Epidemiologic studies indicate an inverse association between frequency of nut consumption and body mass index. Interestingly, their consumption may actually suppress appetite and help people get rid of diabetes and lose weight. In other words, people who consume more nuts and seeds are likely to be slim, while people consuming fewer seeds and nuts are more likely to be heavier. Wellcontrolled nut-feeding trials, designed to see if eating nuts and seeds resulted in weight gain, showed that eating raw nuts and seeds promoted weight loss, not weight gain. Several studies have also shown that eating a small amount of nuts or seeds actually helps dieters feel satiated, stay with the program, and have more success at long-term weight loss.
Oil is fattening, containing 120 calories per tablespoon, and can sabotage your opportunity to lose weight or reverse your diabetes. Plus, it does not have the protective effects on your heart or diabetes. This program uses seeds and nuts, not oil, as the main fat source, and to flavor dressings and dips.
Because nuts and seeds are rich in minerals and fiber and have a low GI, they are favorable foods to include in a diet designed for diabetics and those with prediabetic symptoms. Researchers from Harvard noted that people eating one ounce of nuts five times a week reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 27 percent. The features of a diet that make it favorable to diabetics are not adequately described by the terms vegan or low fat. There are many vegan foods and vegan diets that would be unfavorable for diabetics, especially those that include lots of oil, finely ground grains, and foods made from white flour and white potatoes. The qualities of a diet that make it maximally favorable to diabetics are:
Overall calories and weight loss results
Amount of fiber consumed per meal
Micronutrient diversity and completeness
Glycemic load of the meals
Antioxidant and phytochemical index
Satiety and removal of food cravings and addictions
A vegan diabetic study “A Low-Fat Vegan Diet Improves Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Randomized Clinical Trial in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes” was published in Diabetes Care. The word vegan did not adequately describe the features of the diet that made it more favorable compared to the ADA diet. The researchers were careful to remove all vegetable oils and white flour products. If they’d called the diet a high-fiber, no-processed food, vegan diet, it would have been a more descriptive title indicating why it was somewhat more effective compared to the ADA diet. However, the results still did not compare in effectiveness with the program I am teaching here.
Typical vegan diets do not show the dramatic improvements in lipids, triglycerides, glucose, and even weight loss. One important design feature for better health and disease reversal is the reduction of high-starch vegetables and grains and the substitution of beans, nuts, and seeds instead. For example, another representative study showed that women on a low-fat vegan diet lowered LDL cholesterol by 16.9 percent. In a similarly conducted study including nuts and seeds, participants dropped LDL cholesterol 33 percent. For protection from all types of heart disease, a vegan diet with the inclusion of raw nuts and seeds is simply a healthier diet. However, the limitation of grains (especially flour) and the inclusion of green vegetables and low-starch vegetables in place of grains and starchy vegetables both play a role in the dramatic lipid-lowering benefits and weight loss.
When the diabetic diet is carefully designed around green vegetables and beans, with the addition of a small amount of fruit and a small amount of raw nuts and seeds, patients are able to stop insulin and sulfonylureas—the primary offenders that restrict weight loss—as soon as possible.
It is even more important for children, people who are thin, people who exercise a lot, and women who are pregnant and nursing to consume sufficient fat. The healthiest diet for all ages is one that includes some healthy fatty foods. This same diet will also prevent and reverse disease. There is no need for people with heart disease or diabetes to move to a special type of extremely low-fat vegan diet void of raw seeds and nuts, thinking this restriction is necessary or valuable for their cardiac health.
For an overweight diabetic, I recommend one ounce daily of raw, unsalted seeds or nuts, such as sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pistachio nuts, or almonds. Add them to a salad or blend them into dressings as an oil replacement.
We are beginning to get a clear picture of how we can prevent and reverse diabetes. As the weight comes off, it is important to remember that the main risk of weight loss is weight regain. Dietary improvements that are not maintained are of no long-term benefit, and rapid weight gain is, of course, unfavorable. When you really “Eat to Live” you enjoy the combination of dramatic results for your body weight and your health, and your tastebuds get healthier too. We marry great flavor with the emotional satisfaction of knowing you are doing the best thing for your health and it becomes the way you prefer to eat for your life.
The other risk from weight loss is the formation of gallstones, or cholelithiasis. My experience, however, is that people losing weight following my dietary recommendations have an extremely low rate of gallstone formation. Certainly, the formation of gallstones and the possibility of laparoscopic gallbladder removal may be a reasonable price to pay for losing 40 to 140 pounds of life-threatening body fat. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the inclusion of raw nuts and seeds in the diet, especially while losing weight, is crucial protection against gallstone formation. Nuts are rich in several compounds that protect against gallstone disease.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that when 80,718 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, age thirty to fifty-five years in 1980, were followed for twenty years, researchers found that the consumption of nuts and seeds offered dramatic protection against gallstone formation. Women who consumed five ounces of nuts per week had a dramatically lower risk than did women who rarely consumed them. Further adjustment for fat consumption (saturated, trans, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats) did not alter the relation. These findings were also duplicated in a cohort of men.
Perhaps, then, the reason I have not observed a high rate of gallstone formation in spite of having thousands of clients and patients all over the country who’ve lost large amounts of weight is the inclusion of nuts and seeds in the program. Because it is difficult to determine who might be at a higher risk for gallstone formation, it is wise for every dieter to include at least one ounce of raw nuts and seeds per day in any weight-loss program to offset this real risk to healthy weight loss.