Studies have shown that dietary changes can enable those who have had Type 2 diabetes for decades to get off all their insulin injections in as little as two weeks

Studies have shown that dietary changes can enable those who have had Type 2 diabetes for decades to get off all their insulin injections in as little as two weeks

An estimated 4.5 million people are living with diabetes in the UK today. Some 700 are newly diagnosed each day — it’s a modern plague and a horribly common cause of early death.

But in many cases, diabetes can be eased, and even reversed, through changes in diet. In fact, by switching to a healthy diet, you can start improving your health within a matter of hours.

There are two types of diabetes, both of which are characterised by chronically elevated levels of sugar in your blood. Type 1 occurs if your pancreas stops producing insulin (the hormone that keeps your blood sugar in check), and Type 2 if your body becomes resistant to insulin’s effects.

Type 2, the most common form of diabetes, is primarily caused by a fatty build-up around our muscle and liver cells, and 90 per cent of people who get it are overweight.

Although both forms of diabetes can be controlled through drugs, it is still regarded as a life-shortening condition because of the widespread damage caused by the build-up of sugar in the blood over time.

This can ultimately lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, and stroke.

UK statistics show that people with diabetes are 37.5 per cent more likely to die early than their peers, which means more than 20,000 people with diabetes die before their time each year. But even if you already have diabetes, and all of the associated complications, there is still hope.

A plant-based diet may even reverse Type 2 diabetes. Studies show that dietary changes can enable those who have had Type 2 diabetes for decades to get off all their insulin injections in as little as two weeks.

90-minute walk slashes your risk of death 

As a fundamental element of my Daily Dozen I recommend exercise — every day.

There’s now no doubt whatsoever that exercise is a great route to longer life. It can ward off, and possibly reverse, mild cognitive decline, boost your immune system, prevent and treat high blood pressure, and improve your mood and quality of sleep.

But I worry that the official line on exercise has set the bar too low. The authorities recommend levels that they think might be achievable (i.e. 20 minutes a day) but there are great health improvements on offer if you can manage more.

Following the current recommendations of moderate exercise (such as walking) for 20 minutes a day might reduce your overall mortality rate by 7 per cent compared to someone who does no exercise at all.

But boosting that to 40 minutes a day doubles your health protection, dropping overall mortality by 14 per cent. Adding another 20 minutes, and taking an hour-long walk each day, might reduce your mortality risk by 24 per cent. Wouldn’t you want to achieve that kind of risk reduction if you could? If you can do it, getting 90 minutes’ exercise is even better.

So that’s why my Daily Dozen recommendation is for 90 minutes of ‘moderate’ activity, or 40 minutes of ‘vigorous’ activity. You might not achieve that absolutely every day, but it is a good goal to aim for. Any amount, though, is better than nothing.

It seems the more plant-based your diet, the more likely you are to be able to maintain a healthy weight — an important factor in diabetes control.

You can essentially eat as much as you want without worrying about counting calories, skipping meals or portion control, because most plant foods are naturally nutrient dense and low in calories.

But beyond the weight loss aspect, there are clearly other protective benefits of a plant-based diet.

In studies, even participants who didn’t lose weight when put on a plant-based diet, or even those who gained weight, still appeared to improve their diabetes.

In fact, a study of tens of thousands of adults in the U.S. and Canada found people who cut out all animal products, including fish, dairy and eggs, appeared to have a 78 per cent reduced risk of diabetes. One key reason could be the fact that plant fats are so much better for the body than animal fats.

Saturated fats can wreak all sorts of havoc in muscle cells and may result in the accumulation of toxic compounds from being broken down.

But the unsaturated fats found mostly in nuts, olives, and avocados may protect against the detrimental effects of saturated fat.

Plant variety is important. The addition of just two different types of fruit and vegetables a week, for instance, has been associated with an 8 per cent reduction in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

Check off my Daily Dozen every day and experiment with the delicious recipes in the Mail all this week, and you will be on the right road.

There is an important medical warning: if you take drugs to control blood sugar or blood pressure, you should talk to your GP before adopting a plant-based diet so they can monitor the drugs as you get better naturally.

And if you take the blood- thinning drug warfarin, you should talk to your doctor before significantly increasing your greens intake. The drug works by crippling the enzyme that recycles vitamin K, which is involved in clotting your blood.

So, if your system gets an influx of fresh vitamin K, which is concentrated in greens, you can undermine the effectiveness of the drug. You should still be able to eat greens, but your doctor may have to adjust the dose of the drug to match your dietary intake.


The more pulses, beans and legumes you eat, the healthier you may be. Many studies have shown that people who pack their diet with split peas, chickpeas, and lentils tend to weigh less, have slimmer waists and lower blood pressure compared with people who don’t eat many legumes.

One study asked people to eat 1 kg of pulses a week without making any other changes to their diet. A second group was asked to cut 500 calories a day from their diet. Even though the pulses group was eating far more food, these people lost the most weight.

Smoothies: Your Daily Dozen in a glass 

My smoothie strategy is to combine super-tasty foods with those that don’t taste as good (mango with raw kale, for instance) so they balance each other out.

Smoothies let you consume foods you might not otherwise pack into your daily diet and they are convenient. For me, this means I can be at my treadmill desk, exercising, working and getting some of my Daily Dozen through a straw, all at the same time.

A good blender will break down fruit and vegetable cell walls better than your teeth, and this helps release more nutrition than we would otherwise get.

I have to confess, I loved the idea of my first green smoothie (or ‘blended salad’). Greens, the healthiest food on the planet, in liquid form!

Then I tasted it. It felt like drinking someone’s lawn. I gagged and almost vomited.

You have to build up to green smoothies. Try adding a handful of baby spinach to a fruit smoothie — you’ll hardly taste it.

Next, try two green vegetables. Slowly, your taste buds can adapt to more greens.

Always sip smoothies slowly so your mind and body have time to register the intake and send appropriate fullness signals, to stop you feeling hungry afterwards.

It seems that eating chickpeas and other beans is just as effective at slimming waistlines and improving blood sugar as cutting calories. It also improves cholesterol and insulin regulation.

I knew beans were healthy, but I didn’t realise just how healthy they are until the amazing microbiome research — studying the array of bacteria that live in the gut, and how they can affect your health — started coming out.

Gut bacteria love pulses, beans and legumes, which is why they take such an important role in my Daily Dozen, and I encourage you to aim to eat three servings a day. A serving is 60 g of hummus; 130 g of cooked beans, split peas, lentils, tofu, or tempeh; or 150 g of fresh peas.

There are a few ways you can make it easier to get your three servings a day:

  • Using dried pulses is cheaper, but it can be time consuming, so cook them in large batches, then portion and freeze.
  • Instead of making one or two servings at a time, cook a large pot of a staple grain with a quick-cooking legume (such as lentils) mixed in, then portion and freeze until you need them.
  • Prepare double batches of slow-cook soups and stews. You’ll save time, and flavour is enhanced, too.
  • Double up on food prep such as chopping onions, refrigerating extra in a sealed container for the next meal.
  • Keep an open tin of beans in the fridge as a reminder to put them in anything and everything.
  • When you open a can of cooked beans, save the water. This viscous liquid, called ‘aquafaba’, is a great source of soluble fibre. It behaves like egg whites, and so it can be whipped into stiff peaks or added to recipes to be used as a binder.

The mix of starches, proteins, and other soluble plant solids which have migrated from the seeds to the water during the cooking process gives aquafaba a wide range of useful emulsifying, foaming, binding, gelatinising and thickening properties.


A condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has quietly become one of the most common cause of chronic liver disease. Obese people are particularly at risk of developing the condition.

It begins with the build-up of fat on the liver and can lead to inflammation and scarring (cirrhosis).

Just one can of a fizzy drink per day appears to raise the odds of fatty liver disease by 45 per cent.

But eating oats has the power to significantly improve liver function among overweight men and women — and help them lose weight as well.

Why walnuts are so healthy

It is healthiest to eat nuts raw. When high-fat and high-protein foods are overheated, damaging molecules are created which can accelerate the ageing process.

The highest levels of these molecules are found in grilled, roasted, fried and barbecued meat, but they can also occur when plant foods high in fat and protein, such as soya foods or nuts, are grilled or toasted.

By eating nuts five days a week, you could make your lifespan longer by up to two years. Walnuts are probably the healthiest nuts, containing the most omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Swap other nuts for walnuts in recipes to maximise a meal’s nutritional punch.

Food focus – Legumes    

Spicy ‘naked’ veggie burgers

Serves 4

Provides: Beans, other veg, flaxseeds, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, whole grains.

  • 1 tsp flaxseeds (or linseeds)
  • 2 tsp blended peeled lemon (see Weekend magazine)
  • 50g rolled oats
  • 1 x 425g BPA-free tin or Tetra Pak kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 55g chopped walnuts
  • 75g chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (or yeast flakes)
  • 1 tbsp white miso paste
  •  ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
  •  Harissa
  • Wholemeal bun, to serve (optional)
  • Steamed greens, to serve (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the flaxseeds and lemon, stirring until well blended, then set aside. In a food processor, grind the oats into a coarse flour. Add the beans, chopped walnuts, onion, garlic and turmeric and process until well combined. Add the tahini, yeast, miso paste, smoked paprika, fresh parsley and the flaxseed mixture. Pulse until well combined. Shape into four patties. Place these on a baking sheet lined with parchment and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4. Bake for 30 minutes, then flip the patties with a metal spatula and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until firm and browned. Serve topped with Harissa in a bun or, if you prefer, ‘naked’ on a bed of steamed greens.

Super salad with garlic dressing

Serves 4

Provides: Greens, other veg, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices.

For the dressing:

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (or yeast flakes)
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  •  1 tbsp blended peeled lemon
  • 1 tbsp white miso paste
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  •  1 tsp Savoury Spice Blend

For the salad:

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
  • 1 bunch watercress, stemmed and chopped
  • 175g halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 3 tbsp hulled hemp seeds

In a blender, combine 120ml water with the dressing ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste and season. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients, toss with the dressing and serve.

Smoky roasted chickpeas 

Serves 1-2

Provides: Beans, herbs and spices.

  • 1 x 425g BPA-free tin or Tetra Pak salt-free chickpeas, drained, rinsed and blotted dry
  • 1 tbsp date syrup
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (or yeast flakes)
  • 2 tsp white miso paste
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  •  ½ tsp Savoury Spice Blend

Preheat the oven to 190c/fan 170c/gas 5. Remove any loose chickpea skins. In a medium-size bowl, combine 2 tbsp water and all the ingredients except the chickpeas and Savoury Spice Blend. Add the chickpeas and toss to coat. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and spread into a single, even layer. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 8 to 10 minutes, until browned and crunchy. Sprinkle with Savoury Spice Blend and serve warm or at room temperature. These are best on the day they are made.

Lentil shepherd’s pie with cauliflower mash

Serves 4

Provides: Beans, cruciferous veg, other veg, herbs and spices.

  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 175g green beans, trimmed and cut into 1cm pieces
  • 1 courgette, chopped
  • 250ml Vegetable Broth (see Weekend magazine) or stock
  • 225g mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp white miso paste
  • 2 tbsp Umami Sauce (see Weekend magazine)
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Ground black pepper
  • 150g cooked lentils
  • Cauliflower Mash (see below)

Steam the onion, carrot and green beans over boiling water for 5 minutes. Add the courgette and steam for 3 minutes more, or until the vegetables are tender. Drain and set aside in a shallow baking dish. Heat the broth in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms, miso, Umami Sauce, thyme, 2 tbsp yeast and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Add 35g of the cooked lentils and blend until smooth. Add up to 120ml additional broth to make the gravy smoother, as desired. Combine the gravy with the remaining 115g lentils, add to the steamed vegetables and stir. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 190c/fan 170c/gas 5. Stir the last 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast into the Cauliflower Mash; then spoon the mash on top of the lentils and vegetables, smoothing to cover the surface. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

TIP: To save time, substitute the carrot, green beans and courgette for 450g frozen mixed vegetables. Simply steam them and then proceed with the recipe.

Cauliflower mash 

Serves 4

Provides: Cruciferous veg, other veg.

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm pieces
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (or yeast flakes)
  • 1 tsp white miso paste
  • 2 tsp roasted garlic (optional)

Steam the cauliflower until soft, for around 10 minutes, then transfer to a bowl or a food processor.

Add the nutritional yeast, miso and roasted garlic (if using) and mash or puree until smooth.

Serve hot instead of mashed potatoes or use as a pie topping (see above).

To roast the garlic, preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6. Trim a thin slice off the top of a whole head of garlic to expose the cloves, wrap in baking parchment and roast cut-side up for 35-40 minutes. When cool, squeeze each clove individually into a sealed container and store in the fridge.

Yellow rice and black beans with broccoli

Serves 4

Provides: Beans, cruciferous veg, herbs and spices, whole grains.

  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp white miso paste
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (or yeast flakes)
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 225g long grain brown, red or black rice
  • 600ml Vegetable Broth (see Weekend) or water
  • 525g small broccoli florets
  • 1 x 425g BPA-free tin or Tetra Pak salt-free black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Minced spring onions, to serve (optional)

Heat 2 tbsp water in a large frying pan or saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the shallot and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the miso, yeast, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cayenne and rice. Stir in the Vegetable Broth and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender. Stir in the broccoli and, if needed, a little more broth. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the broccoli tender. Stir in the beans and serve hot. Add minced spring onions just before serving, if you like, for extra colour.

Granny was right: you MUST eat your greens

Of all the food groups analysed by a highly respected team of Harvard University researchers, greens were associated with the strongest protection against major chronic diseases, including a 20 per cent reduction in risk for heart attacks and strokes offered by every additional daily serving.

All greens contain the green plant pigment chlorophyll, which appears to be able to block cancer-causing carcinogens.

It may also help regenerate a critical molecule called coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in the body which helps us fight against disease.

All greens contain the green plant pigment chlorophyll, which appears to be able to block cancer-causing carcinogens and also helps us fight disease

All greens contain the green plant pigment chlorophyll, which appears to be able to block cancer-causing carcinogens and also helps us fight disease

All greens contain the green plant pigment chlorophyll, which appears to be able to block cancer-causing carcinogens and also helps us fight disease

Eating a chlorophyll-rich diet may be especially important for those on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, as these medications are known to interfere with CoQ10 production.

Many people ask me which greens are best. My answer is the ones you’ll eat most of! Try chicory, radicchio, romaine lettuce and watercress, but make friends with spinach.

Researchers at Cornell University found spinach was the best at suppressing the growth of breast cancer cells — as well as those of the brain, kidney, lung, pancreas, prostate and stomach — in vitro in lab tests.

For many, the best way to boost greens is to enjoy a big daily mixed salad. Why not keep a selection of these ingredients ready prepared? Wash and dry lettuce, mix up a few dressings, and have washed and sliced salad vegetables in sealed containers in the fridge.

Try mixing greens with a healthy wholefood source of fat to boost the absorption of nutrients. Just 3 g of fat — a single walnut or a spoonful of avocado — in a meal will make your greens more effective. You can make a creamy dressing based on tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds), put walnuts in your pesto or sprinkle some sesame seeds on sauteed kale.

Other ways to boost your greens intake include:

  • Adding raw greens (kale and spinach) to a smoothie.
  • Sauteing greens (chard, kale, rocket, chicory, spinach) with garlic, raisins or nuts.
  • Adding greens to a soup.
  • Steaming and topping them with a sauce, like pasta.
  • Baking them into chips.
  • Pairing them with beans and wholegrains or pasta.
  • Pureeing them into a dip.
  • Adding them to a sandwich.
  • Braising them and drizzling with balsamic vinegar.
  • Stir-frying them with ginger and sesame seeds.

Super green smoothie 

Makes 1

Provides: Other fruit, greens, other veg, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, beverage/drink.

Tick six points from your Daily Dozen with this delicious and refreshing drink!

  • 450g spinach
  • 1 large apple, cored
  • 200g diced pineapple
  • ½ ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 15g packed fresh mint leaves
  • 3 soft Medjool dates, pitted
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp blended peeled lemon or lime (see Weekend magazine)
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds or linseeds

In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend until completely smooth. Add 160ml or more water and, if you like, ice. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Artichoke spinach dip

Serves 6

Provides: Beans, greens, other veg, herbs and spices.

  • 250-300g fresh or thawed frozen spinach, cooked and cooled
  • 62g cooked white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (or yeast flakes)
  • 2 tbsp minced spring onions
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  •  2 tsp blended peeled lemon
  • 2 tsp white miso paste
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  •  Savoury Spice Blend
  •  1 x 400g jar artichoke hearts, drained, or 1 x 300g packet frozen artichokes, cooked and cooled
  • Three-Seed Crackers (see tomorrow’s article), wholegrain crostini or raw veggies, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4. Squeeze any excess moisture from the spinach and set aside. In a food processor, combine 2 tbsp water and the beans, yeast, spring onions, garlic, lemon, miso, black pepper and Savoury Spice Blend to taste. Process until smooth. For a creamier texture, add a little more water, 1 tbsp at a time. Add the artichokes and pulse until chopped. Add the spinach and pulse. Transfer to a baking dish and bake until warm, for 12 to 15 minutes. Spoon on to crackers or crostini, or serve as a dip for raw veggies.

Adapted by LOUISE ATKINSON from How Not To Die and How Not To Die Cookbook by Michael Greger with Gene Stone, published by Pan Macmillan, priced £9.99 and £16.99. To order copies with a 30 per cent discount (£6.99 and £11.89), visit or call 0844 571 0640. P&P is free on orders over £15. Offers valid until February 17, 2018. Additional photography: Will Heap. 

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