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Plant Foods: The Key to Success

Plant foods are the primary sources of the nutrients known to protect against diabetes. Fiber, (the indigestible part of plants), helps control blood sugar, lowers blood cholesterol, keeps the gastrointestinal system healthy, promotes a health-supportive mix of gut bacteria, and aids with weight loss by staving off hunger. Fiber is only found in plant foods, not in animal products. Phytochemicals, also found only in plants, improve fasting blood glucose and insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.

Plant foods are high in prebiotics, the component in food that nourishes the beneficial gut bacteria that reduce chronic inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and control blood sugar. Fermented plant foods, such as tempeh, miso, naturally pickled vegetables, and nondairy yogurts, provide friendly bacteria that aid in the maintenance of a healthy microbiome. Plant foods also contain large amounts of antioxidants and phytochemicals, compounds that help us fight the onset and progression of disease.

Highly processed foods and animal products are the primary sources of compounds that have been linked to increased insulin resistance, inflamma­tion, gastrointestinal disorders, hormonal imbalances, high blood cholester­ol levels, and hypertension. Refined carbohydrates (carbohydrate-rich foods that have been stripped of fiber and nutrients by food-processing tech­niques) promote overeating, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Trans fats (found mainly in partially hydrogenated oils, which are currently being elim­inated from the food supply) and saturated fats (found most frequently in animal-based foods) increase insulin resistance and cholesterol levels. Other dietary factors that can increase inflammation and the harmful effects of dia­betes are environmental contaminants, excessive sodium, certain food addi­tives, and high-temperature cooking (such as grilling or frying foods). (From The Kick Diabetes Cookbook)