The Best Way to Get Diabetes: Follow the Diabetes Dietary Guidelines

I recently came across this outrage from the most authoritative diabetes organization in the country:

I wish this “learning center” were a joke – the title certainly is. (I doubt the Greek playwrights could have come up with something so morbidly ironic.) The federal government’s dietary recommendations as per the Food Pyramid are recycled here for diabetics as a beneficial course of treatment for successfully managing blood glucose and insulin. Note that the only difference between this path to diabetes and the regular one is that American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association moved legumes – rightfully – from the meat and fish category to the base of the pyramid. Of course that change pales in comparison to the utter lunacy of recommending a diet of 60-70% grains to diabetics! These are our most esteemed diabetes “experts”. The truth is that if you want to know why we’re facing a diabetes epidemic, look no further. If you want to develop type 2 diabetes, I’m stumped for a more expeditious way to do it.

My dietary recommendations are vastly different and you can see my pyramid to get an idea. If you’re new to this site and are unfamiliar with why grains are the last thing any of us – but especially anyone with blood sugar concerns – should be consuming so recklessly, read my definitive guide to insulin, blood sugar, and type 2 diabetes. The insulin response is one of the most important original mechanisms to have evolved in all animals including humans. The current lemming fidelity to the grain-based diet is but a flash in the evolutionary pan – and a dangerous one, at that.

By the way, the site linked is a commercial one that sell diabetes products. They lifted the pyramid image from the ADA. I’d do the same if I wanted to sell more glucose monitors and syringes.

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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37 thoughts on “The Best Way to Get Diabetes: Follow the Diabetes Dietary Guidelines”

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    1. I’m 55 and have no signs of diabetes of any kind, have hiked the AT at 50, and my blood pressure is 110/65. I hike at least 3 miles every day for the exercise. I’ve live on a paleo-indian foraging diet that is more realistic than the high protein low carb diet I’ve read about.

      I think processed foods are the culprit with poor health. That pyramid by the diabetes organization contains an excessive amount of processed foods. Milk and milk products are processed foods. Oils and sugars are processed foods. All grain and bean products are processed foods.

      My rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t eat it completely raw, I won’t eat it. I don’t drink oil from bottle, so I use it at all. Unless sprouted, grains and beans have to be cooked, so I only eat them sprouted.

      My pyramid substitutes fresh greens for grains and beans–poke, spinach, kale, mustard, lambs quarters, fiddlehead, and so on. Fruits and vegetables stay in the same place, and include sprouts. Nuts take up the place of milk products and animal products. In the place of oils and sugars I place fish like salmon, eggs from my own free range birds, and the occasional bit of alligator tail, frog legs, crayfish, mussels, or whatever an opportunistic omnivore might run across while foraging.

      I forage for nuts and wild greens, or get them from my own trees and grow my own, or buy raw nuts online, but in the end my grocery bill is less than $80 a month. Eating out I get a salad with a slice of lemon on the side, minus croutons, steamed vegetables minus oil and butter, some hot water for my own green tea or choose unsweetened iced tea and lemon, and I nibble my own nuts or dried fruits that I always carry with me. I only eat out in social or business situations and when questioned I just tell them I prefer a light meal today.

  1. Notice the tomato in the vegetable section and the lemon in the meat section.

  2. I remember a long way back in middle school when my ‘Health’ teacher made it a homework assignment for us to follow this food pyramid, and the recommended servings (we had to keep a log to get the grade). Yuck. Shame they still teach this at schools.

  3. The inner scholar in me cringes at such a sight.

    Gee, I’m not diabetic, I’m not pre-diabetic, I’m not even in close danger of becoming it, yet even I know enough about diabetes to realize that these ‘recommendations’ are nothing but an accident waiting to happen…

  4. I mean come on even the USDA has updated their food pyramid — still not right but better than it was. These guys haven’t even done that much.

  5. My mom is a 71 yo with type 2 on oral only. My nutritionist sister, through diet manipulation and supplements was able to get her bg levels from an average in the 160-180’s down to 100-110. Following these idiotic guidelines would undo everything. Just shameful and reckless.

  6. Howdy,
    I’ve been enjoying your site for quite a while now and have learned loads. I just really wish you’d take a bit more care to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes – as a type 1er who’s also something of a health nut, it can be very annoying to be the victim of the stigmatization of type 2 from people who aren’t entirely familiar with the difference.
    Otherwise, I totally agree with the post, and keep up the good work!

  7. My grandfather had diabetes. My father (his son) had adult-onset type1 diabetes (essentially died from that). My mother has developed type2 a year or two ago — her sister & nephew on that side of the family has it too (they’re Asian and just can’t seem to give up the idea of white rice).

    …You can IMAGINE the prospect of the ticking-bomb here. I have been exposed to all sides of it, in addition to the “waiting game”.
    When I started CrossFit I learned about the ZONE diet and it’s lead to a huge epiphany for how my body responds to & processes what I put in it, specifically carbs but more importantly the COMBINATIONs of what I eat.
    Not endorsing this, but in an effort to help my mother, I read “How to Halt Diabetes in 25 days” by Mike Adams, and that helped tremendously for the wake-up call to instigate further research.
    Thanks for spreading the word to re-think the issue.

  8. Thanx, i have been trying to get type 1 diabetes for a while and i thought i should have lots of sugar er somthin. Seriously i have. Im Sooo Not being sarcastic!
    Thyx again!

  9. The Food pyramid he is using is one from the 90s, since then it has been updated. Scientific American has done a report on the new and improved pyramid for the year 2000. Check your facts first!

    1. Daniella,

      Actually, if you go to the website Mark links to, they are still using the exact food pyramid graphic that mark shows above as of 10/25/12.

  10. Ouch, Mark! You are trying to turn us all into vegetarians. No way! Most vegetarians I’ve met haven’t been particularly healthy anyway.

  11. Being a Type 1 Diabetic the food pyramid doesn’t make any sense or have any value. The only thing that matters is that you take enough insulin to counteract all the carbs you take in during the day. The HARD part is timing the insulin release rate with food intake so you don’t get highs or lows, you rarely have a perfect day, maybe 1 in 30 if you are lucky.

    1. “The only thing that matters is that you take enough insulin to counteract all the carbs you take in during the day”

      No, no and no. What matter is NOT taking inthose carbs. Insulin is the aging hormon. IF you have an average bg of 90, it really doesn’t matter if your insulin level is 50. It’s that high insulin level that’s goning to kill you

  12. How can they get it so BLATANTLY wrong with countless scientific studies showing over and over again what a high carb diet will do to the human body??? It’s unbelievable! My own MOM has type II diabetes and these idiots recommend the same thing to her. It’s really a tough sell trying to convince her that I’m right, and Mark from marksdailyapple is right, and her 12 years of schooling, DOCTOR is wrong. It’s CRIMINAL the way they spread misinformation. My mother’s health and life expectancy is at stake and these clowns keep feeding her LIES.

  13. My father is in his late 50’s and developed type 2 diabetes a few years back (I believe as a result of his diet). Now he has to take a large number of pills every day to ‘help’ him. I have suggested that he follow a more primal diet – but was told that the ‘leaflet from the hospital’ says that he should have more bread and potatoes. Every night he comes home from work, has dinner, pops his pills, and promptly falls asleep. I have tried to explain that him falling asleep might be because of his diet, but unfortunatley my parents choose not to question conventional wisdom.

  14. The pyramid might not have any sense,with good habits like exercise,drink enough water,get involve in community where friends could be found then break the lonely life.Laughing habits too.All this have the power to lower the sugar level

  15. Scott,

    I have given up trying to help people, even those suffering diabetes, obesity, heart disease. They look at me like I am a NUT case when I suggest their doctors are wrong, the OFFICIAL Government Food Pyramid is wrong. Bread is bad?? Don’t eat grains??? Don’t drink soda pop ????

    WHO AM I to suggest such INSANE BLASPHEMY ? ?

    I would be more believable by suggesting that I am from Mars, and have x-ray vision.

    Does anyone have any ideas on how to make a case that is even remotely believable?


  16. My mom has had diabetes for years and was taking insulin, along with medication for high blood pressure. She didn’t have the money for her medicine and stopped taking it. Her doctor told her her heart would stop, if she stopped taking her blood pressure medicine, but she says she feels better than she has in years. She eats mostly meat from animals that her friends have killed and vegetables from her own backyard garden. She says she can just taste something and know if it will make her sick, so that’s how she knows what to eat.

  17. i have heard that diabetes is actually reversible…… just to make it clear diabetes is not a disease but infact it is actually a condition of the body…… due to lack of workout and excess consumption of artificial sugar and sweetners…etc

    water therapy can reverse the diabetic condition of the body

    also there are other methods like “Pancha Bhootha” Healing or Healing with the 5 Elements, like EARTH-WATER-FIRE-AIR-SPACE, which is the ancient indian method of bringing back our body to the normal condition from various sickness.

    check out this site with lots of information……

  18. I think I understand the problem. You see when I proved to be allergic to all the medications the diet I was told to follow was the one above. My glucose went from 20 to 24 because I am not medicated. I was told so much rubbish but the good thing for me is that following the usual recommendations jut does not work. I was even told to eat carbs at 9.00 pm at night because there is some evidence that this levels out the bsl. They couldbn’t tell me what evidence only that there is some. So I read Bernstein and follow his recommendations and the paleo diet. No I am averaging 5 and going down. So for type 2’s medication is the problem it allows this crazy diet to be followed whilst at the same time requiring increases to the medication. Thank goodness for people like yourself and this community. For me there was no one as the people I dealt with had never come across an allergy queen before and I had to work it out myself.

  19. I have a son who is newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In the months from April to August he has gained 12 pounds since switching to the “diabetic diet” that his endocrinologist says is essential in my son maintaining a healthy glucose level. I am not a nutritionist or physician. I am just a mom, a mom that can see the difference the ADA and their diet has affected my son. It’s not healthy! How can eating massive amounts of carbs and injecting massive amounts of insulin to cover those carbs healthy! It’s not. Plain and simple.

    1. My son has had type 1 for 14 months. He has been eating low carb since he was discharged from hospital. I did my own research and bought books and implemented the diet on my own. The recommendations by mainstream diabetes information organisations are the diet of death as far as I am concerned. All his blood profiles are perfect, in fact better than some non diabetics. He is healthier now than when we used to eat the standard shocking diet of bread and breakfast cereals and low fat crap.

      Please buy this book The Diabetes Solution by Dr Richard Bernstein. It will give you so much information that no endocrinologist or dietitian even know about.

  20. I had GD & my diet was from my diabetes expert & consisted of 5, yes FIVE, carb loaded meals a day. I am now so angry as I ended up taking 40 units a night to “control” my fasting level in the morning. It was the ONLY high one – but nothing to do with the 15+ trips to the loo during the night. Miraculously the GD disappeared 4 weeks before the caesar I had to have because of the GD! I blew up to 135kg, “my fault” said doc, but their diet was over 300g carbs/day. And no expert has beenable to tell me the fast level of a healthy person who is made to get out of bed, walk around the house & go back to bed 20 times a night. Next preg they can all go jump, I will eat what I eat now, at least I feel human!