In 2015, it was estimated that over 415 million adults around the world have diabetes. By 2040, this figure will have risen to 642 million adults, that means every 1 in 10 adults will have this completely preventable and manageable disease (1). In addition almost 1 in 3 adults in America have pre-diabetes (insulin resistance) (2).
The scariest of the statistics available to us is the fact that North America and the Caribbean region has the highest incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, directly as a result of an increasingly poor diet, increased sugar intake and decreased physical activity (3).
But why are we getting so sick?
There are many factors to blame for the rapid increase in pre-diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes,but Type 2 Diabetes is primarily a lifestyle related disease and our modern lifestyles are to blame. The facts are that we as humans are moving a lot less, we are eating food which is poor in nutrients and highly processed, and we are consuming too much of it (4).
It seems only logical then, that if we are getting fatter and sicker from our processed, adulterated food, something needs to change?
The principles of the Paleo lifestyle underline the return to a time when our food more closely resembled its natural state. For this reason All Paleo appropriate food is food which we would have eaten before the rise of agriculture and mass crop planting. We also would not have kept animals and therefore dairy would not have been consumed.
Our ancestors did not have to worry about lifestyle related diseases as processed food did not exist and we had to move a lot more to survive. We hunted and gathered our food for survival.
This is where the Paleo lifestyle comes in.
Preventing and Reversing Diabetes with the Paleo Diet
Let’s look at the dietary factors which may help to, not only prevent the onset of diabetes, but reverse insulin resistance and control blood sugar levels in those who have already been diagnosed:
1. The Paleo diet is lower in simple carbohydrates
The only carbohydrates appropriate on the Paleo diet are those which were available to us in the Paleolithic era. This certainly means no highly processed breads, chocolates, grains or foods high in sugar.
The habit of snacking on a quick piece of toast or a grabbing a muffin or cookies no longer stands and all in all, following a Paleo diet leads to a lower intake of carbohydrates and cutting out sugar in its most refined form. People start to reach for fruits which are lower in sugar and higher in nutrients, such as berries. They are also prompted to read labels and make better educated choices
Did you know: Almost all foods available to us contain a certain amount of carbohydrate. Even avocados and nuts contain carbohydrates. For this reason it is a myth that the Paleo diet is a no carb or even carb free diet.
2. The Paleo diet is higher in fiber
When a new Paleo follower has a look at their plate it seems almost empty without the pasta or mashed potato which would have been there. In order to feel fuller and more satisfied, the Paleo diet encourages non-starchy vegetables, salads and leafy greens to fill the space. The end result is a lot more fiber. Increased fiber with each meal means slower digestion of the meal and therefore a slow release of glucose into the blood stream. In response the body produces less insulin and over time insulin resistance decreases (5)
Add more fiber to your diet with these delicious Paleo salads
3. The Paleo diet is higher in good healthy fats
One of the main principles of the Paleo way is a much higher intake of healthy dietary fats than a conventional diet. Eating beautiful healthy fats such as nut butter or avocados and upping your intake of anti-inflammatory oils such as olive oil or coconut oil leads to a feeling of satiety.
The beauty of increasing your calories from fat and decreasing your calories from simple carbohydrates is that your body does not produce insulin in response to fat. Instead the body is left to utilise excess glucose in the blood stream instead of raising the blood sugar levels further (6)
We’ve put together 32 Paleo nut butter recipes to help you get in more of the good stuff
4. The Paleo diet is higher in nutrients
Unfortunately for many people out there they simply don’t know how good they could possibly feel. As much as most Americans are far from starving, there is a different kind of hunger lurking, a hidden micronutrient hunger.
When your diet is mainly full of processed convenience food you body struggles to receive adequate levels of vitamins and minerals. This hidden, less obvious hunger leads to cravings for junk food as the body is continually starving.
When you start concentrating on choosing fresh, quality ingredients instead of eating processed junk food on the run, your body starts to change. Not only are you healing your body through increasing your intake of necessary nutrients, but you are also preventing future lifestyle diseases.
For more information see: 5 Nutrient dense ingredients to add to your Paleo recipes
5. Most people lose weight on the Paleo diet
One of the biggest benefits of following the Paleo diet is the effortless sustainable weight loss without going hungry. Any weight loss, even a 5% weight loss can be beneficial when you are diabetic or insulin resistant (7). Not only will you feel better, but behind the scenes your body will thank you. Even a small amount of weight loss begins to decrease insulin resistance and heal the body. If you are already diabetic, weight loss improves blood sugar level readings and decreases your risk of other risk factors associated with diabetes such as high blood pressure or cardiac disease (8, 9)
Aside from a massive change in diet, the Paleo lifestyle is meant to be an all encompassing change into a healthier and more active lifestyle. Concentrate on changing one habit at a time to improve your health and delay, if not prevent the onset of diabetes, for you and your family .
Read more about Paleo and diabetes here