Ep. 120: Reverse Interview on Diabetes and Fat Intake

By: Cassy Joy Garcia
Fed & Fit
Fed & Fit

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On today's episode, I'm talking with Fed & Fit listener Elaine as we chat about the different avenues to managing diabetes and ideal fat intake.

Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 120 reverse interview: managing diabetes and fat intake with Cassy Joy

We're back with our 120th episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 120 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I’m really excited about today. Bringing you a very special reverse interview. If you're brand new to the Fed and Fit podcast, and maybe this is your first episode you’ve ever listened to, you might be wondering what the heck is a reverse interview? {laughs} It’s a good question.

So reverse interviews; and forgive me, long-time listeners because you’ve heard this a few times. But reverse interviews are when Fed and Fit listeners and readers write in with really good questions. And instead of keeping our dialogue in an email, and responding back and forth to each other, I invite these very gracious readers and listeners to come on my podcast so that they can ask me their questions. Essentially interview me for about 30 minutes. Ask me whatever they like. We have a nice discussion with the hopes that some of this dialogue can really help others out there. That maybe puzzling, or working around some similar concepts.

So, today I’m very excited to invite Fed and Fit listener Elaine on the show today. She lives in Dallas, Texas. So she’s a fellow Texas girl with two teenage daughters up there in Dallas. And she works full time in finance. Thank you so much for coming on the show today, Elaine!

Elaine: Well thank you! I’m so excited to get a chance to ask my question. Because I’ve learned a lot listening to your podcast over the last few years. So a little bit more about me; I went gluten free about 8 years ago, and I’ve been paleo for a little over 2. I did that because of health issues. I have Crohn’s disease, and some other autoimmune type stuff. And really have found tremendous help through what we eat. So at our house, we totally believe in the power of food to heal and how important it is for our health.

So even with that, we may not always make the best choices. But we try. And now my husband has recently been diagnosed as diabetic. So we’re trying to modify the plate some to fit his needs, as well. And when I do the cooking, we eat most of our dinners at home. Everybody kind of eats the same stuff. But what the question is, when composing these plates. I’ve got the carbs kind of taken care of. But the diabetic nurse kept telling us that he needs to eat low-fat meats. It needs to be chicken breast and fish, instead of a variety of meats. And the low-fat meats would help with the regulation of his blood sugar. That something about the higher fats in some of the other animal proteins would keep his blood sugar from being able to regulate correctly.

So I didn’t know if that was just a product of the time when this nurse was getting her original information about nutrition, or if there’s some real science behind what animal protein fats do to blood sugar?

Cassy Joy: That’s a really, really good question. Man. When you wrote me in, I was like, “Yes! I really hope she agrees to come on the podcast!” Because I want to talk about this. {laughs}

Oh goodness. Well it sounds like your husband is in excellent hands with you in the kitchen. I know you wrote in the email, as well, that you share meals together.

Elaine: Yes.

Cassy Joy: Right? And you're the primary cook at home?

Elaine: I’m the primary cook at home. I do the grocery shopping. And they’re fine eating what I put on the table in front of them. Because I do a lot of variety, so we run the gamut of meats and vegetables. They’re not all excited about the different types of vegetables they see, so there’s always something that they do like with the new vegetable, or the one that they’re not so excited about. And we’ll put a starchy carb on the plate. A lot of potatoes. But now the proportions are a lot more realistic. {laughs} in trying to manage the diabetes. But there’s a lot that you can do with different animal proteins to keep the meal time interesting.

Cassy Joy: Absolutely, yeah. And I think it’s more boring than grilled chicken breast and broccoli day after day.

Elaine: Right. Exactly!

Cassy Joy: Nothing makes you feel like you’re on a diet like grilled chicken breast and broccoli. Me speaking from personal experience. {laughs}

Elaine: Well that’s true. And then it also is helpful on the budget, to be able to break free from chicken breast and fish.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm, it is. Absolutely. Well this is a wonderful question. And what I’m going to try to do is give you an answer that I hope is helpful without knowing too much of the details. Right? Because when it comes to nutrition science, the best way to go is to work with a consultant one-on-one that you trust that kind of comes from that holistic perspective. And all that really means today; you're talking about a holistic nutritionist. It means somebody who is mostly caught up with the newest literature. Right?

Elaine: Ok.

Cassy Joy: So somebody who’s coming from; I hate to use this word, {laughs} I just can’t. Other words are escaping me at the moment. But somebody whose education is coming from maybe an established system that’s 10 to 15 years old is going to be pulling from the literature base that is currently outdated.

Elaine: Ok. Yes.

Cassy Joy: So just to clarify; when I say holistic nutrition, I’m not saying go find somebody who is going to tell us to eat chia seeds three meals a day. But somebody who has a good grip and a really good handle on the current literature as it pertains to health and wellness, and avenues to heal through food. Which is something that sounds like you already have a really good grasp of.

So, I say that because there’s a lot of different variables. Right? And without knowing your husband’s blood work and without working with you in a one-on-one capacity, there is some more very detailed information that I could probably give you. And listeners hearing this, know that if you're looking for very detailed, specific answers, I recommend going and finding either an NTA nutritional therapy associate, and nutritional therapy consultant; or an NC, nutritional consultant. And the two programs that they come out of are going to be the NTA program, which is about, gosh, what is it. Either a one and a half to two-year program that focuses on holistic nutrition, specializes in Weston A. Price Foundations. And then the NC, nutrition consultant. Which is what I am. Come out of Bauman College.

Now you can also work with registered dietitians who, like Sustainable Dish, Diana Rogers, for example is an RD. She had to go through sort of that established general consensus and modern health care of what is and is not nutritious. Those are kind of the AHA, American Heart Association Guidelines. Which, for the most part, we all understand to be slightly outdated and slightly also overrun maybe with politics.

Elaine: Right.

Cassy Joy: So find somebody who maybe went through one of those programs, but has also stayed true to what they consider to be relevant in recent literature. So someone like Diana Rogers is a good example of that. People like that, I think. Working with somebody one-on-one is when you're going to get the best, most specific, most relevant information.

That being said, I definitely want to talk about this on a birds-eye view. Because I think there’s a lot that we can discuss with regard to a recent diagnosis in diabetes, and what does that really mean in terms of the macronutrients that are showing up on our plates.

Elaine: Ok.

Cassy Joy: So, anyways. All of that was just a big old disclaimer. {laughs} So, gosh. This is such a good question. And it’s something that I encounter over and over again. I’m thinking about my own mom and dad. And thank goodness they’ve given me permission to talk about them. But my mom and dad will come home from the doctor’s office, and will essentially spout off. “Well, the doctor today told me to toss out the Kerrygold Irish grass-fed milk butter and instead replace it with this other kind of margarine.” And it’s just, it blows my mind. Because that doctor, for whatever reason, is kind of subscribing to old information. You know? Without really paying attention to what’s new and what’s relevant. So it’s definitely out there. You're definitely not alone.

So when it comes to somebody with a recent diagnosis of diabetes. When we look at the body from a very holistic perspective. When we think about diabetes for folks who maybe are listening and don’t really have a really good idea. What’s happening is we’re having a hard time metabolizing sugars in the body. And Elaine obviously knows this really well; she’s already talked about how she feels like she’s got the carbohydrate count under control in terms of the meals. Forgive me if I got that wrong, Elaine.

Elaine: No, that’s right.

Cassy Joy: Ok. So for everybody else listening who may be wondering a little bit. That’s probably the first macronutrient that comes to mind; are sugars, carbohydrates. Right? And there are three macronutrients, before I jump too far ahead. The three macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. And somebody who is diabetic really has to take a look at making sure we’re not getting too many very quick burning carbs on our plate. Because what it does is it spikes our blood sugar, and because our body has a hard time metabolizing that blood sugar, the really high blood sugar amounts for a period of time can do damage, right?

This all has to do with insulin. We can do a whole nother episode probably on diabetes 101 one day. But that’s just kind of the very rough explanation of what’s going on. So the first macronutrient to come under fire when it comes to a diabetic plate is going to be carbohydrates. Rightfully so, right? Because let’s say somebody is coming from. Let’s just say hypothetically. I’m assuming your husband was not, since you’ve been the primary cook, and paleo for so long. But let’s say somebody is coming from a Standard American Diet. And a Standard American Diet means that they’re probably eating Chick-Fil-A for breakfast, maybe some sort of a burger for lunch, and maybe some sort of pasta for dinner. Right?

Elaine: Right.

Cassy Joy: I’ve been there. So if they’re coming from a Standard American Diet. Some days, it sounds delicious. {laughs} So if they’re coming from that, and they have a recent diagnosis of diabetes, the things they have to sit down and assess are those really, really refined carbohydrates that are showing up on their plates. The buns, right, in the burger. The breading on the fried chicken in the morning. The sugar in the sweet tea. The sugar in the sodas. Things like that, they want to take a look at. So that’s the first thing to go.

Now, the next thing. What’ Elaine’s talking about. Gosh, I spent, what. 15 minutes just getting up to your question. What Elaine is talking about now is, what about the fats on the plate? And again, without looking at your husband’s blood work, and knowing what I know of the story. I would say that for the most part, there’s a really good chance that the advice you were given is kind of old-school, low-fat always rules. Kind of perspective.

Elaine: Right.

Cassy Joy: And it sounds like that’s been your instinct. And I would say that that’s probably more correct than not.

Elaine: Ok.

Cassy Joy: So from a holistic nutrition perspective, there’s not any one macronutrient that can help cure some sort of a condition like this. Right? You can’t just look at carbs. We can’t just look at fats. We can’t just look at proteins and make very high-level changes and tweaks. You are very familiar with nutrition science. You already understand the importance of variety in the diet, including across proteins and across vegetables and things like that. So like I said, he’s in excellent hands. So I would trust your instincts when it comes to mixing up the plate.

I think that, although some of what is good advice. And maybe there should be an asterisk on the advice you were given by the nurse there. Is to avoid fatty foods; excuse me. Fats in foods that are not necessarily responsibly sourced.

Elaine: Ok.

Cassy Joy: Right? So when we look at nutrient density of a food that shows up on our plate, we really want the most dense foods. And I’m speaking especially to somebody that’s speaking to heal. Right?

Elaine: Right.

Cassy Joy: When we’re looking at our plate of foods, we want the most dense foods to come from the best sources. So for example. That’s why I will always spend a few extra pennies for that grass-fed butter, than for the regular butter. Because the minerals, and the vitamins. And the fact that all of the hormones and antibiotics that could be present in the regular butter are not present in the grass-fed one. In addition to the bonus micronutrients there. It’s worth it. Because it’s a really dense food. Right? Calorically, we’re getting 9 calories per gram in a fat versus a protein or a carb. So it’s really high. And I would say that’s a really good thing to prioritize.

So when we think about; we’ve already tackled the carbohydrates. Right? We’ve skipped the pasta. We’ve skipped the bread. You’ve got a really good handle on what’s showing up on a plate for somebody who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes. I think it’s worth looking at the fats, but not in terms of, “Let’s just go ahead and go low-fat.” But in terms of, “Let’s make sure the fats that are showing up on the plate are from really good, healing sources.”

Elaine: So then, that leads to one of my follow-up questions. If I’m looking at the type of milk that he’s drinking. Would that lead towards choosing, in appropriate quantities, a whole milk from grass-fed cows and stuff versus 1% milk?

Cassy Joy: So this is my nutritional bias. And you might get a different answer depending on who you talk to. But my bias is yes. Going with the most whole food available, including whole milk. That’s personally what I give my husband, for example. Is the cream-top grass-fed milk. Whole milk. And he tolerates dairy really well. So it works for my husband.

So yes. I would personally prioritize that. You're going to spend more on protein and fats that come from really, really good sources. But the benefits are two-fold. We’re really mixing up the micronutrients. The vitamins and the minerals that are showing up at meal time. And we’re also, what you spoke to before. Which I think is important in terms of overall how you feel about the journey in general. But keeping food interesting, right? And being able to mix up the proteins and the fat.

So there’s a lot of benefit to it. But you might find some success there. Foods that come from other sources; let’s say it’s a 1% milk, just, gosh, what do they call it? The conventional cow. Conventional dairy versus grass-fed. There’s a chance that that dairy could be more irritating to the body than something that’s grass-fed and whole. Just kind of the concept of eating a whole egg. Right? The egg in itself is a whole, complete food. I know I’m preaching to the choir here.

Elaine: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: But for other listeners.

Elaine: It’s helpful to hear over and over.

Cassy Joy: It is. It absolutely is. And it’s helpful for me to talk about it over and over {laughs}. It’s almost therapeutic in a sense. But the egg in itself is a whole food. Right? When we look at an egg, that’s exactly how nature made it. We have the yolk, we have the whites. And the yolk and the whites have very different nutrients makeup. In terms of fat, in terms of minerals. And when we eat just the whites, or just the yolk, we’re only getting part of the picture. When in reality, the egg was meant to be eaten in its entirety. They all work together in the body to be processed as a whole food.

So you find; and there’s been some studies of folks who eat just egg whites turn out to have an intolerance, eventually over time, to eggs. More quickly than folks who eat whole eggs.

Elaine: Wow.

Cassy Joy: Because they’re only getting a piece of the nutrition to process it. So it becomes more inflammatory in that way over time. The body essentially is just like, I can’t. I can’t handle these egg whites anymore! And I think the same correlations can be understood when it comes to milk, for example. I think the whole milk is a really good idea, because we’re getting the complete nutritional package.

Elaine: Yep. That’s good to hear. And it is interesting, because when you talk to these nurses, you don’t ever get to really. And doctors too. You don’t get to hear their full background, but you know that the focus of their training is usually not nutrition.

Cassy Joy: Right. Yes.

Elaine: It’s a different medical system that they’re learning. But after our experiences with how much healing I’ve gone through, we can see how important it is.

Cassy Joy: Yes. Absolutely. I think your instincts are so dead on. I’ve said it three times already. But he’s very fortunate to have in this journey with him. Because it’s true. The things you would think of, Elaine, as a very healing meal when it comes to vegetables, really well thought out carbohydrate sources.

Elaine: Yes.

Cassy Joy: Low glycemic carbs. And then a variety of proteins that come from a variety of different sources. Beef, fish, pork, poultry. Whatever you can get on the plate. Oysters. Whatever he will eat.

Elaine: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Especially the organ meats. The offal proteins are going to be really wonderful, healing foods. You think about it from that perspective; what are the healing foods I can get on the plate? And that will really help.

Now I’m not wanting to overload the body in any one macronutrient category is also going to be helpful. And this goes along the lines of, last night, for example, for dinner. We had a very unique dinner. But it’s mostly because as a food blogger, you wind up cooking meals that don’t actually make up an actual meal. And so for example, last night we had these stuffed avocados. Avocados, right, are very high in really good, healthy fats. So we had these stuffed avocados. I had roasted sweet potatoes. And then for dessert I had a slice of this key lime pie. In between the avocado, the butter I put on the potatoes, and the key lime pie, which had a good amount of coconut milk in it; it was a lot of fats.

Elaine: Oh yeah.

Cassy Joy: So if I were to look at a pie chart of that meal, and the macronutrient that was represented the most, would definitely be fat. So in those instances, if I were really thinking about it, I probably would have had just steamed broccoli next to the avocado and skipped the high fat dessert. Because I don’t want to overload in any one instance. And the same could be said for somebody who is dealing with some sort of a chronic illness, like diabetes. Right?

Elaine: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: And I know you have a good handle on that. So I would say the nurse is partially correct, but there’s so much more to the story, right?

Elaine: Right.

Cassy Joy: What’s more to the story, what matters most is food quality. Right? So prioritizing really, really healthy proteins are going to be better off. And then making sure, yes. Looking at fats. But it’s not a matter of eliminating it altogether, as it is just getting the whole plate in balance.

Elaine: Perfect. This has been so helpful.

Cassy Joy: Good. Good! Did that answer two of your questions?

Elaine: It did. It helps me know that it is ok to keep putting a variety of the meats on his plate. Because it really does keep it more interesting, and him less likely to take his keys and {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Run to Whataburger. I’m thinking of my dad. {laughing}

Elaine: Yes, exactly. Because it is a hard transition for him. And I keep telling him, he can get things kind of stabilized and in order, he’ll see more room for cheats later on. But right now, he’s got to kind of fix what’s going on. And there is a lot to it. I don’t want the listeners to think that it all has to do with what’s on the food. He’s got to exercise, and there’s whole lifestyle stuff that’s got to go along with it.

But this was just one part of the question that, if I needed him to be doing something for his health I want to do what’s best. And it is hard to know with conflicting data out there sometimes to know if it’s ok to go with your gut or not.

Cassy Joy: It is. I know. It is difficult. It really is challenging. And you're so right. There’s so much more to the picture. And I’m really glad you brought that up. Obviously, you know that very, very well. You’ve been following a lot of this material and doing your own research for many, many years. But yes. Lifestyle does play a huge part. Rest, hydration, activity levels. Things like that. But I completely understand that if you are cooking the meals, that’s an area where you really can have an impact. And make sure that what’s showing up is the best of what it can be. Within reason. There’s no such thing as a perfect anything; pursuit. But it’s good to be aware. So I’m more than happy to help. As always. And I hope that was helpful.

Elaine: Yes. And he’ll be glad I asked the question. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: {laughing} Yeah, exactly. “Honey, I’ve got good news. We’re not having fish or chicken tonight!” {laughs}

Elaine: Yeah. He does get to see it, because they’re all good for you.

Cassy Joy: Uh-huh. Oh that’s great. Well that’s wonderful. Do you have any other questions, Elaine?

Elaine: So, I guess it goes back to you had talked about the fats and using the good fats. So in cooking the meats, you can cook meats without using any fats at all. And then sometimes if you're using a responsibly sourced type of fat, I’m assuming it would still be ok. Like if you put some chicken thighs in a little bit of oil to kind of crisp up the skin as you're cooking them. That would still be ok as long as the oils are responsibly sourced.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. Absolutely. Exactly. I’m glad you brought that up. When I think about; let’s say I want to pan-sear some chicken thighs and make them nice and crispy, I will use either avocado oil or coconut oil, ghee, or even a really good olive oil. And having really good sources of fats means that the macronutrient represented is going to be high quality, and it’s going to be very nourishing at the end meal. Right?

And the proteins; I’m glad you brought that up, also. In terms of balancing out the plate. I tried to describe this with the avocado, but in hindsight I don’t know if I did a great job. If you have a really high fat protein on your plate; and I’m sure Elaine already understands this concept. But if you have a high fat protein on your plate. Like, let’s say chicken thighs. Which on their own are more high fat than chicken breasts. But let’s say you’ve got chicken thighs; I think I’m hungry. {laughs} My mouth is watering and I’m mispronouncing things.

Elaine: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: If you have chicken thighs on your plate that you’ve crisped up, let’s say in a little ghee. And they're really delicious, and you’ve got that on your plate. You probably have a higher fat content represented in that protein. So maybe if you're going to serve that next to a salad, for a salad that’s just dressed with fresh lemon juice.

Elaine: OK.

Cassy Joy: And a little sea salt, right? Versus a really heavy, oily vinaigrette. You know?

Elaine: Got you.

Cassy Joy: That’s kind of how I think about balancing things out. Or, for example, if I am serving up grilled chicken breast that’s just coated in barbecue sauce, which is very low in fat. It’s just essentially tomato sauce and spices. And let’s say I serve it with potatoes; I’ll make sure I’ll put at least a tablespoon, a generous amount of butter on that potato. Right? To make sure that I’m getting a good balance, a good healthy serving across the board. So you can kind of normalize the fat content between, if you're looking at a plate of a starchy vegetable, a non-starchy vegetable like a leafy green, and a protein, you can kind of look and see. Where does the fat go on this plate?

Elaine: That’s a good point. And that’s a good lesson for me to pass on to my teens, too. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s a good way to think about it. And that’s something that I think I learned back in the days; I don’t know if you ever came across the Zone diet many years ago. But it was all about blocks. This was really before paleo. And that was one of the things I learned; back when I counted raspberries, so I don’t recommend it to anybody.

Elaine: {laughs} Oh no!

Cassy Joy: But you can walk away with a few good lessons from any experience. And it’s helpful to think about it that way. And that’s how I try to think about my own meals, and how I stay on top of things. Without getting into counting macros, so to speak.

Elaine: Right. Life’s too short to count macros all the time.

Cassy Joy: It is. Amen sister! {laughs} I’m just kidding. If you're out there and you’re doing it, more power to you! It’s just not my jam. But that’s wonderful. Well Elaine, thank you so much. This has been a great talk.

Elaine: Thank you, I really appreciate the advice.

Cassy Joy: Absolutely. It’s been my pleasure. Everybody listening, as always you can find a complete transcript of today’s show over at www.FedandFit.com. Along with links to our wonderful sponsors. Elaine, thanks again for coming on. Everybody else, we’ll be back again next week.


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  1. Jenny says:

    Hi Cassy,
    Enjoyed this podcast like all your others. If you try to avoid being “too heavy on fat” (my estimation, based on balancing the plate; not a direct quote) does that mean you disagree with the principles of keto? What are your thoughts on keto? I was previously on the project, I own your book, but I’m also dabbling in dairy free keto now and finding success. Just curious about your opinions since you’re pretty “science-y” 🙂 ps. Congrats on the baby!!

    1. Cassy says:

      Hi Jenny! Good question. I think the answer all comes down to your individual constitution. Some folks are really fat-tolerant while others are more carb-tolerant. Folks who lean more towards fat-tolerance tend to do better with a keto plan while carb-tolerant don’t do quite as well. I hope this helps! …and as always, I’m not a licensed medical professional (just to make sure others reading this know). 🙂