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Can a High-Carb, High-Fiber Diet Really Prevent Diabetes? A Harvard Doc Says “Yes!”

If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, carefully choosing your carbs can help you stay healthy.

Both type 2 diabetes and its precursor, prediabetes, take years to develop. How long, exactly, can depend on your lifestyle choices. According to George L. King, MD, Research Director and Chief Science Officer at Joslin Diabetes Center and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, there are steps you can take right now to help prevent either of these conditions from progressing.

The Diabetes Reset book review

In his book, The Diabetes Reset, Dr. King provides clear strategies for preventing prediabetes from turning into diabetes. While his steps include common advice for eating a healthier diet, increasing physical activity, and losing weight, if necessary, Dr. King’s recommendations are specifically designed for preventing and managing diabetes and activating your body’s calorie-burning brown fat stores to help you lose weight.

The Right Carbs

Perhaps Dr. King’s most startling recommendation is to follow a diet that consists of a whopping 70% carbohydrates, rounded out with 15% protein and 15% fat. But while this appears to go against all conventional thinking with regards to a diabetic diets, Dr. King points out that not all carbs are bad for people with diabetes, or anyone else, for that matter. It is very important, he says, to distinguish between complex or high-fiber carbs, and simple or low-fiber carbs. Complex carbs, found in whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit, are the foundation of Dr. King’s diet plan. The simple carbs to avoid are those found in foods that are high in added sugar and low in fiber, including candies, pastries, sweetened beverages, and many processed foods.

The Best Balance

While Dr. King’s diet plan is based on what he calls a Rural Asian Diet (RAD), he is quick to point out that you don’t have to eat Asian food to control your blood sugar. The idea behind RAD is to use the proportions and mix of foods found in the traditional diets of China, Thailand, India, and other Asian countries as guides. Those diets are made up of mostly plant foods, with just small portions of meat and fat. In a study of 50 Asian and non-Asian adults who were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to family history or personal history of gestational diabetes, Dr. King found that following a RAD induced weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity in both groups. This diet may also boost the activity of brown fat, the most metabolically active type of fat in your body. Although a high-carb diet is at the center of his plan, Dr. King’s recommendations for preventing diabetes also include getting enough sleep, fighting inflammation, reducing stress, managing your mental health, and boosting your body’s natural disease-fighting capability.

Supplementing Your Diet

For those who cannot achieve these goals naturally—and Dr. King acknowledges that most of us are not in a position to live a completely pure and natural life—he is a proponent of certain supplements, such as fish oils to protect against inflammation or antioxidant vitamins for fighting disease at a cellular level. At the same time, he warns that because some supplements can act like drugs in your body, and even interfere with medications you are currently taking, it is important to discuss all dietary supplements, including vitamin supplements, with your doctor before you begin taking them.

One Step at a Time

While Dr. King outlines numerous lifestyle changes necessary for success, he also emphasizes that it is important to take a step-by-step approach and not attempt drastic change or too many changes at once. Your first step may or may not be a change in diet.

“Focus first on those areas that need the most change,” he advises. “For instance, if you are not exercising at all, start walking and build up to speed walking or jogging, if you are able.” If it’s your diet that needs fixing, however, a good place to start is by eliminating most, if not all, processed foods and cutting back on animal products.

Updated on: April 4, 2019
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