Nutritional excellence does not have to exclude all animal products. But it has to be very rich in highnutrient plant foods composing well over 85 percent of caloric intake. The minimal amount of animal products in your diet that may still permit optimal health is not a fixed or determined number, so it can be adjusted for individual differences or needs within the guidelines offered here. However, if you have had diabetes a long time or have heart disease or high blood pressure and are significantly overweight, you’ll achieve better results with fewer animal products, not more. Most people do fine with two or three small servings of animal products a week, but for some, even this small amount of animal protein can cause their cholesterol to go into the unfavorable range. In this book, because I am designing the optimal diet for reversing diabetes, I recommend a maximum of only one or two (twoto three-ounce) servings of animal products a week. Of course, I emphasize that if you use animal products on a regular basis, the serving size should be small, such as a condiment to flavor a vegetable dish, stew, soup, or salad, not as a caloric contributor to the meal. I recommend one or two servings of fish per week—such as salmon, sardines, squid, flounder, scrod, or trout—or one or two servings of fish plus one small serving of white meat fowl, totaling less than six ounces per week. No other animal products are recommended.
More than two servings of fish per week are associated with significantly higher incidence of type 2 diabetes. Following almost two hundred thousand individuals for fourteen to eighteen years, researchers found that the risk of developing diabetes rose as fish consumption increased, resulting in a 22 percent increased incidence of diabetes when participants ate fish more than five times a week compared to those who ate fish less than once a month. Researchers are unsure exactly why more fish in the diet worsens the risk for diabetes, but whether it’s an effect of the fish fat, the concentrated protein, or the toxins like dioxin or mercury found in fish, it is clear that a fish-heavy diet is not appropriate for diabetics or people at risk of developing diabetes. I want to make it clear that there is no significant benefit from using fish in your diet at all. The healthful omega-3 fats can be ingested via a supplement (even a vegan DHA/EPA supplement). The allowance for this small amount of animal product is discussed here as some people are insistent on not going all the way to a vegan diet.
Red meats are to be avoided completely. Studies on diabetics and meat eating indicate a 50 percent higher incidence of heart disease in people with high red meat intake. Researchers believe this is not associated with the higher level of saturated fat in red meat but instead with the heme iron it contains. It is increased consumption of both processed foods and animal products that is linked to increased mortality, diabetes, and heart problems. Large-scale studies of the metabolic syndrome have linked the incidence of high glucose, abdominal fat, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure in Western societies with red meat, processed meat, fried food, refined grains, and diet soda. When multiple dangerous foods are consumed, it creates a deadly combination. The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of cardiovascular disease risk factors associated with increased risk of diabetes and mortality. Studies invariably show that the most protection, prevention, and reversal of, and lower risk of, heart disease occurs when the diet style is high in vegetables, beans, fruits, and nuts and is very low in animal products.
We have to dramatically reduce both processed foods and animal products if we have a significant medical issue and expect the body to recover. Too often diet proponents want to make just one or the other the villain. One of the most interesting studies emerging this year was the negative effect of eggs on diabetes. Researchers found that people consuming seven eggs a week had a 58 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who did not eat eggs. Furthermore, egg and dairy intake are also linked to heightened risk of heart failure, up to a significant 23 percent higher risk. Neither eggs nor the frequent intake of dairy are appropriate for diabetics. They worsen glucose control and increase heart disease risk, which is dangerous for diabetics, who already have heightened heart disease risk.
Again, the preferred animal products are small amounts of fish just once a week, or fish once a week and white meat fowl once a week, keeping the total under six ounces per week. That’s it, because this is too important to let anything slow your progress and increase any disease risks.