Q&A

Can I eat a lot of carbs?

Dear Dr. caroline, 
 
I'm concerned that all of the fruit, potatoes, corn, rice and other carbohydrates will make my blood sugar go up. In fact, when I had a big bowl of oatmeal the other morning, my blood sugar was high at lunch time. I'm not sure this approach is right for me. 

Signed, 
Carbophobia


Dear Carbophobia, 
What a great name you've chosen - Check out the book by that name written by Dr. Michael Greger, or read The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall. Both provide plenty of reassurance that yes, high-carb, or starch-based dietary patterns are safe and very healthy, even and especially for people with diabetes, with one caveat. At the same time as you fill up on fruits, whole grains, beans, and tubers, it is important to  cut down, way down, on the intake of dietary fat from animal products and oils. Both making these changes together, you'll eliminate the dietary fat that promotes insulin resistance, which allows your body to process those healthful carbohydrates effectively.

As  a nurse practitioner who has worked with people with diabetes for more than 20 years, I can attest that most people who make this change see their blood sugars improve right away. For others, it may take a little longer, perhaps a few weeks. In general, I would not get too worried about a few high readings at first, unless it persists. Be sure to drink plenty of water if your blood sugar is over 240 mg/dl to prevent getting dehydrated. For the majority of people, the numbers come down fairly quickly with a significant change in diet. Check with your health care professional to see learn what target ranges are acceptable for you, as you change your way of eating. 
 
There is hope for diabetes! 
Dr. Trapp

 

What food should I give up?

Dear Dr. caroline,

I'm not sure I'm ready to go to a completely plant-based diet. What's one food I could give up that might help me now?

Signed,
Not Ready


Dear Not Ready,

Congratulations on your interest! If anyone had told me 10 years ago that I'd be eating 100% plant-based, I would have laughed, loudly. So I understand. I applaud your willingness to dip a toe in the water and begin to break the animal-foods habit. Some want to see the immediate benefits and are ready to dive in completely. For those people, check out the resources at www.21DayKickstart.org.  Others might need to build up their confidence. 

One food to banish? Easy. Make it cheese. Cheese on pizza, cheese snacks, cheese in your salad...The stuff is sneaky, and its everywhere; Thank you, Dairy Industry! Nutritionally speaking, the little bit of calcium cheese contains is surrounded by a big package of FAT. No nutritional value there. For people with type 2 diabetes, the fat you eat builds up inside muscle cells, and makes it hard for the insulin your body makes to do its job. Stop eating excess fat and poof - for many, blood sugar levels improve, as insulin starts working again. Most cheeses get about 70% of their calories from fat - not too far off from a stick of butter.
 
Another reason to avoid cheese? It’s a concentrated form of cow's milk, which is designed by nature to grow a small calf into a large cow. You are not a young cow, you are an adult human. Hormones in milk designed to grow a cow have been linked to growth of prostate cancer in men (by Dr. Dean Ornish's team, in 2009). Prostate cancer is fairly easy to detect; those hormones may promote other cancers, too. Why take a chance? Cheese is also a binding food, and can cause constipation, a major problem among adults in the U.S.  Lay off the cheese, and your need for laxatives or, for that matter, bathroom reading material, will be gone. 

"Wear cheese, don't eat it!"

"Wear cheese, don't eat it!"

Want a big dose of calcium, without the fat? Choose green leafy vegetables. Where do you think the cows get their calcium?! Beans are a good source, too. Limit excess salt, and do some weight-bearing exercises to build your bones. 
 
Worried you'll miss it? You might, for the first few weeks. Set it aside and the craving goes away. Your body will thank you!
 
There is hope for diabetes! 
Dr. Trapp