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For diabetics, optimal health is not achieved by eating less to lose weight. Rather, diabetics have to make a big commitment not only to forming better eating habits but also to eating the right foods to help the body heal. This change includes making adjustments in their thinking as well as their diet. But it can be challenging to change your thinking when the doctors and the media are spewing misguided information.

A recent article published by the Associated Press quotes a former president of the ADA: “There is no special diet [for diabetics to lose weight]. You have to eat fewer calories than your body burns,” said Dr. Robert Rizza, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and former president of the American Diabetes Association. Nothing can be more untrue. A diabetic’s life or death can most certainly depend on the quality and not just the quantity of what is eaten. It’s essential to understand what to eat, not just how many calories are in the doughnut or large French fry order. A diabetic’s life depends on it. All of us want a healthy life expectancy. Who would want to suffer needlessly in their later years?

High-quality foods that are rich in micronutrients are your body’s best friend. They fuel your body’s self-repair mechanisms; they curtail your appetite; and they are the ticket to a slim, healthy body free of diabetes and heart disease. The right diet style can remove your addictive drive to overeat and enable you to control your chronic overeating for the first time. It can save your life.

When you eat a nutrient-rich diet, you are eating more food volume, more food by weight, and more high-water-content food, meaning you may feel more full after a meal even though you are eating fewer calories overall and less food that has a high caloric concentration.

High-Nutrient, High-Volume Foods to Fill Up On

I call high-nutrient, high-volume foods that fill you up the unlimited foods. They include:

  1. All raw vegetables
  2. All cooked green vegetables
  3. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, cauliflower

The goal is to eat large amounts of these three food categories to flood the body with micronutrients and fiber. Memorize them!

So these foods richest in nutrients per calorie are also naturally low in calories. You get more nutrients and fewer calories simultaneously. That is the real fountain of youth.

Fruit is not unlimited, but you can eat a few with breakfast and one with lunch and dinner if desired. Beans are not totally unlimited, but they are a recommended food that you should eat liberally each day. You can eat lots of them, up to a cup of beans with each lunch and dinner, two cups total a day. Nuts and seeds are an important and healthy food to include in your diet, but they should be limited to one ounce a day for overweight females or 1.5 ounces a day for overweight males. Obviously, these limits can be liberalized for people who are not overweight or diabetic and require more calories.

Remember, raw vegetables and all cooked green and non-starchy vegetables such as string beans, artichokes, zucchini, snow peas, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, and leeks do not have to be measured. Eat as much as you like of these dishes made with gentle spices, tomatoes, onion, and garlic.

The Salad Is the Main Dish

Raw vegetables should be eaten in large quantities at the beginning of each main meal. A sensible goal is to shoot for one pound of raw vegetables daily. I often say, “The salad is the main dish.” The word salad here means any uncooked vegetable. Think big when it comes to salad. The more raw vegetables you eat, the less you will desire of everything else. Raw vegetables are the healthiest, most weight-loss-promoting foods you can eat. Use a variety of raw vegetables in your salads. In addition to plenty of lettuce, include tomatoes, shredded beets, carrots, cucumbers, and peppers. You can also add any leftover steamed greens on top of a lettuce salad, some defrosted frozen peas, stewed mushrooms, or a handful of beans. Add a little fruit-flavored vinegar or one of my dips or dressings, and the salad can be the whole meal.

RECOMMENDED SALAD VEGETABLES

Lettuces—all varieties

TomatoesCeleryZucchini
CarrotsBroccoliOnions and Scallions
RadishesCauliflowerSprouts
FennelBaby Bok ChoyCucumber
String BeansSnap PeasSnow Peas
English PeasEndivePeppers
Hearts of PalmWater ChestnutsStewed Mushrooms (chilled)

The increased production of the biologically active phytochemicals in raw vegetables is consistent with the studies that show a radically lower risk of cancer in people who consume more raw greens in their diet. For those in the know, eating lots of raw greens is the most important nutritional intervention to prevent common human cancers. Eat not only lots of raw greens every day but also big portions of cooked green vegetables. Remember, if it’s a vegetable with the color green, it is rich in micronutrients and low in calories. It’s a green light to eat more of it. The more greens you eat, the increased likelihood you will eat less of something else that is higher in calories. When you fill up with high-volume, high-nutrient foods that have a high micronutrient content, you will not feel the need to overeat foods that sabotage your health and weight. The added benefits include protection against heart attacks and cancer. Of course, green vegetables are the food that shows the most protection from diabetes too. How great is that?

With the growing popularity of nutritional supplements, more and more Americans are looking for accurate information about nutrients that can make a real difference in their health and their lives. However, the reality is that the most powerful thing people can do to improve their health is eat more green vegetables. Americans eat a piddly amount of greens, but if they ate much more, disease rates of all types would plummet. Not only are vegetables rich in discovered vitamins and minerals, but as discussed, they also contain thousands of phytochemicals that are critically important to our health.

The more we get a better understanding of nutritional science, the more we learn that individual nutrients taken as supplements do not have the same healing and protective powers of high-nutrient, superfoods. Supplements can be used to supplement an area of potential suboptimal intake, such as B12, iodine, zinc, vitamin D, or DHA, but they never can take the place of eating healthfully. Not all vegetables are created equal, and one of the most fascinating areas of research in the last ten years has been the therapeutic value of cruciferous green vegetables.