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Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Through Diet?

Make Your Own Preferred Eating Plan to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

I don’t want to waste any time in answering this one. Yes, you can reverse Type 2 Diabetes with diet. And believe it or not, there is not a single best way to go about it. This is great news, because it means there is likely an option that will work for you — to slow, halt, or even throw your runaway Type 2 bus into reverse. So let’s get you back on course!

But first, a few figures. No one knows for sure why Type 2 Diabetes is increasing so precipitously, but experts do find that the boom is associated with global changes toward “modern” lifestyles. This means millions more people in recent decades are living lives that are more sedentary, more urban, and offer easy access to unhealthy foods day and night. As we approach World Diabetes Day on November 14th, it’s estimated that there are 425 million people with diabetes on the planet today, and that rate is expected to grow to 629 million by 2045. That’s a mind-boggling number of people — almost twice the U.S. population! 

The bright spot in all of this is that you don’t have to become, or remain one of the 425 million. Research has shown that while unhealthy lifestyles contribute to Type 2 Diabetes, the opposite is also true. Healthy lifestyles can help prevent or even treat this debilitating disease. And, even though Type 2 Diabetes is a lifelong condition once you have it, positive changes to your diet and weight can help you reach and maintain normal blood sugar levels once again. How far you can go really depends on your own individual genetics and how long you have had diabetes. At the very least, you can make changes today to stall Type 2 Diabetes’ deadly progression. At the very best, you may find yourself in the same happy place as many of my clients who have worked their way back to consistent, normal blood sugar levels without medication. 

So What Diet is Best for Type 2 Diabetes?

This is a trick question. It can be tempting to treat a disease tied to unhealthy lifestyles with the shiniest new diet trends — especially ones that claim to be the pinnacle of healthy living. But I hate, loathe and despise the word diet. To me “diet” equates to rules, restrictions, guilt and failure. Let’s banish these four horsemen to the 20th century where they belong. Another thing people think of when they hear “diet” is a specific (often rigid) system of eating, such as the Keto Diet, the Paleo Diet, or the Vegan Diet. While these plans work great for some people, not everyone is suited to follow, enjoy or succeed with them. I hope you are relieved to hear this. I’m not going to tell you there is one and only way to eat to improve your Type 2 Diabetes. The best way is the way that works for you. 

If that sounds a little loosey-goosey, let’s make it more clear. When I talk about diet, I really just mean the food that one eats in a day.  We could also use the words “eating style,” or the types of foods you tend to be drawn to. So, let’s figure out your eating style to reverse Type 2 Diabetes…I hope you’ll get out a pen and paper or your computer and actually write this down. It’s so simple when you see it in black and white. 

Step 1: Pick your eating style.  

Write down a list of foods that make you feel the best.  Do these foods mostly grow from plants and trees OR do these foods walk and swim before you eat them?

Step 2: Determine how you will get your fiber.  

Are you drawn to nuts, seeds, leafy greens, other vegetables, or fruits? Now, get more specific and write down the actual foods.

Step 3: Choose how you will get your protein.

Be very specific about what you will eat. Tofu, beans, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, beef, chicken, pork, wild game?

Step 4: Select your healthy fats.

Be specific: Will you focus on nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil/olives, coconut oil, fish?

Step 5. Review your list.

Your eating style should now stand out quite clearly. By writing down your choices, you have determined if you prefer a mostly plant-based style of eating or mostly protein-based. Either way will work for you. 

It can be tempting to Google your condition (maybe that’s how you found your way here!) and come to the conclusion that only X diet will work for you … but always remember you are a unique individual with your own history, genetics, culture, and preferences. You don’t have to jump on every “diet” bandwagon just because your co-worker lost 50 pounds with this or that fad. In fact, it’s vital (and kind!) to take your own wants and needs into account, especially if you’re looking for long-term success. And you should be, because success is not only possible, it’s quite doable.

So What is the Plan to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Through Diet? 

The plan is to follow your plan. Follow your own preferred eating style, choosing healthy foods from your list. Each day, you need to focus on how you will get enough fiber and non-starchy vegetables to promote fullness, add fiber, and decrease inflammation. Start slowly and incorporate these foods into your diet as you tolerate them. Start by eating only at mealtimes, which means no snacking on the first few days. This will give your body time to start talking to you and letting you know when you actually feel hungry. If you start having physical signs of hunger between meals, then choose a small, basic snack to get you by until your next meal.

Let your friends and neighbors hop from craze to craze. Your job is to stick to your preferred eating style (after all, it’s what you prefer!), and keep track of your blood sugars. If you consistently get your energy from your healthy proteins and fats, and keep comfortably full with non-starchy veggies and fiber, you should notice a gradual improvement in your numbers. Keep your physician in the loop and just follow your list.

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Even though diabetes is present in your life, there is hope. Hope that harmony between you and diabetes can be attained.

Angela Manderfeld, RD

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