Fight Diabetes with Phytochemicals

I can’t imagine how it must feel to be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Sitting their while some lab coat explains your new regiment of blood-testing and insulin injections. One of my biggest fears is chronic illness—I have a fear of commitment—how can a person just accept being sick?

Unfortunately I think we’re a culture that considers disease as a natural part of aging. Heck, certain members of my own family treat their prescribed medications as a badge of honor. And that’s exactly the kind of attitude that gets under Dr. Fuhrman’s skin. He insists you don’t have to go out like that. From Eat to Live:
The diseases that afflict, and eventually kill, almost all Americans can be avoided. You can live a high-quality, disease-free life and remain physically active and healthy. You can die peacefully and uneventfully at an old age, as nature intended.
So then, what about Type 2 Diabetes, you’ve got it, now what? Fight! And fight like the devil. Don’t fall into modern healthcare’s symbiotic relationship between you, the disease, and medication. Dr. Fuhrman will tell you, you don’t have to settle for diabetes. According to him you’ve got options. Consider this from Understanding the Development of Type 2 Diabetes:
How can diabetics safely lower the high glucose levels that are slowly destroying their bodies? How can they lower their lipids and blood pressure, lose weight, and avoid taking dangerous drugs, such as insulin and sulfonylureas? They need to adopt a diet based on nutritional excellence.


Fortunately, the best diet for good health and longevity is also the best diet for diabetics. It is a diet with a high nutrient per calorie ratio, as carefully described in my book, Eat to Live. When you eat a diet consisting predominantly of nature's perfect foods—green vegetables, beans, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, raw nuts and seeds, and limited amounts of fresh fruit, it becomes relatively easy to eat as much as you want and still lose your excess weight. In my experience, those who follow my nutritional recommendations find that their diabetes disappears astonishingly fast, even before most of their excess weight melts away.
I don’t know about you, but given the choice between fresh veggies and an insulin injection, salad wins everyday of the week. And the idea seems to be catching on. The Diabetes Blog is all over research linking increased consumption of vegetables with protective health benefits:
Colorado State University researchers found that, despite eating one less serving daily, people who consumed a wider array of vegetables experienced more health benefits than those who chose from a smaller assortment. The source behind these benefits come from phytochemicals, compounds that guard cells against free radical damage. By eating a wider assortment of vegetables, people had a better chance of consuming a greater amount of protective phytochemicals.
For more on Dr. Fuhrman’s approach towards treating diabetes with vegetable-based nutritional excellence, here are some previous posts:

Food Over Medicine?

Here’s some great news. Most Americans would prefer to treat diabetes with healthy diet and not medication. The Diabetes Blog is all over it:
According to a survey of 1,022 adults (515 women and 507 men), 69% of Americans would prefer to try a dietary approach, whereas only 21% preferred treating diabetes with medicines. The survey reinforces results from clinical research on diabetes, which has consistently found that people with diabetes adapt well to low-fat vegetarian diets and gain important health benefits. A dietary approach to diabetes based on scientific research shows that a low-fat vegan diet can lower high blood sugar levels three times more effectively than oral medications.
Well gee, I don’t know, would it work? Consider these success stories:

Heart Disease a Sneak Attack?

Okay, I know, it’s a bit of a hack move, but let’s talk about the Super Bowl commercials. Specifically the one where the guy in the heart suit gets his butt kicked. Now I realize its supposed to be light hearted, but the American Heart Association seems to be sending the message that things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight just sneak up on you, and, when you least except it—WHAM—you have a heart attack. If you didn’t see it, here it is:


Sure, the ad is encouraging people to help beat their risk of developing heart disease, but the way its presented really seems to imply that there’s nothing you can do about it, other than just hope that these bad things don’t happen—which in my opinion is the bad attitude that lands millions of people in the hospital with chest pains every year. What do you think? Maybe I'm wrong on this. Personally, I think the commercial with the bunny clicking the mouse was the best.

Yes, Obesity Bad

I have a question for you, are you surprised by obesity news? I’m not. If you haven’t figured it out by now being overweight is bad for you. Still not convinced? Well, check out this Reuters report claiming that obesity poses a larger diabetes risk than inactivity. David Douglas explains:
Researchers monitored 68,907 women taking part in the Nurses' Health Study, a large ongoing study that is evaluating women's health over time. The women in the current trial had no history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at study entry. During 16 years of follow-up, there were 4,030 incident cases of type 2 diabetes.


After allowing for age, smoking, and other diabetes-associated factors, the risk of type 2 diabetes increased progressively with increasing body mass index (BMI - the ratio of height to weight often used to determine if someone is overweight or too thin). The risk also increased with waist circumference, and decreased with physical activity levels.

Fad Diets: Low-Carb the New Low-Fat?

What do you think? Is the standard American diet a problem? Now, I’m no health expert, but I can answer that—with a resounding YES! Just look at yesterday’s post The Standard American Shockwave, and you’ll see that everything the standard American diet touches turns bad. So then, what makes it so terrible? Dr. Fuhrman explains in Eat to Live:

The reason people are overweight is too little physical activity, in conjunction with a high-calorie, low-nutrient diet. Eating a diet with plenty of low-fiber, calorie-dense food, such as oil and refined carbohydrates, is the main culprit.


As long as you are eating fatty foods and refined carbohydrates, it is impossible to lose weight healthfully. In fact, this vicious combination of sedentary lifestyle and eating typical “American” food (high fat, low-fiber) is the primary reason we have such an incredibly overweight population.

Now if you consider the exercise component, the standard American diet becomes more complex. So, perhaps it should be more aptly named the standard American lifestyle. But, for the purposes of this post, let’s stay focused on diet and ignore the lack of sufficient physical activity. I know, kind of hard to overlook, but try.

Okay just diet, so let’s look at what we’ve got: high fat foods and various refined fare. Let’s start with the refined foods. What’s the problem with them? Well, Dr. Fuhrman will tell you, all the fiber and nutrients have been stripped out of them until they’re basically just empty calories. For more on this, I refer to Michael Pollan’s recent article on nutritionism. In it, he talks about the ebbs and flows of processed food. Here’s a peek:

The typical real food has more trouble competing under the rules of nutritionism, if only because something like a banana or an avocado can’t easily change its nutritional stripes (though rest assured the genetic engineers are hard at work on the problem). So far, at least, you can’t put oat bran in a banana. So depending on the reigning nutritional orthodoxy, the avocado might be either a high-fat food to be avoided (Old Think) or a food high in monounsaturated fat to be embraced (New Think). The fate of each whole food rises and falls with every change in the nutritional weather, while the processed foods are simply reformulated. That’s why when the Atkins mania hit the food industry, bread and pasta were given a quick redesign (dialing back the carbs; boosting the protein), while the poor unreconstructed potatoes and carrots were left out in the cold.

Now this brings me to the next topic of discussion, the high-fat portion of the standard American diet, but more specifically the mass media phobia of it; which is ironic because Americans deep down love their fat. A lot of industrialized foods make claims to be “low-fat” which in many cases I’m sure they are, but this begs the question, what about calorie content? Well to answer that, let’s take a look at this article from Men’s Health magazine. It reports that the low-carb fad is destined to follow the same road as the low-fat diet, and ultimately, forget all about total calorie consumption:

We've been here before - about 10 years ago, in fact. The last time a diet craze swept the country, it ushered in more than 3,000 new food products on the wings of just three simple words: Eat less fat. And yet, in the ensuing decade, the number of overweight Americans increased by 15 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and the average American man's waist size increased by an inch and a half. Weight management became even more difficult, because the supermarket became more confusing, and the three simple words that were supposed to squeeze us back into our wedding suits let us down, terribly.


And it's about to happen all over again. "Consumers think carb-free is calorie-free, which it's not," says Leslie Bonci, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). "They think someone's giving them permission to eat that food. And what's going to happen is, we're going to see people start to gain weight."

In January of this year, more than 400 people who work in the food industry gathered at the Adam's Mark hotel in Denver for the first-ever LowCarbiz Summit to learn how they could profit from the new craving for low-carbohydrate foods. What they heard at the start was a warning from Fred Pescatore, M.D., a protege of Dr. Robert Atkins, the original low-carb guru: "We can't be like low-fat," he said. "We can't be just a fad."

And then, for 2 days, they learned ways to turn the low-carb craze into exactly that. In between snacking on low-carb foods and drinking Bacardi and diet cola (the official adult beverage of the low-carb movement), conference goers attended sessions like "Low Carb for the Nondieter" and "The Scientific Case against Low Carb: Know What the Industry's Detractors Are Saying and How to Respond."

Are you starting to see where I’m going with all this? Years back the country demanded low-fat everything. So what ensued? Decades of diet-books and food products proclaiming the benefits of a low-fat eating. And what did we get? Something now commonly referred to as the standard American diet, an epidemic of obesity and all the problems that go along with it; diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. And that’s not it.

We also got the avalanche of reactionary diets known as low-carb, South Beach, Atkins, or whatever catchy name some marketing company has come up with today. They basically say, “We’ve forsaken fat for too long! The real devil is carbs. Embrace the meat.” And we as a meat-loving, but fat-nervous culture eat it up. Why? Well because we recognize that the verson of the low-fat diet we have come to understand hasn’t worked. So why not give something that goes against the grain a try? Actually, the low-fat diet that has been forced down our throats all these years would more appropriately be described as the standard American low-fat diet. After all, how much better for us is it than the actual standard American diet? And how does it really differ?

But here’s the problem, and this why I think the Men’s Health article is right on target. The low-carb diet is now following the same path as the standard American low-fat diet. Lots of products touting the low-carb label—just like all the foods with the low-fat stamp of approval! And what are we left with? Tons of industrialized calorie-dense nutrient-stripped foods that people gobble up assuming they are eating intelligently, but all the while, not realizing that they’re consuming more and more empty calories. Isn’t this is exactly what caused us the problems we now have!

For me the answer is clear, realize that the average standard American diet and the standard American low-fat diet has failed, abandon all processed foods and their over-hyped claims, and perhaps most imporant of all, ignore the reactionary claims of the low-carb diet. How’d I arrive at this conclusion? That should be an easy one to figure out. I’m just regurgitating what’ve learned from Dr. Fuhrman. He’ll tell you, you want to lose weight, not consume too many calories, still get plenty of nutrients, and protect yourself from disease? A vegetable-based nutrient-dense diet is the answer. Just take green vegetables for example, look how they stack up against other foods. Check out this table from the Nutrient Density of Green Vegetables:

 
Nutrients present in 100-calorie portions
  Broccoli Sirloin Steak Romaine Lettuce Kale
Protein 11.2 gm 5.4 gm 7.5 gm 11 gm
Calcium 322 mg 2.4 mg 374 mg 470 mg
Iron 3.5 mg .7 mg 7.7 mg 5.8 mg
Magnesium 74.5 mg 5 mg 60.5 mg 97 mg
Fiber 4.7 g 0 4 g 3.4 g
Phytochemicals Very High 0 Very High Very High
Antioxidants Very High 0 Very High Very High
Folate 257 mcg 3 mcg 969 mcg 60 mcg
B2 .71 mg .04 mg .45 mg .32 mg
Niacin 2.8 mg 1.1 mg 2.2 mg 2.1 mg
Zinc 1.04 mg 1.2 mg 1.2 mg gm .55 mg
Vitamin C 350 mg 0 100 mg 329 mg
Vitamin A 7750 IU 24 IU 10,450 IU 23,407 IU
Vitamin E 26 IU 0 32 IU 34 IU
Cholesterol 0 5.5 mg 0 0
Weight 307 gm 24 gm 550 gm 266 gm
  (10.6 oz) (.84 oz) (19 oz) (9.2 oz)

And here's one more from Foods That Make You Thin:

Caloric Ratios of Common Foods
Foods Calories Per Pound Calories Per Liter Fiber Grams Per Pound
Oils 3,900 7,700 0
Potato chips of French fries 2,600 3,000 0
Meat 2,000 3,000 0
Cheese 1,600 3,400 0
White Bread 1,300 1,500 0
Chicken and Turkey (white meat) 900 1,600 0
Fish 800 1,400 0
Eggs 700 1,350 0
Whole Grains (wheat and rice) 600 1,000 3
Starchy Vegetables (potatoes and corn) 350 600 4
Beans 350 500 5
Fruits 250 300 9
Green Vegetables 100 200 5

I often wonder. If produce companies started sticking health claims on fresh fruits and vegetables and bolstered them with huge advertising budgets, would people finally realize that they’re the real health foods? Maybe so, because after all history would seem to predict that.

Pomegranates, Atherosclerosis, and Diabetics

The pomegranate is a bad mama jama and I mean that in the cool Shaft way. According to Dr. Fuhrman pomegranate juice can help lower blood pressure and reduce in atherosclerotic plaque buildup? Not to mention, it’s a powerful anti-oxidant and has strong anti-cancer effects. He discusses pomegranates at length in Pomegranate Power. Have a taste:
Recent medical research completed in 2004 studied heart patients with severe carotid artery blockages. They were given an ounce of pomegranate juice for a year, and not only did their blood pressure lower by over 20 percent, but there was a 30 percent reduction in atherosclerotic plaque…1


…Pomegranates’ potent antioxidant compounds have also been shown to reduce platelet aggregation and naturally lower blood pressure, factors that prevent both heart attacks and strokes.2 Pomegranates contain high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, potent antioxidants offering protection against heart disease and cancer. A glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, and cranberries.
Here’s some more good PR for pomegranates. Apparently a new study has revealed pomegranate juice also reduces the risk of arthrosclerosis in diabetics. The Diabetes Blog is on it:
The results of this study suggest that the antioxidants found in pomegranate juice may be beneficial in reducing these heart-related risks associated with diabetes. The sugars in pomegranate juice are attached to unique antioxidants, which actually make these sugars protective against atherosclerosis. Researchers examined the effects of drinking a concentrated pomegranate juice that is the equivalent to about a 6-ounce glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice for three months in 10 healthy adults and 10 adults with type 2 diabetes (who were not dependent on insulin therapy).
Perhaps the only knock against pomegranates is they can be hard to find. Take my farmers market for example, unfortunately they only have them a fraction of the year—argh! Anyone else have difficulty tracking down fresh pomegranates?

If you’d like to know more about pomegranates, check out these previous posts. They deal with pomegranates and prostate health. Take a look:
And for all of the foodies out there, give these pomegranate inspired recipes a try:
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