Cyrus Khambatta – Mastering Diabetes With a Plant-Based Diet

Content by: Cyrus Khambatta

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Stu: This week, I’m excited to welcome Cyrus Khambatta to the show. Cyrus has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002, he has a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry and is the co-founder of  Mastering Diabetes. This is an online coaching platform for people living with diabetes that focuses on low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition. In this episode we discuss the science behind utilising a low-carbohydrate vs low-fat diet when managing diabetes. We dig deep into the everyday foods that negatively impact blood sugar levels and talk about the other areas of our lifestyle that can help optimise our overall health, enjoy…

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downloaditunesListen to Stitcher Questions we ask in this episode:

  •  Mainstream advice for anyone with diabetes is to follow a low-carb diet… what are your thoughts
  • How does diet impact our blood sugar levels and which foods/diets are the worst offenders?
  • If we decide to follow a plant-based diet, would you recommend supplementing?

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Full Transcript

Stu

00:03 Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of The Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve long lasting health. Now I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do. Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We’re into whole food nutrition and have a range of super foods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious, want to find out more, just jump over to our website. That is 180nutrition.com.au and take a look. Okay. Back to the show.

00:44 This week I’m excited to welcome Cyrus Khambatta to the show. Cyrus has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. He has a PhD in nutritional biochemistry and is the co founder of Mastering Diabetes. This is an online coaching platform for people living with diabetes that focus on a low-fat, plant-based whole food nutrition. In this episode we discuss the science behind utilizing a low carbohydrate versus a low-fat diet when managing diabetes specifically. We dig deep into the everyday foods that negatively impact blood sugar levels and talk about the other areas of lifestyle that can help optimize our overall health. Over to Cyrus. Hey guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and I am delighted to welcome Cyrus Khambatta to the podcast. Cyrus, how are you mate?

Cyrus

01:37 I’m doing well. How are you Stu?

Stu

01:39 Very well. Very well indeed and very appreciative of your time and I know that you’ve got lots and lots to share with our audience today. But first up, before we get into any of the questions that I’ve got prepared, for our listeners that may not be familiar with you or your work, I’d love it if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself please.

Cyrus

02:01 For sure. So my name is Cyrus Khambatta and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 22 back in 2002 when it was… That’s 18 years ago. And at that time I didn’t really know anything about diabetes. I was just kind of trying to graduate and move on with my life. And the doctors had given me the message of eating a low carbohydrate diet because that’s what they tell everybody living with any form of diabetes. It was happening back then in 2002 and it still happens today because a low carb today is sort of like the predominant mindset as far as diet advice is concerned. So I did a low carbohydrate diet for the first year of living with diabetes and my health was very bad. So when I was first diagnosed, my energy levels had dipped significantly. My blood glucose was very hard to control and eating a low carbohydrate diet was supposed to solve all of that.

02:56 The promise was that it would boost my energy levels, it would make my glucose more controllable and it would prevent me from using more and more and more hormone over the course of time. But what I found was that during the first year of eating a low carbohydrate diet was that my blood glucose was very difficult to control. It was sort of doing this roller coaster thing all day long, high, low, high, low, high, high, high and as a result of that, I would have to inject more and more hormone. So I started out using an average of 25 units of hormone per day and then it quickly grew to 30, 35, 40, 45 units of hormone per day, even though my carbohydrate intake was quite low. So this idea of restricting carbohydrate intake and eating more fat and protein-rich foods to control my blood glucose just for whatever reason wasn’t happening in my life.

03:44 In addition to that, I lost a lot of energy. I wasn’t able to play sports as frequently as I wanted to. My muscles hurt, my joints hurt, and I started to become pretty anxious and a little bit depressed about the fact that like I was living in a body that felt like it was 70 years old even though I was only 23. So long story short, I transitioned to a plant-based diet. I started reading everything under the sun and I ended up learning about the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Again, this is in 2003 when plant-based diets were not cool. They were not trendy. Nobody was talking about them. Right? You were kind of a weirdo if you wanted to eat anything that was plant-based. So under the guidance of a nutrition expert named Dr Doug Graham, he took me under his wing and he basically showed me how to begin eating a plant-based diet that was truly low in fat.

04:36 And he basically said, listen, I’m going to teach you how to get rid of eggs and dairy and white meat and red meat and fish and chicken and transition to a diet that contains lots of fruits and lots of vegetables and we’ll just keep it real simple to begin with. So I said, great, show me what this whole system’s about. So when I started doing that, I was expecting that my blood glucose would become more uncontrollable because the story, the rhetoric that I had been told was that more carbohydrates, more fruit, more potatoes would result in higher blood glucose. Anywhere you go on the internet, even today you look up anything about diabetes and they’ll tell you, don’t eat fruit, don’t eat potatoes, don’t eat rice because that’s going to elevate blood glucose. So I began eating a lot of fruit and a lot of vegetables and my glucose became so controllable so quickly, it was unbelievable.

05:25 Within seven days of being underneath Doug Graham’s supervision, my blood glucose levels fell so strongly and became so controllable that I had to back off on the amount of hormone that I was giving myself. So 45 units a day quickly became 37, 32, 29. By the time I left after seven days, I was injecting 25 units of hormone per day with exquisite blood glucose control. And it literally felt like I took a wall charger and stuck it into the wall and all of a sudden I just got electrified with energy. It was unmistakable.

05:59 So I went back to school to go get a PhD in nutritional biochemistry so that I could really understand what the heck is going on inside of my body. And in that process I was able to uncover a lot of the science that has dated back to the 1920s that clearly demonstrates that eating a plant-based diet is a truly effective solution for people living with all forms of diabetes and even for people that don’t have diabetes at all. And so in this process I decided to start teaching people how they can also transition their diet to more plant focused and that’s what Mastering Diabetes is all about.

Stu

06:35 Boy, oh boy. Well you are going to have all of our audience scratching their heads right now and double taking. It goes against the grain for want of a better word. And we’ve spoken to people like Dr Perlmutter, Robert Lustig, Dr Fung, Paul Saladino, Nora Gedgaudas and it kind of makes sense if you want to control your blood sugar, then you would limit the macro nutrient that directly affects and stimulates hormone to take you off this crazy hormone roller coaster. So was it personal to your biology, to your DNA? I mean clearly not because you’re running groups and advising hundreds if not thousands of people how to control their own. So tell us what and why this seems to go completely against what we’re finding to be the right choice.

Cyrus

07:40 Okay, so let’s go back backwards in time. Let’s go back to 2003. Sorry, 2007 when I first began my PhD. I began working with a professor who is literally like Good Will Hunting. Remember that movie from back in the 90s?

Stu

07:54 I do. Yes.

Cyrus

07:55 So Matt Damon starred. This like boy genius who just like understood things and could process ridiculous amounts of information. So the principal investigator or the professor that I was working under named Marc Hellerstein is a real life Good Will Hunting. This guy is unbelievably smart. And he gave me the opportunity while I was in graduate school to induce hormone resistance and diabetes in laboratory animals in both mice and rats and then to try and rescue them from hormone resistance and rescue them from diabetes to bring them back to normal. So the question really was, well, how do you create hormone resistance and diabetes in the first place?

08:33 And then what strategies are you going to put into place that are going to bring them back to a normal state? Because both of those are very interesting questions. So he gave me the opportunity to first thing was I was supposed to induce hormone resistance. So he knew exactly how to do it, but he says, I’m not going to tell you how to do it. You’re going to go figure it out yourself. So I said, great. So I started reading a bunch of papers and here I was in 2007 thinking to myself, okay, great. I’ve had this profound personal experience and I know that by eating more fruits and more carbohydrate rich foods, that doesn’t necessarily make me more hormone resistant, nor does it cause my blood glucose to go crazy. But who knows, I’m not a mouse. I’m not a rat.

09:12 Maybe there’s something different about them. Right? So I started reading papers about how do you create hormone resistance? And I was thinking that it had everything to do with sugar because that’s the rhetoric. And I was thinking myself, I’m going to either feed them table sugar or I’m going to feed them all glucose or I’m going to feed them a lot of fructose or some combination thereof. And so I started reading. It said, we induced hormone resistance in laboratory mice and rats by feeding them a diet containing 60 to 70% saturated fat.

09:45 What? Then I would read the next paper. We induced hormone resistance in mice by feeding them a hyperlipidemic diet containing 70% total fat by calories. And paper after paper after paper was all about feeding animals a high fat diet. And I said, why would feeding animals a high fat diet induce hormone resistance? That doesn’t make any sense. Then I delved a little bit deeper and found out that there’s actually a very well described mechanism that is true, that is conserved across many mammalian species. Whether you’re talking about a mouse or a rat or a dog or a sheep or a pig or a monkey or a human. The mechanism is the same and the mechanism of hormone resistance is actually that when you eat foods that are high in fat and when you eat a diet that is overall high in fat, yes, it can certainly help you control your blood glucose and you can actually flatling your blood glucose.

10:43 But what most people don’t realize, what they mistake is they say flat blood glucose equals hormone sensitive. That’s the problem. That’s not a true statement. Flat blood glucose equals flat blood glucose. That’s all it really equals. It doesn’t tell you anything about your level of hormone sensitivity or your level of hormone resistance. And the reason why hormone resistance is actually a very important topic in the world today is because hormone resistance is associated with practically every chronic disease that you can think of. So the more hormone resistant you become, the higher your risk for cardiovascular diseases, for Alzheimer’s, for dementia, for fatty liver disease, for chronic kidney disease, for obesity and beyond. So if you can really get a handle on what hormone resistance is and how to avoid it or reverse it, then it’s kind of a gateway to minimizing chronic disease as a whole.

11:36 So the simple mechanism here is that when you’re eating foods that are high in fat, the fat in your food comes in the form of triglyceride. Triglyceride basically is three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. So you eat triglycerides and food, they travel down your esophagus, they get into your stomach, they get into your small intestine. Inside of your small intestine you have enzymes that are specifically designed to cut the fatty acids off of the glycerol backbone. Once those fatty acids are liberated from glycerol, they are then absorbed into your lymph system, they then are moved from your lymph system into your blood and they’re put into these particles called chylomicrons. These chylomicrons are basically little storage vesicles that are temporary, that circulate through your blood and their purpose is to distribute those fatty acids to any tissue that wants it.

12:20 So those fatty acids go to multiple tissues. They go to your adipose tissue, your fat tissues, number one. They also go to your muscle. They also go to your liver. They also go to your kidney. They also go to your pancreas. They also go to many other tissues. So what’s important to understand here is that if the fatty acids only went into your fat tissue, then type 2 diabetes wouldn’t necessarily be that big of a problem because your fat tissue is actually a very safe place to store fatty acids. It’s enzymatically designed to be able to uptake fatty acids when present, to store them and hold onto them for long periods of time, and then to release them when the time is right. However,

13:00 What ends up happening is that these chylomicrons end up distributing fatty acids into your adipose tissue as well as your liver as well as your muscle and that’s okay as long as the total fat content is low because your liver and muscle have a capacity to be able to uptake and store fatty acids as triglyceride but only in small amounts. Okay. That’s the overall physiology of how the muscles and liver work. So when you eat a diet at the time fat and you eat a high fat breakfast or high fat lunch or have a dinner and then you repeat that tomorrow and then over the course of weeks and months, what ends up happening is that you overload. You can easily overload the amount of fatty acids that your liver and muscle are designed to store and when your liver and muscle ended up accumulating excess dietary fat, then they go into a self protective mode called hormone resistance.

13:54 What the cells are effectively trying to accomplish, is they’re trying to block excess fatty acids from coming in because it’s the amount that’s already in them has exceeded their storage capacity. So if they could, they would basically just say, “Hey, wait a minute fatty acids. I don’t want any more of you. Just you go away.” Okay. So every time they’re present inside of your diet, they get in your blood and if the liver and muscle had an ability to just shut the door, then they would do that. The problem is that they don’t have a good mechanism to be able to do that because the fatty acid transport into the liver and muscle is isn’t very regulated. So as a result of that, they then go and they say, “Listen, if we down-regulate hormone, the hormone receptor, then what we can do is block glucose from coming into the tissue and that will help because it will block more energy from coming inside.”

14:41 We can also, to a certain extent, block some of the fatty acids that are inside as well. So the cells initiate this thing called hormone resistance by making hormone less effective. What the reason that that’s important is because in that state of hormone resistance, if you were to try and eat something that’s carbohydrate rich, a banana, you literally eat a single fruit, a banana, a mango, a peach, a plant, you name it. Or something like quinoa or black beans, legumes, starchy vegetables, potatoes, you name it. If you eat any of those carbohydrate rich foods. You eat it, the glucose from those carbohydrate chains then is circulating in your blood. In order to get inside of tissues, glucose has to be escorted by hormone. So hormone says, “Knock, there’s glucose in the blood. Would you like to take it up?”

15:36 Under normal circumstances, the liver and muscle would respond by saying, “Sure, give me that glucose, I’ll take it up. No problem. I have the enzymatic machinery to be able to up to uptake it and use it in either burner for energy or store for later use as glycogen.” But in the hormone resistant state, remember the liver and muscle are not communicating with hormone very well. So when hormone says, “Knock, I got glucose.” The liver and muscle responded by saying, ” No, I’m not listening to you right now. I have a whole bunch of these lipids that I have to first burn and oxidize. Once I’ve done that, then I can start to accept more glucose as a secondary fuel.” So what that means is that the glucose from those carbohydrate chains ends up getting trapped inside of your blood and the hormone ends up getting trapped inside of your blood, which is classic hormone resistance.

16:24 So people who are hormone resistant end up with excess hormone and excess glucose inside of their blood because there’s effectively a traffic jam which is happening inside of their liver and muscles. That traffic jam is preventing both hormone from working and glucose from entering. Does that make sense?

Stu

16:41 It does make sense. I have a question and I think our audience as well be scratching their heads and saying, “Well hold on a minute. Not all fat is created equal.” I’m thinking about your mouse studies as well, where perhaps there would be a different scenario if you fed the mice or the rats, a mixture of high fructose corn syrup and corn oil versus naturally occurring fats. What do you… Do differentiate between those two fat sources?

Cyrus

17:10 Absolutely. So there’s basically three different types of facts that we can talk about.

17:15 There’s saturated fat, unsaturated fat and trans fat.

Stu

17:18 Yes.

Cyrus

17:18 So all three of them do not behave equally. There’s absolutely true. I’m glad you brought this up.

Stu

17:24 Yeah.

Cyrus

17:24 Because the last thing that I want to do is confuse people and say, “All fat is created equal and you should eat a zero fat diet because that’s not even possible.” But the truth is that on what we’re trying to answer here is how do those types of fatty acids affect hormone resistance?

Stu

17:41 Yes.

Cyrus

17:42 That’s the first question. Secondarily, how much of those fatty acids are acceptable before you end up at a higher risk for the development of hormone resistance?

Stu

17:53 Yep.

Cyrus

17:53 So the question is what type and how much? So when it comes to what type, the most problematic of the fatty acids are trans fats without question.

Stu

18:02 Yes.

Cyrus

18:02 Trans fats are associated with the highest risk for hormone resistance, the highest risk for diabetes, and the highest risk for cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.

18:10 Nobody, not a single health professional argues with that because the data is very strong. Trans fats are basically found in hydrogenated vegetables oils, and they’re found mainly in packaged and processed foods. Okay. So those are the most problematic and a little bit of those transplants goes a long way.

18:29 Now, the second type of fatty acid that we want to talk about are saturated fats. Now the saturated fats are basically either 16 or 18 carbon molecules that are completely packed with hydrogen all around. So there’s this Euro double bonds and their structure and saturated fatty acids are very problem problematic when consumed in excess. Then I know that there’s plenty of people in the low carbohydrate slash ketogenic world that would vehemently oppose the statement that I just made.

Stu

18:57 Yes.

Cyrus

18:57 Tell me that I don’t understand biochemistry and I don’t know what I’m talking about. But if you take a look at the actual hormone resistance literature, what you’ll find is that saturated fat has a direct negative consequence on hormone signaling.

19:11 There’s some researchers, there’s Jared Schulman in particular plus a number of researchers even beforehand back in the early 1900s that worked out the mechanism. That showed that even in response to a single high fat meal containing saturated fat, the saturated fat molecules can negatively… Can impair the function of the hormone receptor. As a result of doing that, the hormone receptor is less responsive to hormone and as a result of that, there’s less glucose that can be transported into those cells. So in the presence of saturated fat, the hormone receptor becomes less functional and the glucose transporters downstream of those hormone receptors become less active. It’s a very simple… It’s a complicated pathway, but the net effect is that in a high saturated fat environment, glucose transport is less effective.

20:09 The third type of fatty acid that we want to talk about, unsaturated fatty acids. These unsaturated fatty acids are either mono unsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids. The mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids are the least problematic of the types of fatty… Of the overall fatty acid types.

20:26 So what that means is that when you eat a diet that’s higher and mano and or polyunsaturated fatty acids, it will certainly minimize your risk for the development of hormone resistance. No questions asked. But there’s, I got to make one very prominent distinction here which is that, the total amount of fat that you do consume regardless of the type of fat, is also a very important indicator of your level of hormone resistance. Okay? So what we have found… So what the research is actually shows is that when you consume a diet that’s greater than any about 15% of total calories as fat, which translates usually to somewhere around 30 or 40 grams of total fat per day. Then at that level and beyond, glucose tolerance goes down. It’s going to be noticeably and substantially, right. So if your total fat intake is less than or equal to about 30 to 40 grams per day, then your carbohydrate tolerance is maintained.

21:27 But as soon as your fat intake climbs beyond 30 to 45 grams of fat per day, then your glucose tolerance begins to dip. As a result of that, your hormone sensitivity begins to dip. So there’s a sort of this magical threshold somewhere around 30 to 40 grams per day, which seems to make a big difference in your ability to utilize glucose as a fuel. Does that make sense?

Stu

21:53 It does. Fascinating. I just put my hand up for another question for our audience that I’m sure they’ll be wanting to understand in more detail and I’m sure would be brain health. We’ve been told now that fat is so important for a healthy brain and to word off any neurological issues and that may… Well they are on the increase in terms of dementia, Alzheimer’s and everything under the sun in that respect as well.

22:25 What are your thoughts on consuming fat for brain health versus lowering it for overall well health.

Cyrus

22:32 Mm-hmm (affirmative). So personally I’ve never been convinced by the body of literature that suggests that fat in high quantities, is actually beneficial for brain health. Because if you look at the biochemistry of the brain, I think one of the things that gets confusing is that your brain is made up of fatty acids and cholesterol. So the infrastructure of your brain is fatty acids and cholesterol. That right?

Stu

22:56 Yes. Yep.

Cyrus

22:58 But the fuel that your brain is designed to operate off of under normal circumstances is not fatty acids is not cholesterol. It is glucose. So your brain is actually very… Your brain is very selfish tissue and your brain is very different. It operates from a fuel perspective very differently than other tissues in your body. So your muscle tissue as an example, your adipose tissue, your liver tissue.

23:25 Okay. All of these tissues can operate on multiple types of fuels. They can operate on glucose and on fatty acids and on amino acids. The truth is that they’re operating on all three of those fuels every single moment of every single day. The question is really just how much glucose versus how many amino acids versus how much fatty acids, and it depends on a number of different factors including your activity level, the time of day, what’s in your diet, et cetera. Okay.

23:50 So tissues around your body are basically constantly doing this complicated calculus equation to try and figure out how much glucose to burn, how much fatty acids to burn, what to store, what not to burn. Your brain on the other hand, is a little bit more demanding and also limited in the types of fuels that it can use. So your brain operates off of glucose.

24:11 That’s its primary fuel. Again, there’s a lot of people who would disagree with me and say, “Cyrus, you don’t know chemistry. You don’t know.”

Stu

24:18 Well, I was going to say, aren’t we born utilizing ketones?

Cyrus

24:25 Woo, I’ve never heard that.

Stu

24:27 Really. I thought all of us were born burning ketones for fuel with colostrum and mother’s milk and then transition occurs when we are then spoonfed. We transition over to traditional baby food and formulas and everything under the sun that then we start to shift towards that glucose.

Cyrus

24:53 So the thought process here is that we burn ketones for energy up until we are starting to eat real food not even when breastfeeding, we’re consuming or we’re burning ketones for energy?

Stu

25:05 Well, depends on breastfeeding versus bottle feeding with [inaudible 00:25:10] formulas that contain carbohydrates as well. Yeah, that’s-

Cyrus

25:15 Yeah. So, breast milk… Okay. So this is… Again, I think this is highly misinterpreted information.

25:26 Breast milk contains lactose.

Stu

25:29 Yes.

Cyrus

25:30 Contains glucose.

Stu

25:31 Yes.

Cyrus

25:32 To, and under normal circumstances when a baby is being breastfed to say that a baby is in ketosis from the moment they’re born and for the first year of their life when consuming breast milk, I would love to see the data on that because that is that violates everything that I’ve ever learned about chemistry.

Stu

25:49 Yep. Fascinating.

Cyrus

25:50 So I would love to see. I mean, if you could show me the data, I would be, I’m totally open to learning it, but-

Stu

25:54 Yes.

Cyrus

25:55 … that is not something that I believe to be true-

Stu

25:57 Okay.

Cyrus

25:57 … by any stretch of the imagination. Okay.

26:00 So let’s go back to this idea here that your brain is actually a glucose hog. Your brain is absolutely a glucose hog. Your brain is designed to run off of glucose for the majority of your life. Now, is it true that your brain can run off of amino acids? The answer is no. Your brain cannot run off of amino acids. Can your brain run off of fatty acids? The answer is no. Your brain cannot run off of fatty acids. However, if you choose to eat a diet that is high in fat, low in glucose, or low in carbohydrates, then what you do is you force your liver to manufacture ketone bodies. So your liver basically converts fatty acids into ketones. And these ketone bodies are actually shuttled up to your brain to be utilized by your brain for fuel as a backup mechanism.

26:43 So your brain does possess the ability to run off of ketone bodies. And the question really becomes, well, is it preferable for your brain to run off of ketones than it is for your brain to run off of glucose? Right? And again, I have never been convinced, by reading the ketosis literature, that running your brain off of a secondary fuel or let’s not even refer to as a primary secondary fuel. Operating your brain off of ketones is actually beneficial in the longterm. I have never been convinced of that. This idea that operating your brain off of ketones in a high fat environment, a high saturated fat environment, high dietary saturated fat environment is something that is, I think, highly debated in the world today and something that just doesn’t seem to make sense and the evidence that I’ve seen, is very weak. Okay?

27:42 What I want to see, the nail in the coffin for me would be, prove to me that when you consume a diet that’s high in carbohydrates from whole sources, from fruits, from vegetables, from legumes, and from whole grains, prove to me that the glucose that comes from those carbohydrate molecules, is actually detrimental to brain health. If you can prove that to me and wallop me with a bunch of evidence, then I will stop talking. But up to this point, I’ve never seen that. What we have seen and what we do know, is that consuming refined carbohydrate sources like high fructose corn syrup, table sugar, and all of these sugar derivatives that are available in foods today, we know that that can be detrimental to brain health, that’s not up for debate. So I think, what people do is they lump all carbohydrates into one category and they say “Carbs are bad for your brain.” When in reality the answer is no. Refined carbohydrates can truly be detrimental, but whole carbohydrate energy is not and hasn’t been proven to me that it is. Does that make sense?

Stu

28:49 It does make sense. Yeah, absolutely. So then let’s think about what we might eat then. If we are already on a plant based diet or thinking about transitioning over to a predominantly plant based diet, how, how would you best advocate that we eat and which foods would be the worst offenders in the plant based sphere for optimal health?

Cyrus

29:15 Okay, great question. So I’m just going to flash this here real quick. Yes, this is Mastering Diabetes. This is a book that we wrote that we published in February. This thing became a New York times bestseller in its first week. And it was very cool to see that.

Stu

29:30 Well then while you’re on the topic of the book, I’m really intrigued to understand what the program and the book entails. What would we expect if we, if we picked up a copy?

Cyrus

29:42 For sure. So, the purpose of this book is to educate people about why the research on demonstrating the power of a low fat, plant-based whole food diet is extremely strong. And actually this book presents a case for why eating a low fat, plant-based whole food diet is a phenomenal approach for reversing hormone resistance. And reversing hormone resistance permanently. And, it’s important to understand that hormone resistance is canonically thought of as being only applicable to people with prediabetes and type two diabetes.

30:24 But what’s important to understand is that your diet can induce hormone resistance. A high fat diet induces a state of lowered glucose tolerance like we were just talking about. And when you do the opposite, which is, eat a lower fat diet that’s very rich and plant based foods including fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes and whole grains with non starchy vegetables and leafy greens, when you consume that as the primary energy source, then hormone resistance goes away very quickly. You become very hormone sensitive and that drops your overall chronic disease risk. That’s the promise in this book. And that’s what we’ve seen with thousands of people that have come to us to transition towards a more plant focused diet.

Stu

31:16 Fascinating. So, guide us through your day of eating. What would that typically look like? So we can get a better understanding of what the expert does.

Cyrus

31:28 Okay, so here we go. So in the beginning of the day, I usually eat a large bowl of fruit. Okay now, that large bowl of fruit contains things like plantains and or mangoes and or papayas. So I live in Costa Rica, readily available. Very cheap to purchase. So I get those. Chop them up, put them into a bowl. I eat that. Then I usually go and I’ll go to CrossFit for an hour. I’ll go get a really tough exercise session and I’ll come back and at that point I will go into my second fruit bowl. And the second fruit bowl tends to be a little bit larger than the first one. Okay? So I’m in the post exercise state, depleted some glycogen, looking for more energy, pour in more plantains, more mangoes, more bananas, more papayas, depending on whatever’s available at that time of the year.

32:24 Then in the afternoon is when I will start to transition towards more vegetables and more legumes. So at that point, I usually eat a big bowl of garbanzo beans and I will start to eat things like cauliflower and broccoli and tomatoes and onions and carrots. So I’ll have that sometime in the middle of the afternoon. And then the evening time usually is a giant salad and the salad will contain, leafy green vegetables plus maybe some more black beans, maybe some red beans, some onions, some carrots, more tomatoes, and basically whatever vegetables we see in the fridge. So, over the course of a day, we’re looking at somewhere between 2,500 and 3,200 calories. And, the serving sizes are quite large because in order to get an appropriate number of calories, you got to eat a large volume.

Stu

33:18 Yes. Yeah. Okay. That’s great to know and to try and visualize that as well. So my question would be, you mentioned that you’re CrossFit-ing so certainly high volume, high intensity, outside of the beans, the legumes, where’s the protein coming from? Is that a focus for you? Do you supplement with protein?

Cyrus

33:42 Okay. It was a great question, actually. I do consume a hemp based protein supplement. So it’s a hemp powder. And I add that to my food and usually I’ll add something like 15 to 20 grams of that hemp based protein powder per day. Okay? So you’re right. Because I’m a pretty avid athlete, my protein requirements are absolutely going to be higher than your average person than your average individual. And I’ve found that by, increasing my intake of garbanzo beans, red beans, black beans and or adding this hemp protein powder, it definitely helps in repairing muscle tissue and improving my athletic performance. No question.

Stu

34:26 Great. Fantastic. And supplementation additional to that, do you supplement at all with any specifics? And if you do, why?

Cyrus

34:38 The only supplement that I take is vitamin B12. That’s it. Because anybody who’s eating a plant based diet, highly recommended to eat vitamin B12 supplement because it’s very difficult to get vitamin B12 on a plant based diet. A sufficient amount is almost nearly impossible. Other than that, no need for supplementation. People who are transitioning to a plant based diet often ask, “Well, what about vitamin D? What about calcium? What about iron and what about Omega threes?” And the beauty here is that if you’re eating a lot of plant based foods, eating a lot of green leafy vegetables in particular, iron and calcium, don’t need to worry about it. Okay?

35:20 Unless you have a preexisting iron deficiency or preexisting calcium deficiency… it may be necessary to supplement in those particular situations. However, the easiest way to figure that out is to transition towards a plant based diet. Increase your intake of green leafy vegetables as well as legumes. Your overall nutrient density goes up dramatically, and usually any preexisting vitamin or mineral deficiency can go away relatively quickly, because those foods tend to be incredibly nutrient dense. But if you’re finding that by eating lots of green leafy vegetables, lots of legumes, that your iron and calcium levels are still very low, then in those situations, certainly adding a supplement can help.

Stu

36:06 Yeah, okay. So, for those of our listeners that are thinking about the transition and wanting to focus more on the plant based approach, but they are concerned about perhaps testing before embarking on this diet and also wary of the fact, perhaps, that their standard medical doctor might not be as informed on vegetarian, vegan, paleo, keto, all of the diets that exist out there as well. Would they or should they test any particular markers before embarking?

Cyrus

36:48 Okay. So the question that sounds to me, the question is “What are the biomarkers that you would want to measure before embarking on a plant based diet, in order to make sure that he is eating a plant based diet is safe for you?” Is that right?

Stu

37:02 Yes.

Cyrus

37:04 Okay. So, the things that I would like to have measured… So the truth is that you can transition to a plant based diet without necessarily doing a scientific experiment in the process. We don’t necessarily have to measure particular biomarkers before you make the transition. However, for information purposes it’s, it’s a great experiment and I highly recommend it. So the first thing that I would definitely measure is your A1C value. Okay? So your A1C is, hemoglobin A1C that’s a good measurement of your overall blood glucose average. Number two would be your lipid panel, lipid panel, total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides, definitely get that measured. In addition to that, I would also measure fasting glucose and fasting hormone. And I would also measure what’s called high sensitivity C reactive protein, which is a measure of global inflammation. Definitely a very effective marker. And then in addition to that and definitely get a vitamin B 12 check as well as a vitamin D level.

37:59 And the last thing I would throw into that would be thyroid stimulating hormone to measure your thyroid status, to determine whether or not you’re actually, under producing or over-producing or producing the right amount of thyroid hormone. So if you were to measure those biomarkers and then make a transition towards a more plant strong diet and for full clarity here, in the Mastering Diabetes book, we educate people about the power of adopting a fully plant based diet. But it’s not necessary. It’s not, a hundred percent required. So there’s a lot of people, I’m sure your listeners are probably thinking, ” Well, I do enjoy eating fruits and vegetables, and I do understand that transitioning to a more plant focused diet might be a good thing for me, but I don’t want to be a vegan. I don’t want to be a vegetarian.”

38:41 And my answer is “Great, well then don’t do it.” Right? Definitely eat a plant strong diet and try and integrate more plant rich foods into your diet for sure. But don’t feel a pressure from me or from anybody in the plant based community to have to become a vegan. Right? Even the word vegan

39:00 Vegan has some weird associations with it. The idea here is that if you transition to a plant-based diet, I’m going to give you a high five, no questions asked. And if you choose to make a full transition to 100% plant-based diet, then I’m going to give you another high five. But again, there’s no pressure to have to do so.

Stu

39:18 I think oftentimes it’s about finding your sweet spot, the spot that works for you because we are all so unique I think in our biochemistry. Question. Your thoughts on organic produce versus conventional because I know budget is always an issue when we’re out at the supermarkets and organic food is expensive at least in this country as well. Do you have any comments on that? Are there fruits and vegetables that are safer than others or should we go fully organic for everything?

Cyrus

39:57 Great question. There is a company called the EWG, the Environmental Working Group, and you can go visit their website, EWG, I think it’s .org. And what they do is every year they publish a list of fruits and vegetables which are considered the cleanest and the dirtiest. So what they do is they purchase a whole bunch of foods from the grocery store, both domestic as well as imported in the United States, and then they determine the quantity and type of pesticide residue that they find on those fruits and vegetables, and then they just literally rank order them from best to worst. And they publish two different lists. One of them is called The Dirty Dozen and the other one’s called The Clean 15. The Dirty Dozen are basically the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables. The Clean 15 are the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables.

40:48 And so if you eat based off of The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15, it’s a good starting point to basically determine, okay, when I go to the grocery store and I’m picking up onions, are onions dirty or are onions clean? Do I have to buy them organic? And the answer is if you literally just went to The Dirty Dozen list and you tried to find out what is on there, then what you’ll find is that those are the foods that are most pesticided including things like stone fruits and spinach and strawberries. And I believe tomatoes appear there regularly and imported grapes from Southern California, I’m sorry, Southern South America.

41:27 So if you could basically look at that list and say to yourself, ” Okay, I’m going to try and buy those as organic as possible or as clean as possible.” And then you go to The Clean 15 list, and you can buy The Clean 15 list conventional and that’ll limit your pesticide residue, but not completely get rid of it altogether.

Stu

41:43 Yeah, good advice. Great. Outside of nutrition, because clearly we can adopt the most beautiful plant-based diet, it could be fully organic, could be blessed by the Tibetan Monks, but we might spend our day inside out of the sunshine watching Netflix, drinking alcohol, surrounded by social media and chatter and everything else that stops us from adopting all of the other areas, the pillars of health that I believe are so important from a holistic standpoint. So my question to you is, what strategies outside of nutrition do you personally use to optimize your own health?

Cyrus

42:29 Great question. Strategies that I use every single day are, number one, daily movement. Move your butt. I move my body every single day. The hardest days for me are my rest days. And it’s like I feel like a caged animal and I’m always like kind of want to go move and do something. So, what I do on a daily basis is I make sure that I move my body for a minimum of 45 minutes. I choose to do CrossFit. I choose to do something that’s very challenging and high intensity because that’s the kind of thing that I love to do. It’s incredibly hard and I love it for that reason.

43:05 But you know, for the listeners, do you have to do something that’s high intensity? Do you have to go pound yourself into the pavement? The answer’s no, you don’t have to at all. But we do recommend using your body on a daily basis for a minimum of 30 minutes. 60 minutes is better. Get your heart beating, get your heart beating fast, get your heart beating continuously, and that right there is going to be one of the most powerful forms of medicine that human beings have ever discovered. So I do that on a daily basis. And then in addition to that, I always keep my stress real low by listening to music every single day. I find that when I’m listening to my favorite music that I’m a happy camper, it helps keep my stress levels quite low. And then in addition to that, number three, what you just said here, go into the sun every single day. I go and get sunlight… I live in Costa Rica so I can get plenty of sunlight, but I try and get minimum an absolute minimum of 30 minutes of sun per day, sometimes upwards of two, three hours per day. And the combination of that keeps me feeling and looking my best.

Stu

44:03 Yeah. Fantastic. Well you’ve a great representation of health and certainly crushing the CrossFit world. I’ve been following you guys on social media and it is clearly working for you. So I’m just, I’m conscious that we’re coming up on time, so just got a few questions before we wrap up. And first one is, what’s next? What’s next for you guys? You’ve got the Mastering Diabetes program book. What have you got in the pipeline for this year at least?

Cyrus

44:35 So that’s a great question. We got the Mastering Diabetes book that just came out. The bread and butter for us, and really what we do at the core of our business, is we have coaching programs that people can get involved in from anywhere they have a connection to the internet. So whether you live in Australia, whether you live in the United States, United Kingdom, it doesn’t really matter. And the coaching program is basically specifically designed to teach people with all forms of diabetes and even not diabetes, but mainly people with diabetes, how to transition to a plant-based diet. So we literally will hold your hand and we will teach you how to purchase food from the grocery store, what to make for breakfast, what to make for lunch, what to make for dinner, when to check your blood glucose, how check your blood glucose, how to dose hormone in hormone dependent individuals.

45:27 So we kind of run you through the whole gamut of things and then also teach you other aspects of optimal health, including how to intermittent fast, which is a huge thing for us, as well as how to move your body on a daily basis. So I would say we’re putting a lot of time and a lot of investment into growing the coaching program.

45:49 And then we also have a brand new exercise course that is going to be coming out in the next couple of months. That’s really going to teach people not only the dietary side of things, like that’ll be a focus, but also just how to move your body and what’s the best way to do it, and how do you do it from the comfort of your own living room without using any equipment, without needing a membership to a gym. So we really are making a big focus on fitness this year and, in combination with the coaching program, it’s something that we’re hoping to get in front of more people that are interested in adopting this lifestyle.

Stu

46:22 Fantastic. And for those out there that say, “Well look, I haven’t got Type One Diabetes. I haven’t got Type Two Diabetes, but boy I’m packing on the weight, can’t seem to stop this, not feeling my best, feeling tired, not sleeping well, don’t really move.” I’m assuming that this program would be perfect for them, too.

Cyrus

46:43 No question. No question. We like to think about weight loss as being a convenient side effect of living a healthy lifestyle and of eating a plant-based diet, a nutrient dense plant-based diet. We see this over and over again. People come to our coaching program, or not even join the program and they just say, “Hey listen, I’ve been following your advice. I’ve been eating a more plant-strong diet and this 30 pounds that I’ve been holding onto for a long time, it just literally fell off of me.”

47:09 “The 60 pounds that I’ve been trying to lose for a long time has come off over the course of time.” And you’re absolutely right. There’s so many added benefits of eating a plant-strong diet and we’d like to teach people that you can go into it to try and drop your cholesterol, you can go into it to try and drop your A1C, but there’s a whole bunch of other positive beneficial changes that are going to come along for the ride, whether you’d like it or not. So strap on your seatbelt and be prepared for the ride.

Stu

47:35 Love it. Fantastic. How can we get more of your message? How can our users, our listeners, dial into your program and understand more? Where should we send them?

Cyrus

47:50 Okay, great question. So thank you for asking by the way, I appreciate that. The easiest thing to do would be to go to masteringdiabetes.org. So on the web, masteringdiabetes.org and that’s our main website. You can learn all about plant-based nutrition, you can learn about… We have a blog with scientific information, we have testimonials, we have our own podcast, and you can learn all about every single one of those through the website.

48:16 The second place I would direct you to would be Amazon or Barnes and Noble online. You can pick up a copy of Mastering Diabetes, the book. We’ve sold it in hardcover format. It’s also sold as a Kindle version, a Nook version, and then there’s also an audiobook, which both Robby and myself recorded. So we are the ones that are actually talking the book through, and that’s a fun experience as well.

Stu

48:39 Great. Fantastic. Well, look, Cyrus, thank you so much for your time. The information has been amazing and I’m very intrigued to want to find out more. So what we’ll do is all of the links that we’ve spoken about today will be added to the show notes and we will just share that with our audience and hopefully we will connect with you at some stage in the future. But thanks so much. Really appreciate your time.

Cyrus

49:03 For sure, Stu, thank you so much for the opportunity to be here today and for continuing to spread information around the world, I really appreciate it.

Stu

49:08 You take care. Bye-bye.

Cyrus

49:11 Bye-bye.

Cyrus Khambatta

This podcast features Cyrus Khambatta. He received his PhD in nutritional biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. He started Mangoman Nutrition and Fitness in 2013 to teach people with diabetes how to measure, track, and reverse insulin resistance through plant-based nutrition and strategic exercise. Through nutrition education, exercise... Read More
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