Like me, Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends a low glycemic diet, for blood sugar management. And, yoga.
“We are a nation in a diabetes crisis,” says Dr. Oz. “Over the course of my career, I’ve watched patients who were destined for diabetes completely rewrite their fate by losing weight and getting in shape,” he states. Dr. Oz and I recognize yoga as a holistic method to mend mind, body and spirit.
“Add diabetes prevention to the ancient art’s long list of health perks. Studies show that yoga increases the rate at which glucose moves from the blood into our cells. It also reduces levels of stress hormones, which can cause an accumulation of abdominal fat and interfere with the secretion of insulin.”
Case in point: me. Diabetes killed my mom. My aunt, uncle and grandmother were diabetic. Then, one day after re-reading my mom’s article in a diabetes magazine about her beginning insulin, I got the call. It was my turn. Never mind that my weight was normal. Didn’t matter that I’d been watching sugar intake my entire life. Ka-bam. The preachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda were clear. We are all unique. We must find balance through diligent lifestyle management. Finding, and following, our own wellness regimen. Our dinacharya.
Fortunately, a great Ayurvedic doctor coached me. Way beyond a low glycemic diet. Today, I’m 61 years old. My vitals are perfect. I take zero meds.
My blood sugar management approach goes far beyond drugs and calories. That’s why I created a therapeutic workshop series, The Sugar Drop, focused on blood sugar management. A low glycemic diet is just one component of my workshops. While extremely important, it’s not that simple. Which is why I’ll delve into that a bit, here.
Low Glycemic Diet — Not Always Fruit-friendly
Most people equate fruit with low calories and good health. An apple a day may seemingly keep the doctor away. However, for those of us with insulin resistance, or compromised production of insulin, we have to be careful with fruit.
For example, my personalized Ayurvedic diet, allows me to eat fruit only in the mornings. Furthermore, I don’t mix fruit with non-fruit. As a result, no smoothies. No snacks of fruit and nuts. Nor, apples in my salads, or berries in my yogurt. Just a small serving of fresh fruit, ideally on an empty stomach.
Moreover, the types of fruit for those with blood sugar issues is critical. To me, fruit is fructose (sugar) packaged in different sizes, shapes, colors and degrees of sweetness. Among the worst offenders: bananas. I haven’t had one in a decade. Fortunately, not all fruit are as sweet as bananas. Bottom line: I opt for a low-glycemic diet–and an Ayurvedic approach molded to my needs.
Low Glycemic Diet: Index Vs. Load
Dr. Andrew Weil explains the importance of a low-glycemic diet.
“The glycemic index ranks carbohydrate foods on the basis of how they affect blood sugar (glucose). This is important for many people because eating a lot of foods that rank high on the glycemic index will produce spikes in blood sugar that can lead over time to loss of sensitivity to insulin, the hormone needed to allow blood sugar to enter cells for use as fuel. When using the glycemic index as a guide to food choices, you also have to consider “glycemic load,” a measure of how many grams of carbohydrate a normal serving contains.” He gives examples of carrots and beets which have high glycemic indices, but low loads.
Hence, lemons, limes, berries and cherries are “good” fruits. The glycemic index for strawberries and blueberries are in the 40s. On the other hand, the glycemic index for fresh tart cherries is just 22. The load for strawberries and limes are equal. As low as you can go. One. Tart cherries are just a tad higher. Three.
So, following a low glycemic diet approach, cherries are a winner to avoid sugar spikes. But now, studies are indicating that fresh cherries, and even tart cherry juice, can help regulate blood sugar. (Caveat: In my coaching, I place all juices and dried fruits in the same category. Do not consume.)
Moreover, my acupuncturist wants me to eat cherries, and other deep red foods like beets, to “build blood.” Similarly, my Ayurvedic doctor recommends pomegranates, which are also deep red in color.
Studies with Cherries
A team of research nutritionists summarized findings* from around the world.
“Consumption of cherries decreased markers for oxidative stress in 8/10 studies; inflammation in 11/16; exercise-induced muscle soreness and loss of strength in 8/9; blood pressure in 5/7; arthritis in 5/5, and improved sleep in 4/4. Cherries also decreased hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C), Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and triglycerides/high-density lipoprotein (TG/HDL) in diabetic women, and VLDL and TG/HDL in obese participants. Similarly, tart cherry juice and one of its main polyphenols known as chlorogenic acid inhibited enzymes α glucosidase and dipeptidyl peptidase-4 which are involved in promoting diabetes …there exists evidence to suggest that cherry consumption may promote healthy glucose regulation.”
If that’s hard to understand, Dr. Oz makes it simple. He raves about cherries. The famous TV personality advocates cherries to address pain, inflammation and sleep disorders. Even more impressive, he says cherries can reduce your risk of heart disease. Finally, Dr. Oz says cherries remind him of his boyhood. His grandfather had a cherry farm in Turkey, and they made cherry juice. Turkey, by the way, is the world’s largest producer of cherries.
In the U.S., sweet cherries tend to be harvested in the Northwest. Conversely, tart cherries are primarily found in Michigan. However, Door County, Wisconsin at one time was called “Cherryland USA.” Currently, Door County produces 8-15 million pounds of Montmorency cherries, annually, across 2,500 acres.
I visited Door County last month, hoping to pick a few fresh tart cherries in the fields. Instead, I had a tour of the packaging plant at Sequist Orchards. Dale Sequist runs the largest cherry orchard in Wisconsin. His great-grandfather immigrated to Wisconsin from Sweden in search of religious freedom. Ended up a cherry farmer.
“It didn’t take him long to realize this area was good for planting. He paid six cents a tree. All of a sudden, he had more cherries than he knew what to do with.”
The Sequists now harvest tart cherries on nearly 1,000 acres. To diversity, 30 acres are dedicated to apples and pears. Another 15 acres are for sweet cherries.
Fully embracing growth and technology, they no longer sell just simple cherries. The family now produces 75 different hand-poured specialty food items, including tart cherry juice. The others, most of which are not appropriate for diabetics include salsa, barbecue sauce, honey mustard and poppyseed salad dressing. All made with cherries.
“God has blessed us here, and I want to give him credit.”
* “A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries” March 2018 issue of Nutrients