Tag Archives: pescitarian

nutrient dense diabetic friendly vegan foods

  • Eating plant-based foods can be a great way to improve nutrient density and reduce the amount of highly insulinogenic processed carbohydrates in your diet.
  • This article looks at how we can optimize a plant-based diet for nutrient density as well as diabetic friendly by reducing insulin load.
  • Finally, we will look at whether adding additional food groups such as seafood, dairy or eggs would diminish or improve the nutrient density of a plant based approach.

nutrient density

A nutrient dense diet is key to maximizing health and satiety with a minimum of calories.  Maximising nutrient density enables our mitochondria to do more with less.  If our world is full of beneficial nutrients our body realises that there is no longer an energy crisis and is more likely to stop searching for more nutrients and lets go of our stored body fat and decrease appetite.

As detailed in the ‘Building a Better Nutrient Density Index’ article, quantifying nutrient density enables us to prioritise foods that contain the highest amount of essential nutrients that are harder to obtain.[1]

The chart below (click to enlarge) shows the percentage of the recommended daily intake of various essential nutrients provided by:

  • all 7000+ foods in the USDA foods database,
  • plant based foods, and
  • the most nutrient dense plant based foods.

2016-10-22

Restricting ourselves to ‘plant based’ foods will improve the vitamin and mineral content of the foods we eat.  However, focusing on the most nutrient dense plant based foods allows us to improve nutrient density even further

most nutrient dense plant based foods

Listed below is a summary of the most nutrient dense plant based foods sorted by their nutrient density score.

The nutrient density score (ND) is shown for each of the foods.

As you can see from the plot below from Nutrition Data, celery, which has a very high nutrient density score (ND), will provide you with a range of vitamins and minerals equivalent to 92% of your recommended daily intake with 1000 calories and 83% of your protein intake with 1000 calories.  Keep in mind though that you would need to eat five bunches of celery to get that 1000 calories though.

2016-10-22-1

The fact that broccoli has a low energy density may be a benefit if you are trying to lose weight, but perhaps would not be so helpful if you are fueling for an Ironman Triathlon.

Also shown in the tables below is the net carbohydrates and calories per 100g for each of the foods listed.

The great thing about most of these foods is that they will provide you with heaps of nutrients while having a low energy density which will make it hard to over consume them to a point that they will spike your blood glucose levels.

In the second half of this article we will look at how we can choose foods that will be more gentle on blood glucose levels for those of us that are more insulin resistant.

Vegetables

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
watercress 31 65% 2 11
broccoli 27 36% 3 22
spinach 25 49% 4 23
spirulina 22 70% 6 26
turnip greens 19 44% 4 29
asparagus 19 50% 3 22
portabella mushrooms 18 55% 5 29
Chinese cabbage 18 54% 2 12
white mushroom 18 65% 5 22
chard 16 51% 3 19
zucchini 16 40% 2 17
cauliflower 15 50% 4 25
parsley 14 48% 5 36
lettuce 14 50% 2 15
chives 13 48% 4 30
endive 13 23% 1 17
mung beans 13 74% 4 19
collards 12 38% 4 32
chicory greens 12 23% 2 23
okra 11 50% 3 22
seaweed (wakame) 11 79% 11 45
beet greens 11 35% 2 22
soybeans (sprouted) 10 49% 12 81
shitake mushroom 10 58% 7 39
alfalfa 10 19% 1 23
escarole 9 24% 1 19
summer squash 9 45% 2 19
brown mushrooms 8 73% 5 22
edamame 8 41% 13 121
radicchio 7 67% 4 23
Brussel sprouts 6 50% 6 42
bamboo shoots 6 60% 5 27
kale 6 60% 5 28
celery 6 50% 3 18
peas 6 65% 7 42
seaweed (kelp) 5 77% 10 43
radishes 3 43% 2 16
cabbage 3 55% 4 23
snap beans 3 58% 3 15
onions 3 65% 6 32
shiitake mushrooms 3 82% 72 296
arugula 3 45% 3 25
carrots 3 61% 4 23
turnips 2 51% 3 21
sauerkraut 2 39% 2 19
pickles 2 39% 1 12
cucumber 2 39% 1 12
red peppers 1 40% 3 31
eggplant 1 35% 3 25
chayote 1 40% 3 24
jalapeno peppers 1 37% 3 27
radishes 1 60% 3 18
cucumber 1 67% 3 15
pumpkin 1 76% 4 20
lima beans 1 70% 20 113
dandelion greens 0 54% 7 45
mustard greens 0 36% 3 27
yeast extract spread 0 59% 27 185

Spices

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
basil 22 47% 3 23
parsley 21 49% 44 292
paprika 6 27% 26 282
cloves 5 35% 35 274
mustard seed 3 27% 37 508
curry powder 2 13% 14 325
caraway seed 1 27% 28 333
turmeric 0 61% 52 312
sage -0 26% 26 315
thyme -0 34% 31 276
dill seed -0 42% 43 305
coriander -1 64% 54 279

Fruits

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
carambola -5 56% 5 31
avocado -5 8% 3 160
rhubarb -5 55% 3 21
Guava -5 57% 11 68
jackfruit -6 61% 16 95
cantaloupe -7 70% 7 34
apricots -7 71% 10 48
strawberries -7 49% 4 32
kiwifruit -7 55% 9 61
blackberries -7 27% 3 43
peaches -8 70% 8 39
grapefruit -8 85% 8 33
boysenberries -8 54% 8 50
honeydew melon -8 66% 7 36
lemon peel -8 34% 6 47
mango -9 63% 11 60

Legumes

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
soy protein isolate 16 72% 69 335
tofu 13 34% 8 83
soy sauce 13 78% 12 57
soybeans 6 44% 49 446
natto 3 39% 22 211
lupin seeds 3 51% 50 371
cowpeas 3 79% 68 336
lima beans 3 70% 61 338
lentils 2 64% 19 116
mung beans 2 73% 65 347
navy beans 1 72% 63 337
broad beans 1 61% 54 341
kidney beans 0 74% 63 337
black beans 0 73% 63 341
pinto beans -0 73% 64 347

Nuts and seeds

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
pumpkin seeds 2 19% 29 559
sunflower seeds 0 15% 22 546
coconut water -0 66% 3 19
sesame butter -3 21% 33 586
brazil nuts -3 9% 16 659
cashews -3 26% 40 580
walnuts -4 13% 22 619
flax seed -4 11% 16 534
sesame seeds -4 10% 17 631
pistachio nuts -4 22% 34 569
almond butter -4 16% 26 614
almonds -4 15% 25 607
butternuts -6 17% 28 612
hazel nuts -6 10% 17 629
macadamia nuts -7 6% 12 718
pine nuts -8 11% 21 673
coconut milk -9 8% 5 230
coconut -9 10% 9 354
coconut cream -9 8% 7 330
gingko nuts -9 52% 15 111

diabetic friendly nutrient dense vegan foods

While the foods listed above would represent a significant dietary improvement for most people, those who are insulin resistant may struggle to keep their blood glucose levels stable if they eat too much non-fibre carbohydrate that can be found in plant based foods (e.g. bread, sweet potato, quinoa, rice, beans or spaghetti).

It is hard to get too many calories and / or spike your glucose levels if you restrict yourself to vegetables like celery, broccoli and spinach.

The problem comes if you are still hungry after you have eaten your fill of non-starchy veggies and are not wanting to lose more weight.  People using a plant based approach may end up filling up on energy dense higher carbohydrate foods which are more likely to raise their blood glucose and insulin levels.

As shown in the chart below, our insulin response to food is only partially explained by the quantity of carbohydrates in our food.

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The analysis of the food insulin index data indicates that our insulin response is also influenced by the fibre and the protein in the foods we eat.

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We can use the formula below to estimate the amount of insulin that our food will require as shown by the formula below.  Foods with a lower insulin load will enable your pancreas to keep up with demand and maintain normal blood glucose levels without the ‘blood glucose roller coaster’.

insulin load (g)=carbohydrates (g)-fiber (g) + 0.56*protein (g)

The higher fat foods actually have a lower nutrient density than the most nutrient dense vegetarian foods listed above.  Ideally in time someone with insulin resistance would be able to restore their insulin sensitivity through eating nutrient dense, low insulin load foods along with perhaps intermittent fasting and exercise.  However, in the meantime the lower insulin load foods will enable you to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

diabetic friendly plant based foods

The list of foods below is prioritised by both nutrient density and the proportion of insulinogenic calories.  These foods will provide high levels of nutrition while also being gentle on your blood glucose levels with lower levels of insulin required.

vegetables

The vegetables in this list have a lower percentage of insulinogenic calories, lower amounts of net carbohydrates and a low energy density and therefore will have a minimal impact on blood glucose levels.   While the percentage of insulinogenic calories is often high, the net carbohydrates is low so the effect on blood glucose will be minimal.

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
alfalfa 12 19% 1 23 1.47
endive 15 23% 1 17 1.38
chicory greens 14 23% 2 23 1.37
escarole 10 24% 1 19 1.27
broccoli 30 36% 3 22 1.14
coriander 10 30% 2 23 1.07
beet greens 15 35% 2 22 0.97
zucchini 18 40% 2 17 0.81
collards 7 37% 4 33 0.77
eggplant 1 35% 3 25 0.77
mustard greens 2 36% 3 27 0.72
banana pepper 1 36% 3 27 0.71
jalapeno peppers 3 37% 3 27 0.71
turnip greens 20 44% 4 29 0.71
spinach 30 49% 4 23 0.70
pickles 6 39% 1 12 0.67
sauerkraut 4 39% 2 19 0.66
edamame 8 41% 13 121 0.65
cucumber 4 39% 1 12 0.64
red peppers 2 40% 3 31 0.58
asparagus 23 50% 3 22 0.56
chayote 1 40% 3 24 0.55
radishes 3 43% 2 16 0.52
summer squash 9 45% 2 19 0.52
parsley 15 48% 5 36 0.50
chives 15 48% 4 30 0.48
lettuce 17 50% 2 15 0.47
chard 19 51% 3 19 0.45
arugula 4 45% 3 25 0.43
cauliflower 15 50% 4 25 0.43
okra 13 50% 3 22 0.40

spices

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
curry powder 1 13% 14 325 1.52
poppy seeds -5 17% 23 525 1.32
paprika 7 27% 26 282 1.14
mustard seed 2 27% 37 508 1.05
sage -0 26% 26 315 1.04
caraway seed 1 27% 28 333 1.03
nutmeg -15 23% 32 525 0.93
mace -13 26% 34 475 0.86
marjoram -4 31% 27 271 0.83
cloves 4 35% 35 274 0.79
thyme -0 34% 31 276 0.76
pepper -4 34% 36 318 0.73
cinnamon -8 34% 30 247 0.65
basil 22 47% 3 23 0.63
cumin -6 39% 44 375 0.51
dill seed -1 42% 43 305 0.48
bay leaf -10 52% 53 313 -0.01
pepper -4 57% 47 251 -0.11
turmeric -1 61% 52 312 -0.21

nuts and seeds seeds

Nuts and seeds have a lower proportion of insulinogenic calories as well as being lower in net carbs which makes them diabetic friendly.  They do have a considerably higher energy density and hence, unlike the veggies, it is possible to overeat nuts and seeds if you’re keeping an eye on your weight.

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
macadamia nuts -7 6% 12 718 1.65
brazil nuts -4 9% 16 659 1.59
pecans -11 6% 12 691 1.59
sesame seeds -5 10% 17 631 1.55
coconut milk -10 8% 5 230 1.53
coconut cream -11 8% 7 330 1.52
flax seed -4 11% 16 534 1.52
hazelnuts -8 10% 17 629 1.50
coconut meat -10 10% 9 354 1.49
sunflower seeds 1 15% 22 546 1.46
pine nuts -9 11% 21 673 1.44
walnuts -5 13% 22 619 1.43
almonds -5 15% 25 607 1.37
almond butter -5 16% 26 614 1.35
pumpkin seeds 1 19% 29 559 1.31
butternuts -7 17% 28 612 1.29
sesame butter -4 21% 33 586 1.17
pistachio nuts -5 22% 34 569 1.12
cashews -5 26% 40 580 0.99
coconut -11 34% 39 443 0.61
gingko nuts -10 52% 15 111 -0.02

fruits

The list of diabetic friendly fruits with a lower proportion of insulinogenic calories ends up being quite short.

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
olives -11 3% 1 145 1.72
avocado -6 8% 3 160 1.62
blackberries -8 27% 3 43 0.89
raspberries -10 30% 4 52 0.78
strawberries -8 49% 4 32 0.13
apples -15 50% 7 52 -0.01
gooseberries -12 52% 6 44 -0.02
rhubarb -6 55% 3 21 -0.06
boysenberries -9 54% 8 50 -0.07
passionfruit -14 52% 14 97 -0.08
carambola -6 56% 5 31 -0.08
kiwifruit -8 55% 9 61 -0.09

legumes

These legumes have a lower proportion of insulinogenic calories and lower carbohydrates, however there may still be some impact on blood glucose with the moderate levels of carbohydrates, so you may want to keep an eye on your blood glucose levels when you try these foods to see how you react to them.

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
peanut butter -5 17% 27 593 1.31
peanuts -3 18% 29 599 1.30
tofu 12 34% 8 83 0.94
natto 2 39% 22 211 0.63
soybeans 6 44% 49 446 0.50
hummus -7 45% 20 177 0.27
Miso -2 49% 25 198 0.21
lupin seeds 2 51% 50 371 0.20
garbanzo beans -2 57% 13 88 -0.07
broad beans 1 61% 54 341 -0.18
navy beans -1 61% 22 140 -0.21
lentils 2 64% 19 116 -0.27

what about pescetarian, lacto, ovo options?

In the development of this article I spoke with Barry Erdman who runs the Vegetarian Low Carb Diabetic Healthy Diet Society Facebook group.

Barry has been a strict vegetarian since 1970 and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes nine years ago.  Barry maintained a nutrient dense plant based diet after his diagnosis, however found that he needed to incorporate dairy, eggs and some oils (e.g. MCT, coconut) into his vegetarian diet in order to achieve acceptable blood glucose control.  Barry told me that when he lost 30 lbs when he switched from a vegetarian diet to a LCHF keto lacto ovo vegetarian diet eliminating all grains, bad oils and fruit (except berries).

Barry also came to the conclusion that he would need to incorporate some fish oil into his diet in order to provide adequate levels of essential fatty acids which are not available in significant quantities in plant based products.

Barry asked me to have a look at how a lacto, ovo, pescitarian diet would stack up against the straight vegan approach.  So listed below are the most nutrient dense lacto (dairy), ovo (eggs), and pescetarian (seafood) diabetic friendly foods.

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For those who are interested in adding eggs or seafood I have listed them based on their nutrient density and proportion of insulinogenic calories.

eggs and dairy

food ND % insulinogenic net carbs/100g insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
butter 0.00 0% 0 1 734
egg yolk 0.04 19% 4 15 317
cream cheese 0.01 10% 4 8 348
sour cream 0.00 9% 3 4 197
goat cheese 0.03 22% 2 25 451
limburger cheese 0.02 18% 0 15 327
blue cheese 0.02 20% 2 18 354
gruyere cheese 0.02 21% 0 22 412
edam cheese 0.02 22% 1 20 356
cream -0.01 5% 4 5 431
cheddar cheese 0.02 20% 1 20 403
camembert cheese 0.02 20% 0 15 299
muenster cheese 0.02 20% 1 18 368
Monterey 0.02 20% 1 19 373
gouda cheese 0.02 23% 2 20 356
Colby 0.02 20% 3 20 394
feta cheese 0.02 22% 4 14 265
provolone 0.02 24% 2 21 350
brie cheese 0.01 19% 0 16 334
Swiss cheese 0.02 26% 5 25 379
parmesan cheese 0.03 30% 3 31 411
mozzarella 0.01 23% 2 18 318
whole egg 0.03 29% 1 10 138
ricotta cheese -0.02 25% 3 11 174
Greek Yogurt -0.05 27% 6 9 130
cottage cheese -0.06 39% 3 9 93

seafood

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
caviar 0.09 32% 22 276
anchovy 0.10 42% 21 203
herring 0.07 34% 18 210
sardine 0.05 36% 18 202
trout 0.08 43% 17 162
mackerel 0.07 45% 17 149
oyster 0.11 57% 14 98
tuna 0.08 50% 17 137
salmon 0.07 50% 15 122
sturgeon 0.06 47% 15 129
squid 0.02 50% 21 170
halibut 0.06 63% 16 105
mussel 0.05 61% 25 165
shrimp 0.07 66% 19 113
lobster 0.08 69% 14 84
Pollock 0.06 66% 17 105
whitefish 0.06 67% 17 102
octopus 0.06 69% 27 156
snapper 0.05 64% 15 94
crab 0.07 69% 13 78
whiting 0.03 63% 17 109
haddock 0.04 67% 18 110
crayfish 0.03 64% 12 78
perch 0.01 59% 13 91
haddock 0.02 69% 15 85
clam 0.03 71% 24 135
cod 0.01 67% 17 99
abalone 0.03 76% 19 99

comparison of essential micronutrients

The charts below show the level of vitamins, minerals and amino acids for each of the approaches including for the most nutrient dense foods (without the plant based constraint).  All of the reduced insulin load (IL) approaches do well compared to the average of all the foods in the USDA database.

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The plot below shows the amino acids and essential fatty acids of the various approaches.  This analysis indicates that you can achieve the daily recommended intake of protein from a nutrient dense plant based approach.  The area that suffers when it comes to an exclusively plant based approach is the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA which many vegetarians choose to supplement with.

However, with the high levels of omega 3s in seafood it appears that you could probably obtain adequate essential fatty acids from around 200 calories of nutrient dense seafood (or around 10% of your energy intake).

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In an effort to simplify things, the chart below shows a comparison of the average of the nutrient density provided by the various lower insulin load diabetic friendly approaches.

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When we look at the average (blue bars) the pescetarian approach (i.e. plant based plus seafood, no eggs, no dairy) wins out.

A more useful way to identify the approach that will maximise the nutrient density of all the nutrients is to look at the average minus the standard deviation (orange bars).  When we look at it from this perspective the pescetarian approach (i.e. plant based plus seafood without eggs or dairy) wins out again.

So it appears that the optimal approach from a nutrient density perspective is to focus on nutrient dense plant foods with some seafood.

summary

So in summary, there are some great nutrient dense options for people with diabetes who choose to follow a plant based dietary approach.  Supplementing a plant based diet with some seafood will provide essential fatty acids and boost protein levels.

more information

If you’re interested in learning more about the nutrient density ranking system check out:

other approaches

The table below contains links to separate blog posts and printable .pdfs detailing optimal foods for a range of dietary approaches (sorted from most to least nutrient dense) that may be of interest depending on your situation and goals.   You can print them out to stick to your fridge or take on your next shopping expedition for some inspiration.

dietary approach printable .pdf
weight loss (insulin sensitive) download
autoimmune (nutrient dense) download
alkaline foods download
nutrient dense bulking download
nutrient dense (maintenance) download
weight loss (insulin resistant) download
autoimmune (diabetes friendly) download
zero carb download
diabetes and nutritional ketosis download
vegan (nutrient dense) download
vegan (diabetic friendly) download
therapeutic ketosis download
avoid download

If you’re not sure which approach is right for you and whether you are insulin resistant, this survey may help identify the optimal dietary approach for you.

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