Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD
"I am Type 2 Diabetic and want to know which diet you recommend I eat. What is the best diet for diabetes?"
Judith T, Scottsdale, AZ
Welcome to my favorite diet!
Diabetes is complicated, but eating to manage your diabetes is really quite simple once you take the time to understand the basic nutrition concepts I will teach today. Usually my diabetic patients need just a few visits with me to get their diabetes under control when they are in a range that does not require medication.
If you are on glucaphage or medication for your diabetes, you should be checking your numbers daily as the dramatic weight loss I see from implementing my Diabetes Diet can cause dangerous LOW blood sugar if you are not staying on top of your numbers. Evenutally patients do not need the same amount of medication, if not any from dietary changes. After 3-6 months of tracking my patients inulin, A1c and fasting glucose we generally taper them off medications and on to supplements or just this diet!
Eating this way also benefits Type 1 Diabetic patients, although I see these as two completely different diseases with one being Insulin Deficient/Dependent and the other being Insulin Resistant or having constant high insulin. Insulin is "The Weight Gain Hormone" and therefore the more insulin in your system, or the more you need to use for your Diabetes, the more weight gain the patient will generally experience.
Be sure to work with a skilled Naturopathic Hormone Doctor such as myself if you are trying to manage your diabetes naturally as I don't need anyone going in to hypoglycemia from my advice.
The most important part of managing diabetes is learning how "fast" or "slow" your carbs are. As someone that suffers from hypoglycemia it was a game changer for me to learn about longer lasting carbs that don't just spike my blood sugar and leave me drowsy and hangry after meals. When I went to Naturopathic school and learned to pair my good carbs with protein, fat and fiber that also was a game changer as I was often eating fast carb meals without any other protein or fats and then crashing with low blood sugar, headaches and fatigue shortly after meals.
Eating your meals with a “Low Glycemic Load” means that you are going to stay fuller longer and thus less likely to go out and binge on a bunch of junk.
Staying full is as simple as eating foods with a high protein, fiber, and water content. Whether you have Diabetes, Insulin Resistance, Weight Gain, High Blood Pressure, or PCOS this is the easiest way to lower insulin numbers!
Keeping yourself feeling satisfied is the most important aspect for success with any weight loss program. Regardless of it you have diabetes or not, you are in the right place when it comes to learning the basics on how to eat correctly to stabilize your blood sugar. Stabilizing your blood sugar translates long-term into weight loss, ridding yourself of that jittery, irritable, faint feeling associated with hypoglycemia, improving energy and mood, as well as providing the foundation for an anti-aging program!
Wow, all that from just one diet!
I bet right now you really want to buy whatever I am selling. Well I am not selling anything, except healthy diet and lifestyle.
I am simply here to teach you how to change your eating habits permanently over the long term, and field any questions or concerns that come up as you start this new adventure to a healthier you.
The most exciting thing about this diet, is that I can sum up how to do this diet in one simple sentence:
Every meal you eat should be high in protein and fiber.
Yes, it is that simple.
Make that your new mantra.
Fiber is your new best friend forever!!!
Lean proteins are your new favorite friends.
The next step is to memorize what high fiber foods are and what foods are healthy sources of protein and to stock your cupboards with all these foods. This is how I work my way out of a job as a Naturopathic Doctor!
If you are struggling to follow this program I recommend having your blood sugar, A1c and Insulin tested by me or a Holistic Hormone Doctor, so we can then prescribe herbs and supplements that will work to balance blood sugar swings that make you hungry and binge eat. Once the patient's blood sugar is stable they generally will no longer need the supplements or can reduce them to a maintenance dose.
Trust me we will get fussy about the numbers later. But you need to get the basics down before you will be ready for anything more complicated. I have found as a Naturopathic Doctor that many of my patients do not need much more than this and it is just the fact they are loading up on high carbs and little protein or fiber that causes their blood sugar to become high. Saturated fats MUST also be monitored and be under <10g daily or you will fail to address the Insulin Resistance as it is responding to BOTH sugar and saturated fat in the diet.
Most women are deficient in protein, so they lose their lean muscle mass which is the only thing burning calories in their body. Once your metabolism goes down your weight goes up eating the same things you ate before. Research shows the Keto Diet is not effective for Insulin Resistance. I hate the Keto Diet as my patients often fail thinking they can "Cheat the system" being low carb while gorging on high fat food. That does not work if you have Insulin Resistance, especially if it is paired with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's. The last diet you should try is the Keto Diet. Most of my Insulin Resistance patients gain 20-30 pounds on Keto and I could not advise to avoid using it more. I do not think it is healthy, you cannot cheat the system, and it is not how nature designed for women to eat. There are only two diets I find effective for managing Type 2 Diabetes: #1 Low Glycemic Index Diet #2 Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet.
Doing a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet may be dangerous for your diabetes if you are not doing it correctly. A vegan or vegetarian diet is not going to be sufficient because it still allows you to use oil and processed foods. If you are not capable of following that then the best option is the "Low Glycemic Index Diet" which we will discuss how to do properly today.
Step #1: Get a Macronutrient tracker such as Myfitness Pal. If you are not counting your carbs, proteins, fats, and calories then you will not succeed with any diet for diabetes. You have to know your numbers otherwise you are basically writing checks from your checking account without even knowing what your balance is and most of my diabetic patients are "bouncing checks" every single day. Ignorance is not bliss it is dangerous and can result in lethal low blood sugar.
Most foods high in fiber are either fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Begin to make best friends with vegetables now as for diabetics and those trying to lose weight they are essentially “free foods”, meaning the calorie count is relatively insignificant, with of course some occasional exceptions.
Here is a list of good lean protein choices: Chicken, fish, white cheese, plain nonfat yogurt, beans, and whole grains.
Now let’s keep in mind that certain proteins high in saturated fat like beef, bacon, and cheddar cheeses are just not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Especially for those of you with diabetes we want to be on the look-out for heart disease and kidney problems. If you are having a hard time giving these up then simply treat them like the garnish for your plate. Instead of a pile of bacon you get just have one little piece.
Over time you will begin to feel so much better on this diet that it will be WORTH it for you to get rid of the offending foods. Remember “nothing tastes as good as being healthy and looking good feels”.
Be sure to drink plenty of water in between your meals. A high fiber diet will naturally require more water. Water will also help keep you feeling full. Sometimes we feel hungry when really we are thirsty.
Now most patients that have Type II diabetes (non-insulin dependent) have it because they already have a very unhealthy relationship with food, if not engage in compulsive eating patterns, and use food as a drug. For my patients having a hard time making these necessary dietary changes, I recommend counseling. Counseling may help treat the underlying problems of anxiety or depression.
While they are trying to make the necessary changes to change their emotional relationship with food, I recommend that they keep chewable fiber tablets on hand so that if all else fails they can at least lower the Glycemic Load of the binge. Now you have to be careful not to get the chewable fiber tablets high in sugar! But sometimes a glass of Metamucil or your favorite fiber supplement can help offset the huge quantity of sugar consumed. Yes this is a quick fix tip, and no it is not addressing the root cause of the problem, it is simply offering a solution to a common problem and trying to approach it realistically while we work towards a permanent solution.
Now that you are eating lean proteins and high fiber foods, the next question is…
“Can I have carbohydrates on this diet?”
Most doctors agree that in most cases a “Slow” carbohydrate diet is better than a “Low” or “No” carbohydrate diet. Personally I am not a fan of the No/Low carbohydrate diet unless it is for specific therapeutic purposes.
“So how do I know if my Carbs are “slow” or not?”
Well that is where the magic of the low glycemic index diet and the numbers assigned to certain foods come in to play. This usually is a bit too complicated for me to just start patients out with right off the bat. I prefer to have my patients on a whole foods diet of lean proteins and fruits and vegetables before playing around with various carbohydrates.
Glycemic Index numbers are determined in a laboratory by measuring how quickly a test panel of humans blood sugars rise after consuming the food. The higher the blood sugar rises, the higher the glycemic index number is as a result. For instance a piece of white bread has a high index number as it will raise your blood sugar rapidly.
Interestingly enough after analyzing the numbers on the Glycemic Index chart one can conclude that not all carbohydrates are created equally. Some will release more rapidly in to the system than others. This might explain why you have a half cup serving of pasta at dinner and your numbers are different than when you have a half cup serving of corn.
The take home message with all of this, is that if you have diabetes…especially type II, it is sincerely in your best interest to get off all the “white” refined foods and stick with the healthier choices of carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables and whole grains as they are high in fiber as well as packed full of vitamins and minerals which will not only protect your system from long term damages associated with diabetes, but will also keep you younger and feeling more fabulous as part of an anti-aging program.
Switching to this diet can be challenging and require a great deal of support, please BOOK A VISIT with me if you need my help. Especially if you are binge eating, then you need herbs and supplements to help control your blood sugar so you can do what you know you need to do in your head.
If you refuse to make dietary changes at all, please do not sign up to work with me as I will not be able to help you with your diabetes. Otherwise, I have helped many diabetics achieve successful numbers that no longer require them to take Metformin/Glucaphoge and it is possible to take charge of your Type 2 Diabetes and no longer require medication with a solid 3-6 months of effort. I understand if you struggle to make changes and need to focus on one change at a time, I am the same way, and consider that completely normal.
Dr. Nicole Sundene
Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is a Female Hormone Expert in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause, Thyroid, Hashimotos, PMS, Perimenopause, Autoimmune, Postpartum, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Anxiety, Food Allergies, Digestion, Dermatology, Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema, and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 23 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones, she presents to women the best-integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. She has been an Herbalist for over 28 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan (not Medicaid) and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones, and Naturopathy!