat and a Higher Risk of Diabetes
Muscle meats like chicken and beef are dense with fat. One recent study found that people who ate more animal protein and less plant protein had a 35% higher chance of a diabetes diagnosis. Those results included any kind of meat — processed and unprocessed red meat and white meat.
In addition, type 2 diabetes is 7.6% more likely to be diagnosed in non-vegetarians than the 2.9% of vegans. Even if you don’t want to commit to a fully vegetarian diet, shifting toward a more plant-based diet can only help in the fight against type 2 diabetes.
Eating Plants Can Be a Path to Wellness
Dr. Guthrie shared the story of another of his patients who went “all in” and made permanent lifestyle changes, starting with his diet. John was on his way to being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when he decided to adopt a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy to change his appetite for certain foods, banish cravings and stop eating meat. But once he became more engaged in what and how to eat, he found his new lifestyle easier to manage.
Over a year’s time, John lost 145 pounds, wasn’t prediabetic and had normal cholesterol numbers. Best of all, Dr. Guthrie reports, John has more energy and greets every day knowing he’s on the path to a longer, healthier life.
Eating plants to prevent or reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes takes commitment. But as John, James and countless others have learned, it can open up a world of health and wholeness.
Learn more about how nutrition affects your whole health and well-being in the book Eat Plants, Feel Whole.