Can Red Yeast Rice really lower cholesterol ?

If you are diabetic, you have at least an 80% chance of also having issues with the levels of your cholesterol. Adding red yeast rice to your diet as a foodstuff or a dietary supplement may make sense. Here’s the lowdown.

Continue reading “Can Red Yeast Rice really lower cholesterol ?”

The Diabetes Turnaround Masterclass Series

The key to beating type 2 diabetes is knowledge of the disease. For this reason I urge you to watch, entirely FREE of charge, the online Diabetes Turnaround Masterclass Series, a string of interviews with more than 20 of the best health and wellness experts around. Here’s what you’ll learn and how you can sign up.

Experts – Diabetes Turnaround Masterclass Series

My friend, Debbie Movsesian, a superb organiser, has brought together 20+ top health and wellness experts for this free educational series on learning the truth about reversing type 2 diabetes and discovering simple, effective ways to lose weight, free yourself of chronic disease (such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular diseases) and live a longer, healthier, more abundant, and happier life.

The online Diabetes Turnaround Masterclass Series

From: September 28th to October 18th, 2020

Attendance online is 100% FREE

Hosted by Debbie Movsesian who interviews 20+ pre-eminent experts

Click to Sign Up

The interviewees include well-known doctors, nutritionists, chefs and other experts such as:

  • Dr Neal Barnard, the pioneer in ‘reversing’ diabetes (who inspired me)
  • Dr Colin Zhu, chef and lifestyle medicine physician
  • Wes Youngberg, lifestyle medicine specialist
  • Robby Barbaro and Cyrus Khambatta, diabetes experts from Mastering Diabetes
  • Chef AJ, about permanent weight loss

The full list of experts is shown in the image at the top of this post.

These experts will cover a wide range of topics relating to type 2 diabetes and allied chronic diseases, including:

  • Insulin resistance and how to reverse it
  • Plant-based food you’ll love to eat
  • Using life-style medicine to combat disease
  • Managing stress, weight loss, and more
  • Health disparities in Western medicine
  • How to lose weight with a full plate

The series will begin on September the 28th this year and each interview will be 45 to 60 minutes long, one interview per day. Recordings of the interviews will be available later, so there is no need to attend every day, provided you have signed up.  

Click to Sign Up

I urge you to sign up and attend. You will add significantly to your knowledge of how to reverse diabetes, more than you can get by reading my blog and my book Beating Diabetes.

Your take-away will include:

  • Learning the truth about reversing type 2 diabetes
  • Discovering simple, effective ways to lose weight
  • Finding out how to avoid other chronic diseases, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s etc
  • Understanding how you can live a longer, healthier, more abundant life

As you are member of the Beating Diabetes club, I know that your health means a great deal to you. You aspire to a life without pain and suffering, without medications. You are determined to have the freedom to be active and do all the things you long to do … live life to the fullest while feeling great in your body, knowing that you’ll be living a long, abundant and happy life.

With the right education you can reverse or prevent diabetes or a host of other chronic diseases and  enjoy the life you deserve.

The Diabetes Turnaround Masterclass Series will provide you with the knowledge you need.

So I urge you to sign up right now by clicking this link

Kind regards


Recipes using red kidney beans

Red kidney beans are a great source of protein (8.5 grams in a cup), dietary fibre, and a wide variety of essential micro-nutrients. They are fat free and make an ideal ingredient in a diabetic’s diet. So how do you get them into your stomach? … here are a few easy but delicious and nutritious recipes.

Red kidney beans come in three basic forms … fresh, dried and canned. In the supermarket you are unlikely to be able to find fresh beans but should not have problem in finding dried and canned beans.

Caution … raw kidney beans contain large amounts of phytohemagglutinin, a toxic protein that can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. You can only get rid of this toxin by soaking the beans in water for at least 5 hours (or overnight, preferably) and throwing out the water, and then boiling the beans in fresh water for at least ten minutes at 1000C (2120F). Rest assured that properly prepared red kidney beans are safe to eat and very nutritious.

How to rehydrate red kidney beans

When you buy dried kidney beans, you have to rehydrate them before you can cook them. There are several ways you can rehydrate dried beans all of which are very easy to do but take a bit of time. The only equipment you need is a stockpot.

A stockpot is a wide pot with a flat bottom, straight sides, a wide opening to the full diameter of the pot, two handles on the sides, and a lid with a handle on top.

Dried kidney beans come from a farm so they are likely to need a good clean out before you start rehydrating them … lay them out on a flat surface such as a large tray and remove any foreign matter or shrivelled beans. Once you have finished cleaning them, they’ll be ready for soaking.

When soaking, use approximately 10 cups of water for 450 grams (1 pound) of dried kidney beans.

Slow soak … this method will take 8 hours or more but it is very thorough:

  • Put the beans into the stockpot with the water
  • Cover the pot
  • Place the pot in the refrigerator and leave it there overnight or longer (minimum of 8 hours)
  • Pour out the water and rinse the beans properly in fresh water

Flatulence-free slow soak … according to the Mayo Clinic this method will eliminate 90% of the indigestible fibres (alpha-galactosides) that cause flatulence when you eat red kidney beans:

  • Bring the water in the stockpot to the boil
  • Put the beans into the boiling water
  • Bring to the boil again and boil for three more minutes
  • Cover the stockpot tightly and allow it to stand at room temperature overnight, ie a minimum of 8 hours
  • Pour out the water and rinse the beans thoroughly in fresh water

Both these methods take a lot of time to complete. Here are two quicker ways to rehydrate the beans.

Hot soak … this way will take about 3 hours:

  • Bring the water in the stockpot to the boil
  • Put the beans into the boiling water
  • Bring to the boil again and then remove from the heat
  • Cover the stockpot tightly and allow it to stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours
  • Pour out the water and thoroughly rinse the beans in fresh water

Quick soak … this will take a bit over one hour overall

  • Bring the water in the stockpot to the boil
  • Put the beans to the boiling water
  • Bring to the boil again and boil for three more minutes
  • Cover the stockpot tightly and allow it to stand at room temperature for one hour
  • Pour out the water and thoroughly rinse the beans in fresh water

How to prepare canned red kidney beans

As stated in my previous article Why you should eat red kidney beans, you may use canned (tinned) beans which have already been cooked. The only drawback is that tinned beans have a much higher sodium content as salt is added as a preservative during canning.

You may be able find low sodium varieties. If not, you can drain and rinse the beans thoroughly using a colander under free-flowing cold water … this will get rid of up to 40% of the sodium content.

But note that draining and rinsing canned beans can remove other micro-nutrients, such as the water-soluble B vitamins or vitamin C. You can get around this by adding other healthy foods, such as carrots, onions, bell peppers and celery, to your meal to boost its nutritional value.

Recipes for meals with red kidney beans

Red kidney beans are extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of prepared foods and meals, such as:

  • Soups and broths
  • Salads
  • Hummus
  • Burgers
  • Curries

Here are a few recipes I have tested myself. They are all highly nutritious and easy to do, though the last one is a trifle complex and requires a bit of work.

Red kidney bean broths and soups

Broth (aka bouillon) is a savoury liquid made of water in which bones, meat, or vegetables have been simmered. Soup is a broth to which other ingredients, vegetables, meat or fish, have been added.

The secret in creating delicious broths and soups is in the judicious choosing of ingredients. Kidney beans can add nutrition and flavour to any broth or soup. Just throw them in.

Here’s a slightly complex Red Kidney Bean & Vegetable soup, enough for four people:

What you’ll need to make red kidney bean and vegetable soup:

  • 1x tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1x yellow onion, chopped
  • 1x garlic clove, minced
  • 2x carrots, chopped
  • 2x teaspoons of sodium-free chili powder
  • 1x teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 4x cups of low-sodium low-fat chicken OR vegetable broth
  • 2x 425-gram (15 ounces) tins (cans) of low-sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1x cup of frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1/4x teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1x 410-gram (14.5 ounce) tin (can) of low-sodium stewed tomatoes

You’ll also need a large stock pot.

How to make red kidney bean and vegetable soup

  1. Put the stewed tomatoes and one can of kidney beans in a blender or food processor
  2. Puree until smooth and set aside
  3. Heat the large pot over medium heat, and warm up the olive oil
  4. Add the chopped yellow onion, minced garlic and chopped carrots
  5. Cook, stirring as necessary, until tender (about 5 minutes)
  6. Add the chili powder and ground cumin and stir constantly for about one minute
  7. Add the chicken or vegetable broth, the second can of kidney beans, frozen whole kernel corn and the freshly ground black pepper, and bring the lot back up to the boil
  8. Add the pureed tomatoes and kidney beans (from steps 1]and 2) to the soup and bring the lot back up to the boil again
  9. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Cool and enjoy !

Note … you can tweak this recipe as you see fit and to taste by varying the ingredients, adding or reducing them.

Red kidney bean salads

Salads made with beans are very dense in macro- and micro-nutrients relative to the calories you get from eating them. Creating really tasty salads can range from quick and simple to highly complex.

Here’s a simple one that will take less than 10 minutes to prepare.

Red kidney bean quick salad

This high protein salad can be eaten as a main course, minor course or a side-dish. And it would be perfect in your lunchbox. It’s enough for two people.

What you’ll need for the salad:

  • 400g (14oz) of canned kidney beans
  • 200g (7oz) of sweet yellow corn
  • Half a cucumber
  • A good handful of fresh parsley
  • One spring onion
  • 100g of feta cheese

You’ll also need a large bowl.

How to make the kidney bean salad

  1. Defrost the corn if it was frozen and put it in the bowl
  2. Rinse and drain the kidney beans and add to the bowl
  3. Dice the cucumber into small pieces and add to the bowl
  4. Chop the parsley finely and add to the bowl
  5. Chop the onion into tiny pieces and add to the bowl
  6. Mix all the ingredients in the bowl well

The salad is now ready waiting for the dressing.

What you’ll need for the kidney bean salad dressing:

  • Half a lime
  • 2x tbsp of olive oil
  • 1x tsp of mustard powder
  • 1x tsp of cumin
  • 1/2x tsp of dried oregano
  • 1x tsp of honey
  • Pepper to taste

You’ll also need a small bowl.

How to make and add the dressing for the kidney bean salad

  1. Add all the ingredients into the small bowl one after the other
  2. Stir well until mixed thoroughly
  3. Check the dressing for taste and when satisfied:
  4. Add the dressing to the salad
  5. Stir it all together well
  6. Add the feta cheese by crumbling it over the salad
  7. Now give it a final good stir

That’s it … eat and enjoy

But note that if you keep it in the ‘fridge for a few hours it will taste even better as the salad absorbs the flavours of the dressing. It will taste even better the next day.

You will find hundreds, if not thousands, of really terrific recipes for salads on the internet.

Red kidney bean hummus

This classic of the Middle East is usually made with chickpeas. There are many ways in which you can vary the basic recipe. Using red kidney beans instead of chickpeas results in a very creamy hummus that tastes absolutely delicious. And it is a cinch to make.

What you’ll need for the red bean hummus:

  • 1x can (400g/14oz) of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1x clove garlic
  • 2x tsp olive oil
  • 1x tsp water
  • 1/2x tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt 
  • Perhaps some black pepper to taste

You also need a food processor or blender.

How to make the red kidney bean hummus

  1. Blend all the ingredients together in the food processor until smooth
  2. Pour into a bowl
  3. Cover and store it in the ‘fridge for a few hours before eating it

Note … it will keep well in the ‘fridge up to a week.

Red kidney bean burgers

These red kidney bean burgers are highly nutritious … full of protein (about 7%) and dietary fibre (another 7%) and with minimal sugar, they are vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, and fat-free, making them perfect for diabetics.

And best of all, these burgers are really easy to make.

What you’ll need for the red kidney bean burgers:

  • 1x can (400g/14oz) of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2x tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1x tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1x tsp garlic powder
  • 1x tsp onion powder
  • 1/3x cup gluten-free quick oats

How to make the red kidney bean burgers

  1. Preheat your oven to 200oC (400oF)
  2. Spray a baking tray with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper, and put it aside
  3. Mash beans thoroughly in mixing bowl until there are no whole beans left
  4. Add in the remaining ingredients and stir until they are well mixed
  5. Divide mixture into 4 parts of approximately equal size and roll them into balls, first making sure your hands are clean
  6. Place the burger balls on the baking sheet, and flatten them with the palm of your hand
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, and then turn to bake on the other side for another 10 minutes


Red kidney bean curry

Curry, that great favourite of the English palate, originated in India and is a triumph of the art of Indian cuisine.

Eating red kidney beans is a great way to get protein into your diet and for that purpose, this curry is ideal. It is a delightfully creamy comfort dish and is suitable for vegans and diabetics. You can vary the spices to suit your taste buds and you surely will once you have made this curry a few times. This recipe is quite thick; if you prefer a more liquid curry, just add more water.

Note … the red kidney beans soak up all the spices if the curry is kept in a ‘fridge over night for consumption the next day. This recipe makes enough for two people.

What you’ll need for the red kidney bean curry:

  • 1x cup of dried kidney Beans
  • 1x onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2x chopped green chili
  • 2x tsp canola oil
  • 1x tsp cumin seeds
  • 1x bay leaf
  • 1/2x cinnamon stick
  • 1/2x tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2x tsp minced ginger
  • 1x tsp coriander powder
  • 1x tsp curry powder (garam masala)
  • 1 tsp paprika or red chili powder
  • 1/2x tsp turmeric
  • 1x cup tomato puree
  • 4x cups water (or more for a thinner curry)
  • fresh coriander as garnish

You will also need a pressure cooker with a good whistle on it.

Note … you can use canned red kidney beans and skip the first step below.

How to make the red kidney bean curry

There’s a bit of work involved in making this curry compared to the other recipes in this article … but the effort is worth it.

  1. Soak the dried kidney beans in a stockpot with enough water overnight (minimum 6 hours) … skip this step if you are using canned red kidney beans (thoroughly cleaned)
  2. Put the beans into a pressure cooker along with 3 cups of water
  3. Stir and cook on high for 2-3 whistles
  4. Set the heat to medium and cook for another 10-15 minutes until soft
  5. Discard the water in which the beans were cooked
  6. Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat, and add cumin seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon stick to the hot oil
  7. Sauté for a minute or so
  8. Add the finely chopped onions and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until translucent
  9. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the rough smell goes away
  10. Now add the green chilli, tomato puree and mix well
  11. Cook for 10 minutes, or until tomato puree is cooked properly
  12. Now add the coriander powder, red chilli powder and curry powder and mix well
  13. Cook for 2 minutes
  14. Then add the prepared kidney beans and mix all together
  15. Add 1.5 cups of water (or more) to the curry
  16. Cover the pan and cook the kidney beans curry for 10 minutes on medium-low heat
  17. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately with rice or Indian roti

Bonne Appetit !!!

How to strengthen your immune system

As you are a diabetic it is highly likely that your immune system has been compromised and is much weaker than that of a non-diabetic. Thus, you need to strengthen your ability to fight off infections and diseases. There are many ways you can do that.

Illustration of immune defence

There are, literally, many, many ways you can go about strengthening your immune system. These approaches can be roughly classified as follows:

  1. Lifestyle changes
  2. Food choices
  3. Dietary supplements
  4. Herbs
  5. Essential oils
1] Lifestyle changes to strengthen your immune system

To boost your immune system, one of the first things you need to do is to switch to a healthy lifestyle. That means …

  • exercising regularly
  • reducing stress
  • improving sleep patterns
  • cutting down on the booze
  • taking personal protective measures

Daily exercise … you need to get off your butt and incorporate as much physical exercise as you have time for into your daily activities in order to strengthen you immune system.

It is a well-known fact that our immune systems get weaker as we grow older … this is called immunosenescence, a gradual deterioration of the immune system.

A study published in Aging Cell in 2018 titled Major features of immunosenescence … are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood showed that … for adults aged 55 to 79 and whether or not they have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes … high levels of physical exercise reduce the rate at which immune systems weaken dramatically, though exercise does not prevent it from happening completely.

Stress … to promote your health, you need to minimise your stress levels. Studies show that chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and exacerbate pathological immune responses.

A study published by the US National Library of Medicine (NIH) in 2014, Effects of stress on immune function, summarised the various effects, good and bad, short-term and long-term stress can have on our lives.

Sleep … you need to make sure that you are getting at least 7 hours sleep a night. When you are not getting enough sleep, your immune system cannot function properly.

A study published in Sleep in 2014, Behaviourally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold, found that adults who slept less than 6 hours a night were 4 times more likely to get a cold in comparison to adults who slept for more than 7 hours.

Alcohol … alcohol has an adverse effect on the health of your gut, decreasing immune function and making you more susceptible to infections. In other words, too much alcohol can have a negative impact on your immune system. To retain a strong immune system you should limit your intake to one or two drinks a week maximum.

Personal protective activities … the best way to protect yourself against any deficiencies in your immune system is to undertake activities that protect you from viruses, bacteria and fungi … this means:

  • frequent hand washing
  • use of hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
  • minimize touching your face … eyes, nose and mouth
  • coughing or sneezing into your elbow
  • using disposable tissues which you throw away or (preferably) incinerate
  • staying out of the way when sick
  • seeking medical attention as needed
2] Food and beverages that strengthen your immune system

What you eat and drink can have a very strong impact on your immune system. Here are some with very positive effects on your immune system:

  • Green tea
  • Bone broth
  • Ginger
  • Foods rich in vitamin C
  • Foods rich in Beta-carotene

Green tea …  this beverage contains antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties.

Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food or when you’re exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation.

An immunomodulator is a chemical agent that modifies the immune response or the functioning of the immune system.

Because of these properties, green tea works as an antifungal and antivirus agent. Thus, it’ll be helpful if your immune system is compromised. The antioxidants and amino acids in green tea can help your body fight germs … so drink a large cup of good-quality green tea every day. I do.

Bone broth … broth made by boiling bones and connective tissue is another excellent beverage for helping your immune system remain strong. It can be made using cow, chicken or fish bones.

Bone broth supports your immune function by promoting the health of your gut and reducing inflammation caused by leaky gut syndrome. The collagen and amino acids it contains help to seal the openings in the gut lining and support its integrity.

Because the health of your gut plays a major role in the functioning of your immune system, consuming bone broth is an excellent booster food for your immune system.

Ginger … it is believed that the warming effects of ginger help to break down the accumulation of toxins in our organs. Ginger is also well-known for cleansing the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing white blood cells that fight infection, throughout the body.

With their immune-nutrition and anti-inflammatory responses, ginger root and ginger essential oil can treat a wide range of diseases. Indeed a report, Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger published in April 2013 in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, reviewed the current evidence on the effects of ginger as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative agent and found that ginger has antimicrobial potential and so can help in treating infectious diseases.

Ginger is also known for its ability to treat inflammatory disorders caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites, as well as inflammation created by heat, acid and cigarette smoke.

Thus, it is quite clear that ginger can boost your immune system and should be added to your regular diet.

Vitamin C … foods rich in vitamin C improve the health of your immune system through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

An enquiry into the Immune-enhancing role of vitamin C and zinc, published by the US National Library of Medicine (NIH), found that plenty of vitamin C together with zinc can help reduce respiratory infections and shorten the duration of common colds and bouts of bronchitis.

The best foods for boosting your immune system with vitamin C are … citrus fruits (oranges, lemons and grapefruit) … black currants … guava … bell peppers (red and green) … pineapple … mango … honeydew … parsley etc

Beta-carotene … eating foods rich in beta-carotene is better for boosting your immune system than taking it as a dietary supplement. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant … it reduces inflammation and fights oxidative stress.

The greatest sources of beta-carotene are leafy greens and yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables, including … carrot juice … sweet potatoes … pumpkins … red bell peppers … apricots … kale … spinach … collard greens etc

3] Dietary supplements to strengthen your immune system

You can boost your immune system by addressing nutritional deficiencies with dietary supplements. Here are three supplements that can help immensely:

  • probiotics
  • vitamin D
  • zinc

Probiotics … a probiotic substance or preparation is a live microorganism introduced into the body for its beneficial qualities. Probiotics are good bacteria that help you digest the nutrients that boost the detoxification of your colon and support your immune system.

The human digestive tract is where food is broken down and nutrients absorbed. The walls of the intestines act as barriers, controlling what enters the bloodstream. Small gaps in the intestinal wall (aka tight junctions) allow water and nutrients to pass through, while blocking the passage of harmful substances. Intestinal permeability refers to how easily substances can pass through the intestinal wall.

When the tight junctions of intestinal walls become loose, the gut becomes more permeable, which can allow bacteria and toxins to pass from the gut into the bloodstream. This is leaky gut.

When the gut is leaky, the bacteria and toxins that enter the bloodstream can cause inflammation and possibly trigger a reaction from the immune system. Leaky gut is a major cause of sensitivities to food, autoimmune disease and immune imbalance or a weakened immune system.

Thus, consuming probiotic foods and supplements to resolve this issue can be important. In fact, research published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in 2014 provided detailed information about how probiotics stimulate our immune system.

Vitamin D … a deficiency in this vitamin is associated with increased autoimmunity (your immune system attacking your own healthy cells and tissues) and increased susceptibility to infection. One way to boost your immune system is to rectify a nutritional deficiency such as that.

Research published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine in August 2011 showed that vitamin D works to promote protective immunity. Indeed, numerous studies have associated lower levels of vitamin D with increased infection.

For example, a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital covering 19,000 participants (published in 2009) stated that persons with lower levels of vitamin D levels are more likely to report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for variables such as season, age, gender, and so on.

Zinc … these supplements are often sold as over-the-counter remedies for colds and similar illnesses. A study undertaken in 2003 of the Efficacy of zinc against common cold viruses noted that it can interfere with the molecular process that causes the buildup of bacteria in the nasal passages.    

4] Herbs that can strengthen your immune system

At least four herbs can be very effective in boosting your immune system:

  • Elderberry
  • Astragalus root
  • Ginseng
  • Echinacea

Elderberry … The flowers and berries and flowers of the elder plant have been used as medicine for thousands of years. Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’, used elderberry for its many health benefits, including its ability to fight colds, the flu, allergies and inflammation.

Elderberry has been proven to help treat the symptoms of common colds and flu that are due to viral infections. This suggests that it has the power to boost the immune system.

Indeed, a study published in the Journal of International Medical Research in March-April 2004, Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections, showed that when elderberry is used within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, it reduces the duration of the flu, with symptoms being relieved on an average of four days earlier. Plus, the use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with a placebo.

Rescue medication is a medicine intended to relieve symptoms immediately. Rescue medications are most often used for severe allergies, for asthma, or for migraines … aka quick-acting medication and fast-acting medication.

Astragalus root … this root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a natural substance that helps the body adapt to distress.

Indeed, the astragalus plant has a very long history as an immune booster and disease fighter. Though it has not been studied much, in recent years this member of the legume family has been coming under increased scientific scrutiny.

A review published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine in 2016, Astragalus membranaceus: A Review of its Protection Against Inflammation and Gastrointestinal Cancers, found that astragalus-based treatments demonstrate significant improvement of the toxicity induced by drugs such as immunosuppressants and cancer chemotherapeutics. The researchers concluded that astragalus extract has a beneficial effect on the immune system and that it protects from gastrointestinal inflammation and cancers.

Ginseng … this plant has long been used for keeping the immune system stable and enhancing resistance to illness or infection. Ginseng improves the performance of your immune system by regulating all of the various immune cells in your body.

A study published in the Journal of Ginseng Research in October 2012, Ginseng, the ‘Immunity Boost’: The Effects of Panax ginseng on Immune System, showed that this plant possesses antimicrobial compounds that defend against bacterial and viral infections.

A study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine in 2005, Long-term oral administration of ginseng extract modulates humoral immune response and spleen cell functions, found that ginseng extract successfully induces the creation of antigen-specific antibodies when it’s administered orally.

Antibodies bind to antigens, such as toxins or viruses, and keep them from contacting and harming normal cells of the body. Because ginseng plays a role in the production of antibodies, it helps your body fight invading microorganisms or pathogenic antigens.

Echinacea … Native Americans have used this plant for centuries to treat various ailments. Today, it’s best known as an over-the-counter herbal remedy for the common cold or flu. However, it’s also used to treat pain, inflammation, migraines and other health issues. Both the plant’s upper parts and roots are used in tablets, tinctures, extracts and teas.

Echinacea plants contain an impressive variety of active compounds, such as caffeic acid, alkamides, phenolic acids, rosmarinic acid, polyacetylenes and many more. Studies have linked echinacea and their compounds to many health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, improved immunity and lower blood sugar levels. One of the most significant of these benefits is its effects when used on recurring infections.

A study into the safety and efficacy of echinacea in preventing the common cold, published in 2012 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that its effects were maximized when it was used on recurring infections, and its preventive effects increased when it was used to prevent the common cold.

A critical review of the medicinal properties of echinacea conducted at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, published in Phytomedicine in January 2003, found that echinacea demonstrates significant immunomodulatory activities. An immunomodulator is a chemical agent that modifies the immune response or the functioning of the immune system.

On reviewing several dozen experiments on human subjects, including some blind randomized trials, researchers concluded that echinacea has several benefits, including the stimulation of the immune system, especially in the treatment of acute upper respiratory infections.

5] Essential oils to boost your immune system

There are at least two essential oils that can help boost your immune system:

  • Myrrh
  • Oregano

Myrrh … this resin is one of the most used essential oils in the world. For thousands of years, myrrh has been used to stop bleeding, to clean and heal wounds, and to treat hay fever.

A study published in Holistic Nursing Practice in November 2007 found that myrrh’s antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties strengthen the immune system. Another study published in 2012 found that myrrh’s enhanced antimicrobial efficacy was enhanced when it was used against a selection of pathogens in combination with frankincense oil. Researchers expressed their confidence that myrrh oil has anti-infective properties and can help to boost your immune system.

Oregano … the ancient Greeks and Romans associated this herb with joy and happiness. It is used to make an essential oil.

Essential oils are oils that bear the names of the plants from which they are derived. These oils are called essential because they are thought to represent the very essence of the odour and flavour of the particular plant from which they are made.

Oregano oil is an essential oil made from the oregano plant. Research shows it has antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Compounds in oregano oil are also potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and cancer-suppressing agents.

Risks involved in strengthening your immune system

You should note that some of these immune-boosting herbs, supplements and essential oils can be extremely potent. Thus, it would be unwise to take them for more than two weeks at a time. And, taking a break in between long sessions is important.

Any time you are using natural remedies such as supplements made from plants you should seek advice from your doctor or other healthcare provider. Do the same if you are pregnant and are using essential oils.

What is the best substitute for sugar?

If you cannot give up your craving for sweetened food, you have to consider possible substitutes for sugar in your diet. But which should you go for … sugar alcohols or high intensity sweeteners? The answer may surprise you. Continue reading “What is the best substitute for sugar?”

How to lose belly fat

Most people are overweight and carry too much fat around their tummy. How dangerous is this for your health, especially if you are diabetic, and what can you do about it? Continue reading “How to lose belly fat”

Can you beat diabetes with a high fat diet?

The simple answer is maybe but unlikely. Adherents of the Keto Diet, a high-fat, low-carb diet, claim that it helps you reduce weight and can reverse your diabetes among many other health benefits. Is there much truth behind this contention?

As anybody who has read my book Beating Diabetes, or who follows this blog, knows: a sure-fire way to get your blood glucose down to manageable levels is to follow a diet that is low in sugar, low in fat, low in salt, high in fibre, made up of mainly natural foods with low GIs, while avoiding eggs and dairy products, washed down with plenty of water.  

The Beating Diabetes diet does not specify low carbs, only low sugar. Other carbohydrates, such as starch and dietary fibre are part of this diet.

The alternate diet, the keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet.

What exactly is it and how does it work?

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet (or keto diet for short) is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. It involves reducing carbohydrate intake drastically and replacing the carbs with fat.

This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, a in which fat provides most of the fuel for the body. It occurs when there is limited access to glucose (blood sugar), which is the preferred fuel source for many cells in the body.

To achieve ketosis, you need, as a general rule to eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day perhaps as little as 20 grams a day. To do this you must remove carb-heavy foods from your diet, such as grains, candy (sweets) and sugary drinks. You also have to cut back on legumes, potatoes and fruit.

When you eat a very low-carb diet, your insulin levels go down and fatty acids are released from your stores of body fat stores in large amounts. Much of these fatty acids are transferred to the liver, where they are oxidized and turned into molecules called ketones (or ketone bodies).

These molecules can provide energy for the body. Unlike fatty acids, ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide energy for the brain in the absence of glucose. They can deliver numerous other health benefits, besides reduced insulin and blood glucose levels, as well as weight loss.

Different types of ketogenic diet

There are several versions of the ketogenic diet. These include:

  • The standard ketogenic diet … a very high-fat, moderate-protein, and very low-carb diet … typically 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs
  • High-protein ketogenic diet … this is similar to the standard diet but includes more protein … usually 60% fat, 35% protein and just 5% carbs
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet … this diet alternates low-carb and high carb periods … such as 5 very low-fat days followed by 2 high-carb days
  • Targeted ketogenic diet … this version of the keto diet allows you to add carbs around workouts

Only the standard and high-protein keto diets have been studied scientifically. The other two versions are mainly used by athletes and body builders.

But which foods exactly do you need to avoid, and which do you need to eat if you are following this diet?

Foods to avoid

You need to limit any foods that are high in carbohydrates.

This means that you should avoid carb-based foods such as:

  • grains … wheat products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc
  • sugary foods … sodas, fruit juices, ice cream, smoothies and sweets (candy)
  • legumes … beans, peas, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and so on
  • root vegetables and tubers … potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips etc
  • most fruits … with the exception of berries

You also need to avoid low-fat or dietary products which are usually highly processed and are high in carbohydrates. In addition, you should ignore condiments and sauces that contain sugar and unhealthy fats. And you should eat very little processed vegetable oil, mayonnaise and similar foods which are choc-a-bloc with unhealthy fats.

Alcoholic beverages are also a no-no as they can throw you out of ketosis. Sugar-free diet foods can also affect your ketone levels especially when they are high in sugar alcohols … these foods tend to be highly-processed also.

Foods to eat

A ketogenic diet should be based on whole, single-ingredient foods that are high in fats and/or low in carbohydrates. Ketogenic experts recommend the following:

  • meat … red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey
  • fatty fish … such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel
  • nuts and seeds … almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc
  • eggs … from free-range chickens
  • butter and cream … from grass-fed cows
  • cheese … unprocessed cheese such as cheddar, goat’s cheese, cream cheese, blue cheeses, mozzarella
  • avocados … whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
  • healthy oils … extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil
  • low-carb veggies … most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc
  • condiments … you can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices
Ketogenic diet and weight loss

Several studies over the last 15 years indicate that the ketogenic diet is effective in helping you lose weight. In addition, you lose weight without having to count carbs or track your intake of food.

One such study of 42 healthy but obese women, published in the Journal of endocrinology and metabolism in April 2003, found that people on a ketogenic diet lost more than twice as much weight as persons on a low-fat calorie-restricted diet. Their triglycerides and HDL levels also improved significantly.

Another study, published in Diabetic Medicine, a journal of the British Diabetic Association, in December 1007, of 13 subjects with type 2 diabetes and 13 healthy subjects found that those on a ketogenic diet lost three times more weight than those following the diet recommended by Diabetes UK. But there were no differences between the two groups in changes in their levels of HbA1c, ketones or lipids.

Being overweight or obese is an important factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. The fact that following a ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight suggests that this diet might be helpful in reversing diabetes.

Ketogenic diet and diabetes

A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, published in March 2005 found that a ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by 75%.

In another study published in Nutrition & Metabolism in December 2008, 84 volunteers with obesity and type 2 diabetes followed either (a) a ketogenic diet (ie <20g of carbs a day) or (b) a low-glycemic, reduced-calorie diet (ie 500 kcal/day less than a diet calculated to maintain their current weight) for 24 weeks.

Both diets led to improvements in HbA1c, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and weight loss. Group (a) on the ketogenic diet had greater improvements in HbA1c, body weight), and HDL cholesterol compared to group (b) on reduced calories. Furthermore, diabetes medications were reduced or eliminated in 95.2% of those in group (a) against 62% of the participants in group (b).   

How the high-fat, low-carb diet works

Persons eating the standard Western diet obtain their energy from glucose. When they digest their food, glucose (which comes mainly from the carbohydrates in their diet) is released into the blood stream where it travels to the muscle cells. At the same time the pancreas releases insulin into the blood stream. The purpose of insulin is to open the receptors in the muscle cells so that the glucose can enter the cells to provide energy.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your basic problem is that these receptors are blocked with fat and the insulin cannot open the cell doors. Hence the glucose cannot enter the muscle cells and you end up with too much fat and insulin floating around your body and causing severe damage to your health over time.  

The trick to reversing your type 2 diabetes is simple. If you follow the Beating-Diabetes (low-sugar, low-fat) diet you will starve your body of fat and after a few weeks the receptors in your muscle cells will unblock, enabling glucose to enter the cells thereby ‘reversing’ your diabetes.

The effects of the high-fat, low-carb ketonic diet are entirely different. When you follow the keto diet, your body switches to using fat as its source of energy rather than carbs. This is known as ketosis, which involves the liver producing ketone bodies (aka ketones) out of fat and using these for energy instead of carbohydrates.

Ketone bodies or ketones (acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone) are used in healthy individuals to provide energy to the cells of the body when glucose is low or absent in the diet.

Should you make the switch?

Though it is obviously effective in helping you lose weight and in all probability can enable you to reverse your diabetes, a ketogenic diet can have negative side effects.

Keto flu … is an unpleasant side effect that you may experience as you transition to a ketogenic diet. You may experience fatigue, dizziness, brain fog and insomnia. But those you have made the transition say that it passes after some time.

Nutritional deficiencies … the keto diet limits the kinds of food you can eat and entire food groups, such as beans, legumes, whole grains, as well as many fruits and vegetables are eliminated from your diet … many of these foods contain vitamins and minerals which you cannot get from any other sources. The keto dies is not a balanced diet so if you go this route on a long-term basis you need to take a wide range of supplements to make up for the loss of micro-nutrients.

Constipation … when you eliminate most fruits and vegetables from you diet you run the risk of becoming deficient in dietary fibre with the result that you become constipated. The solution is to add some low-carb, fibre-rich vegetables to your diet, such as asparagus (2% carbs), Broccoli (7%), Tomatoes (4%), Cucumber (4%), Cauliflower (5%), Eggplant (6%), Bell Peppers (6%) and Green Beans (7%).

Loss of electrolytes … as you enter ketosis, your body will start dumping its stores of glycogen (the main form in which glucose is stored in your body) through urination. An increase in how often you urinate will inevitably lead to a loss of electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium and potassium. These electrolytes are essential for cardiac function and a normal heart beat, and that loss can put you at risk of cardiac arrhythmia. To avoid this you should eat avocados, leafy green vegetables, asparagus and cruciferous vegetables which are natural sources of this electrolytes. Add a pinch of sea-salt to your meals to up your sodium levels. You can also take an over-the-counter supplement.

Dehydration … a keto diet is known as a ‘water flushing’ diet because the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver are reduced through urination. Thus, along with loss of electrolytes, dehydration is thus a real threat in the early stages of the diet. The solution is to drink copious amounts of water, at least 2.5 litres a day. The requirement to drink water is also a feature of the Beating-Diabetes diet.

Kidney damage … untreated dehydration can lead to acute kidney damage. In addition, high levels of nitrogen created by excess protein can also increase pressure on your kidneys, damaging the cells and leading to the formation of kidney stones. Thus, it is only sensible to seek medical advice before you embark on the keto diet, especially if you already have issues with your kidneys and liver.

Muscle loss … is a real possibility when you are in ketosis for a long time. While protein is the basic muscle builder, you muscles also need carbs for their formation and maintenance. Without those carbs your body starts to break down muscle. In itself this would not be dangerous for most of your muscle mass. Unfortunately, your heart is also a muscle, so it too could get damaged.

Low blood pressure … one of benefits of the ketogenic diet is that it can help reduce elevated levels of blood pressure. Thus, if you are already taking prescription medicines to control hypertension, it can cause abnormally low blood pressure levels, taking them so low that it can be dangerous, even deadly. The solution is to discuss whether you should reduce or stop your medications with your doctor and follow his or her advice.

When you consider the risks involved, the answer to the question is you probably should not switch … especially if the Beating Diabetes diet is working for you.

Why you should eat cruciferous vegetables

As we diabetics well know, to beat our diabetes we should make plants, such as vegetables, the main focus of our diet. But not all vegetables are equally beneficial. Some of most healthful are in the group known as cruciferous vegetables. But what are they and what are the benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables?

The Cruciferae family of vegetables are cool-weather vegetables. They are so called because they have four petals so that (with a bit of imagination) they seem to resemble a cross.

Cruciferous vegetables are high in several vitamins and soluble fibre. They also contain multiple nutrients and phytochemicals.

As one of the dominant food crops worldwide, cruciferous vegetables come in a wide variety of forms. A very restricted list includes:

  • bpak choi (aka bok choy)
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • kale
  • radish
  • sprouts (Brussels)
  • turnip

And many, many more.

Health benefits of cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are low in calories but rich in folate, vitamins C, E and K and soluble fibre.

These vegetables are also good sources of phytonutrients … plant-based compounds that may help lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables also contain glucosinolates, chemicals that are responsible for the aroma and flavour of these plants. These chemicals have been shown to have anti-cancer effects.

According to the National Cancer Institute in the USA, studies in rats and mice have shown that indoles and isothiocyanates (compounds that are formed when glucosinolates are broken down) provide cells with protection against damage to their DNA, inactivate carcinogens, and have anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects.

But the evidence that this also happens when humans consume cruciferous vegetables is underwhelming. Studies of cancers such as of the prostate, colon, lung and breast, show little or no association between eating these vegetables and the risk of developing these specific cancers.

However, cruciferous vegetables may help to protect against cancer by reducing oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is an overload of oxygen-free radicals, harmful molecules generated by the body. Reducing free radicals probably reduces the risk of various cancers such as colon, lung, breast and prostate.

In a study funded by the US National Cancer Institute, 20 participants ate two cups of cruciferous vegetables a day for three weeks after which they reverted to their normal eating habits. When their oxidative stress was measured at the end of the three weeks, it was found that it had dropped 22% when they were eating lots of cruciferous vegetables.

Diets rich in fish and cruciferous vegetables may help to protect against cardiovascular disease. A recent study found that this kind of diet was linked to lower levels of markers for inflammation in the body … markers that signal an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cooking and consuming cruciferous vegetables

Eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables will not harm you. However, they are likely to improve your health and reduce your risk of various chronic diseases. So, eating them is highly recommended.

Here are some general tips:

  • Eat these vegetables raw or only lightly steamed. If you overcook them they can have a strong sulphurous smell and taste.
  • You will find cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower ready-to-go in the fresh food or frozen foods section of your supermarket.
  • Only buy fresh broccoli … it has firm florets with a purple, dark green or bluish hue at the top. These will have more beta-carotene and vitamin C than florets with light green tops. If broccoli is yellow or limp don’t buy it … it is old.
  • Snowy white broccoli florets or dark green broccoli is a must for any raw vegetable platter.
  • Adding raw broccoli or cauliflower florets to a green salad greatly boosts the nutrients in the dish
  • You can add chopped cruciferous vegetables to soups, stews and casseroles during a final few minutes of cooking (to avoid over-cooking them).

Now for the specifics:

Bpak choi ….. is a kind of Chinese cabbage that looks like a hybrid of celery and lettuce. It has a mild flavour and fits well in stir-fries or soups. If you make a noodle soup with bpak choi, chuck in a little bit of chopped ginger to give it a kick.

Broccoli ….. can be eaten raw on its own, in a salad or with a dip as a quick snack. Try steaming it (but don’t overdo it) and topping it with a low-fat sauce. You could also roast it in the oven. If you don’t care for the taste but want the nutrients, drop it into a strongly-flavoured casserole.

Brussels sprouts ….. the bane of generations of school children, are usually eaten in winter especially during Yuletide. They have a very distinctive taste. They are usually boiled but try roasting them in the oven.

Cabbage ….. is usually overcooked so be careful. Another cruciferous vegetable with a distinctive but mild taste, cabbage goes well with most main courses. Or it can be shredded and mixed with beans and sweet potatoes to make a potent side-dish.

Kale ….. is slightly more bitter than spinach or lettuce but is highly nutritious. You can sauté it with a drop of olive oil, garlic and pepper for a quick side-dish or bake it in the oven with some seasoning as a substitute for potato. Or drop a few raw leaves into a smoothie to boost your drink’s vitamin and mineral content.   

Radishes ….. are the perfect garnish for a fresh salad. Unlike the other cruciferous vegetables above the roots, rather than the leaves, are eaten. Radishes have a peppery taste and besides giving a plain old salad a pleasant lift, they can be eaten glazed with mint and onion, or glazed and roasted with fresh herbs.

Turnips ….. are another root vegetable. They have a purple skin. Their texture is similar to that of potatoes, but they have a much more distinctive, slightly peppery, flavour. In fact, once boiled they can be mashed and used as a substitute for potatoes in a main course ….. or mashed and mixed with boiled mashed carrots with a little added black pepper.

The link between diabetes and thyroid problems (and what you can do about it)

Thyroid problems are more common in people with diabetes than they are in the population as a whole. But what is the nature of this link and how do you treat thyroid problems? Continue reading “The link between diabetes and thyroid problems (and what you can do about it)”

Why you should eat a plant-focused diet

The evidence is mounting that a plant-focused diet is best for managing diabetes. But there are a huge variety of diets in this category. Here’s the rundown, along with the proven benefits and a few practical pointers on switching to a plant-based diet. Continue reading “Why you should eat a plant-focused diet”