MDAE Podcast E33: The Truth About Low-Carbohydrate Plant-Based Diets

Article written and reviewed by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD and Robby Barbaro, MPH
Published August 28, 2018
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Podcast Transcript

Robby Barbaro: You can do a very low carbohydrate diet, you can see steady blood glucose, you can have a reduction in medication, but it's not gonna mean your overall health is better. So, that was the biggest struggle, I was feeling terrible, even though my numbers were good. And then now, I see I can eat all the fruit I want, and I can have excellent insulin sensitivity, and excellent health, all at the same time.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Welcome to the Mastering Diabetes Audio Experience, where we teach you how to sit in the driver's seat of your diabetes health for the rest of your life. We’ll teach you how to reverse insulin resistance, achieve your ideal body weight, gain energy and get your best A1c following more than 85 years of evidence-based research in the Mastering Diabetes Program.

Robby Barbaro: Our program teaches you how to reverse prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and how to simplify your life with type 1 diabetes by maximizing your insulin sensitivity, using food as medicine.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: We're on a bold mission to reverse insulin resistance in 1 million people. We're glad to have you joining us.

Robby Barbaro: Welcome back to the Mastering Diabetes Audio Experience. Today, we are going to be sharing another interview from our 2018 Online Summit. So, this one is actually an interview with me. So I'm really excited to be sharing this, I covered a lot of different topics in this interview.

They include my history of living with type 1 diabetes for 18 years, and trying several different diets. So we talked about that. I also talk about why I choose to follow such a strict diet. I talk about how I do that and stick to that diet in certain social situations, or business meetings situations. I have a lot of experience with that. And I cover that in this interview.

I also talk about some specific strategies for optimizing your blood glucose, whether you're living with type 1 Diabetes, or type 2 diabetes. So, some different tips there for basically people using insulin, and people not using insulin. So we cover that in this interview. And I also talk about sourcing the best produce. This is a topic I am super passionate about, have a lot of experience doing it after following this diet for over 11 years now. And I know that in order for people to succeed and enjoy fruit, you've got to get good food, you know, learn how to buy good food. So we cover that in this interview and a lot more.

So I really hope you guys enjoy it. And as always, we would love to get a review or a rating if you are enjoying the Podcast. That helps us reach more people. So, if you can take a little time out of your day of do that, that'd be awesome. All right, let's get into the episode.

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Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: I'm super excited to be here today with Robby Barbaro. Robby Barbaro is the co-founder of Mastering Diabetes, with myself, and he's the co-author of the upcoming book Mastering Diabetes from Penguin Random House. He's been living with type 1 diabetes for 18 years, and has been eating a low-fat, plant-based, whole food diet for 11, of those 18 years. Now, in that time, Robby has shown that he can control his blood glucose very, very closely, and he has an A1c that ranges generally between, 5.6 and 6.6% at all times, and he does this while eating very large amounts of whole, unprocessed, raw fruits.

Now, Robby graduated from the University of Florida in 2011, and he worked at Forks Over knives for six years, before turning his attention to Mastering Diabetes, full time. Robby has a very inspiring Instagram account called MindfulDiabeticRobby, where he shares out through pictures, recipes, videos, and documents his daily diet using Instagram stories. So, thank you so much for being here, with me today, Robby.

Robby Barbaro: I'm really excited, this is gonna be fun.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Absolutely. So, let's start at the top, because I feel like a lot of people, you know, some people know your story, some people don't know your story. So, you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a teenager, and you tried many diets. Can you tell our audience, just a little bit about your story, and then, what you learned in this process of going from one diet to the next, to the next, to the next?

Robby Barbaro: Yes, so I learned a lot, and I'm really excited to share it with everybody. I'm the youngest of three brothers, so there's three of us, and my middle brother was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, so he was diagnosed before I was. So, my family was familiar with the condition, I knew about it, but I didn't know a lot of details, until I had to live with it. So, there was a time period where, I was complaining to my mom, “hey, you know, I think I have diabetes, just like Steve”, she's like, “oh no, you don't, you don't have diabetes, don't worry about it”, and eventually, I ended up finding out that, I did have type one diabetes, and I started following the standard American diet, just like I always had.

So, when I first was diagnosed, my parents always wanted me to have the best medical care, so they would send me, and my brother, to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, and I would see a nutritionist, I would see a psychologist, they would check in on us, it was very thorough. And, in all that time, nobody ever talked to me about insulin sensitivity, nobody talked to me about eating special foods to optimize my health, which in hindsight was a little bit disappointing, and it's really part of the reason I'm passionate about what we do at Mastering Diabetes together. So, in the beginning, again, I'm following a standard American diet, and eventually my dad started, he was selling supplements and so, I thought, oh you know, that's interesting, and he explained what as part of the sales pitch was, hey, your soil, our soil, isn't good, so we need to have added nutrients of it, okay.

So, that was the beginning, that was the beginning journey of me starting to change my diet, was just starting with supplements, and then eventually, it got more, and more sophisticated and the bottom line is that, there was a seed planted in my mind. I was in high school, in Florida at this time, and there was a seed planted in my mind, that it would be possible to reverse type 1 diabetes, it was a book, it didn't say exactly how, but something just changed my mind, you know what, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna get everything I can, to try and figure out how can I get my beta cells to produce insulin again. So, at this point I was super motivated, I'm like, I really, really want to do this, and that was the beginning of the journey, where I started following very strict diet. So, in the beginning it was just starting to change whether foods were organic, or getting away from MSG, or just processed foods, that was the first thing I started to try.

And I got better, I started feeling better, my biggest symptoms as a teenager, were the fact that I had constant allergies, so this is outside of diabetes, I had to take Claritin D all year round, was still getting sick, I had terrible acne which was very frustrating as a teenager, tried all the different treatments, and I had plantar fasciitis as well, so that was frustrating. So, even as I started the beginning of changing my diet up, just getting rid of processed stuff, I started to see difference, I started to get better, but again, the whole mission here, the reason, the main reason for switching my diet is I wanted to do, whatever it took, to give my body a chance to heal itself, that was the goal, that's the mindset. So, eventually I start stumbling across more, and more information, and I come across The Weston A. Price Foundation, and this is where I learned to start eating, you know raw, raw milk was apparently better than pasteurized milk, so that was something that that organization taught, and I tried that, I started to learn the, hey you’re supposed to have certain grass-fed beef, is better than, you know, the beef from the factory farms, okay, that makes sense.

So, I started progressing through that, and over the years, I again, I was getting, my health was improving, even when making these adjustments, and eventually I, so, it was good, I mean again, any improvement, any adjustment, you see better results, I was feeling better, that's why I kept on doing it, that's what was motivating me, and then I eventually came across, again the whole vision here is, all I’m trying to do is, what can I do to heal type 1 diabetes, that's the goal, that's my mindset. And so, the next thing out, I just kept on getting more, and more information, and eventually somebody, I came across a movie, called “Raw for 30 Days”, in that movie I learned, oh wait a minute, maybe I should try a plant-based diet, and this is where I tried a very, very low carbohydrate plant-based, vegan diet, for 30 days.

Okay, and I learned a lot in this experiment, by truly doing it a hundred percent, I learned so much. So, in this time period, I am now a freshman at college, at the University of Florida, and I start following this program, and what I did was, I followed it to a tee, eating no more than 30 grams of carbohydrate per day, I was eating no fruit, I was eating no dairy, I was eating basically no carbohydrates, it was lots of nuts, nut butter, lots of green, so I was getting my calories from fat, oil was included in this as well.

And, during this period of time, I took the least amount of insulin I have ever taken, as a person living a type-1, my total insulin usage was roughly 10 units of total insulin per day, okay. Now, my total carbohydrate consumption there was, again, no more than 30 grams, so that's a three-to-one ratio, as a person living with type 1 diabetes, for my 24-hour insulin sensitivity ratio, okay. So, I'm trying that and, eventually I just, I just crashed, I had no energy, I felt terrible, and what I learned in hindsight is that, yes I was taking a small amount of insulin, but that doesn't really mean anything, unless, you know at the same time, your pancreas is starting to produce its own insulin, that's when that would make sense. But, as a person living with type 1 diabetes, I've learned in hindsight now, my goal is not to take the least amount of insulin possible, my goal is to take the appropriate amount of insulin.

So, at this point, I'm following this diet, I'm still on this mission, what can I do to give my body the best chance of healing itself, and so again, I've tried this, I'm feeling terrible, I'm at a loss, I've hit a plateau, it's just staying at roughly 10 units per day, nothing's happening, and I feel terrible and I learn about a, through a podcast, about a fruit based diet, and now this really is exciting, okay. So, the premise there is, if I can follow a diet, where it's the easiest on digestion, then you can free up nerve energy, and that can do healing in the body.

So, that was the original mindset, okay. Well, I'm gonna, try this, I'm gonna start following this diet and see what happens. And, now what happens on that diet, and what I've been doing now for 11 years, is I have become the most insulin sensitive, I've ever been in my entire life. So, now I'm eating well over 700 grams of total carbohydrate per day, and my total insulin usage is roughly about 38 units, to do some math there, it's roughly about, it's about 19 or so ratio, 19 to 1 is my total carbohydrate intake, for one unit of insulin, on a 24-hour period, okay. So, it's three to one when I'm doing the low carbohydrate diet, and now, today, roughly nineteen to one, it varies based on the day, based on activity, but the point is, it's a dramatic increase in insulin sensitivity. So, back to the original question, what did I learn through my years of trying different diets, and experimenting is, number one, I learned that just cleaning up your diet, in general, you see positive results, no question about it, it's like Dean Ornish talks about, the spectrum, okay.

And I learned, most importantly, for people living with diabetes, this importance of insulin sensitivity and that, yes you can do a very low carbohydrate diet, you can see steady blood glucose, you can have a reduction in medication, but it's not gonna mean your overall health is better. So, that was the biggest struggle, I was feeling terrible, even though my numbers were good. And then now, I see I can eat all the fruit I want, and I can have excellent insulin sensitivity, and excellent health, all at the same time.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: This is awesome. Okay, so and that was a great answer actually, there's a lot of stuff in there. Now, would you refer to the low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet, that you're eating right now, as being strict? And, if so, why do you choose to have your food be a subset, of all the foods available even within the plant based world? Go in a little bit detail about exactly what you eat, and why being, you know, a little bit more regimented is working for you.

Robby Barbaro: Okay, that's a great question. So, I personally am still committed, and believe me, and the whole type one community, we will figure out a solution for how to reverse this condition, it's just a matter of time. We don't know how, but we're gonna solve this, and so my mindset, my goal, is still to do everything I possibly can, to eat the healthiest foods on the planet, that's my goal, I am a hundred percent compliant for eleven years, I like to joke that the most toxic thing I've put in my body is arugula, and of course arugula is not toxic, but it can, if you eat it, it can kind of, you can heat up a little bit, I get that experience, but it's more like a cleansing effect, than anything else.

So, and really just the main motivation is, trying to just give the body the best chance of healing, and that's for me. I love fruit, I think fruit is the healthiest food on the planet, I think there's, I know there's a lot of science behind the health of fruit, it's very high in water content, which is important for health, you know, the it's full of fiber, and I personally have great access to fruit, so that's really the reason I stick to it. And, it's also become a pattern, you know, I've just developed, this is what I know, how to do this, is what I do, and I just stick with it, it's become a matter of habit.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Okay, this is great. When it comes to, you know, social situations, I know that eating a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet, from personal experience, can be a little bit of a pain in the butt, whether you're going to a Super Bowl party, whether you go to a restaurant, whether you’re going out to eat with friends. So, how do you navigate social situations, and business interactions, while maintaining a relatively strict food regimen?

Robby Barbaro: So, the biggest thing for me, the biggest shift that happened in my transition of following this lifestyle, is that I do not let anybody make me feel bad for taking care of myself. So, if I've chosen, I've done research, and learned that, this is what's best for me, under no circumstance, under no social situation, or business situation, am I gonna eat something because I think somebody else wants me to eat it, or I might hurt their feelings if I don't eat it, that just does not, it doesn't happen, I will not let that happen, I'm gonna do whatever I choose in that situation, and that's it.

So, when it comes to, whether it's business meetings, and whatnot, I've just set the standard that, these are the foods I eat, and everybody at the company, everyone I'm working with, you know, in the past, they know that and so, the one, the main strategies to handle that, is to eat beforehand, or eat after, so I eat a meal before I go, and then every single restaurant I've ever been to, has been able to provide me with lettuce and tomatoes, and if I wanted to, I could bring a more sophisticated dressing, but I'm actually super happy with lettuce and tomatoes, I genuinely enjoy it, my taste buds have come alive when I sit down, and I chew lettuce, I can taste the fat in it, you can taste the oil that's actually in the lettuce naturally, and it tastes amazing.

So, business situations are super easy when it comes to, you know, going to a friend's house or something, or hanging out with friends, again, I'm gonna bring my own, I'm going to communicate ahead of time, what I'm doing and sometimes, I can play the diabetes card to my advantage. And again, once you express to somebody, “hey, this is the best thing for my health, and living the type 1 diabetes”, or “my doctor recommended this”, nobody's really gonna argue with that, like “oh, you shouldn't do that”. So, it really comes down to communication, and just the willingness to say, hey, look, I'm committed to this, and you are not obligated to eat other people's food to make them feel a certain way.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Cool, I love that. Okay, let me put you in a possible situation here real quick. You go out to a restaurant, and you ask them for, you know, something that contains either lettuce, and/or tomatoes, and given that you don't eat any oil, you know, you've communicated to them already, hey please make sure that's oil-free, it comes to you, and it's got oil all over it. What do you do?

Robby Barbaro: I kindly request that they bring me a new salad. And, one thing we can do, which I've seen you do Cyrus, is say that we're allergic to oil, and the moment you say that, they fix it in an instant. And again, like you know, you're the customer, it's a reasonable request, as long as you communicate kindly, it's their job to, you know, serve you with what you asked for. And, if you clearly communicated that, and they made a mistake then, you can just kindly say, hey, can you please give me another salad, I'm allergic to oil, and I really can't eat this, and they take care of it.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Yeah, I think that's actually right. Because we used the term allergic to something, and just like you're saying, as soon as the waitstaff hears the word “allergy”, whatever you want is yours.

Robby Barbaro: Absolutely.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Okay so let's shift focus here just a little bit. Now, there's in the plant-based world, there's many variations of a plant-based diet, some are low fat, some are medium fat, some are high fat. You know, some are low starch, or no starch, some are high starch, some don't have very many beans and legumes in general, some do, some have small amounts of fruit, some have larger amounts of fruit. So, there's many different variations of plant based diet. Give us your insight, do they all work? Yes, or no. And, what, you know, what's important for somebody with living with diabetes to really understand?

Robby Barbaro: This is a great question, and even in the Summit here, we have a range of experts, and people have some differing opinions on certain topics. But in general, as long as the diet is generally low in fat, okay, like no more than 30%, like that's way, way, way, way, way too high, once you start getting above that, doesn't matter if it's plant based, or animal based, you're gonna have problems, for a person living with diabetes, who wants to reverse insulin resistance. But in general, these different things, hey you know, some starch, some fruit or you know, can you eat corn, can you not eat corn because a GMO, or soy, or a little bit more nuts, and all that stuff.

The point is, that to not get lost in those little details, and that, and prevent you from sticking to a healthy diet, that's the point, so whatever, just pick one and do it, whatever resonates with you, go ahead and do it, and get to a point of 100% compliance, or at least close to hundred percent, and see what happens, and see the results that you get, and then you can decide what tweaks to make, based on the results that you're trying to achieve. So, the last thing we want people to do is, just throw their hands up in the air, and be like, “oh, even people in the low-fat, plant-based, whole food argue with each other against it”. Don't get distracted by that, don't get lost in that, the bigger picture is that, if you are following a healthy diet, in general, you are going to see great results, and sticking to it is the key.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: As far as people with type 1 diabetes is concerned, you have type 1, I have type 1. Give us, you know, given your experience, what are some of the very important tips for people living with type 1, to optimize their blood glucose, as far as their food is concerned?

Robby Barbaro: Okay, so it doesn't matter what form of diabetes a person has, we're gonna give the basic general guideline. Number one, follow a low fat diet, so low fat diet for us, is no more than 30 grams of total fat per day, or a maximum of 15% of total calories per day, you keep underneath those guidelines, then you're following a low fat diet. Okay, that's number one. Number two is going to be, to move your body, regular activity, on some level is extremely important for overall health, and of course insulin sensitivity.

So, those are the two basics. But now, for a person living with type 1 diabetes, the most important tip I can possibly give is about insulin timing. So, this is a mistake that a lot of people make, they start transitioning to this diet, they start eating more high carbohydrate foods, and they don't pay attention to insulin timing. So, a person living with type 1, if you inject insulin it does not work immediately, it takes some time for it to start actually taking glucose out of the bloodstream, into the cells, and when you're eating a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet, when you eat a high carbohydrate meal, it is going to raise your blood glucose quicker, than when people were eating a standard American diet full of, lots of fat, it's the rate, that which glucose is going to get into the bloodstream is quicker, and that's okay, that's not a problem, we just need to adjust for that. So a lot of people, they could get away with injecting and then eating very quickly, when you're following a standard American diet, but that is not gonna work on this approach, so the key is when you inject insulin, you want to make sure that you wait roughly 10, to 15 minutes, but the key guideline is that your blood glucose is 120, and going down, before you start eating.

So, sometimes that might take an extended period of time, somebody might start out at 150, maybe their blood glucose is 150, and they want to eat lunch, and so, let's say they need 5 units of insulin, they inject the five units of insulin, they could test themselves 15 minutes later, and their blood glucose might be 160, because it was going up, so you would have to wait another 10, 15, 20 minutes if you want to get an optimal blood glucose reading. Again, sometimes because of life, you don't have time to do that, it doesn't, it's like you have to eat for whatever reason, but that's okay, just know that maybe you'll see a bit of a bigger spike in that situation, but don't get frustrated, don't blame the carbohydrates, it was simply insulin and timing.

Remember, people who don't have diabetes, their pancreas is working perfectly, okay, there's insulin just sitting there, ready to go, they eat food and the insulin does its job, keeps their blood glucose in a very healthy range. Us, people living with type 1, we have to compensate for that, so we have to make sure that the insulin is working for the timing that we're actually eating the food. So, it's really key tip, and the other tip for people living with type 1, that's very important, and what I've learned in my own personal experience, is really, truly being aware of how many carbohydrates you're eating, at a specific meal.

So, you do this, in one of two ways, we teach go to meals, so if you're having a repeated meal, so you know, for breakfast, you have three bananas, two apples, and a pear, that's the same breakfast every day, even if the foods are a little bit different size, it's okay, you know generally how much carbohydrates are in that meal, and you'll know how much insulin to inject, but if you're just eating food freely, and not really thinking about it, just kind of like, a guess and check game, it's going to be difficult to get your blood glucose in a perfect range, especially as your insulin sensitivity increases, because your units of insulin there's gonna be a much bigger factor there, if you miss by unit or something, you might be a little bit higher, so really being aware. You can also use a food scale, I personally I like to use a food scale at any given meal, if I know the exact amount of carbohydrate I'm eating, and I'm doing step one and step two, I'm eating a low fat diet, I'm moving my body, I have complete predictability, and complete control what is going to happen to my blood glucose, after I eat that meal, and that's really empowering, and I really want every other type one to have that same feeling.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Okay, great. So now, how about you give some pro tips, for people living with type 2 diabetes, how can they optimize their blood glucose, using maybe similar strategies or slightly different strategies?

Robby Barbaro: Okay, so a person with type 2, again, we got to do the same foundational teachings, of number one following a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet, and number two moving your body. But then, once we get in, once we get beyond that, and you're talking about a person living with type 2 diabetes, one pro tip that I have, just want to share and be specific, beyond what I think a lot of experts have talked about in this summit, is the importance of a C-peptide test. So, people come to us, living with type 2 diabetes, and say they’ve had it for 10, 15, 20 years, and they start seeing these testimonials on our YouTube channel, or from Forks Over Knives, or other places, they're like, “wow, you can, I can reverse type 2 diabetes”, and then ask and say, is this possible for me, I wanna, they're kind of questioning it, they were like I'm not sure, and they're taking insulin, they're taking oral pills, and they're really questioning it. And, one thing you can do, to really find out, how well your pancreas is working, as a person living with type 2, is to go and get a C-peptide test.

The easiest way to do it, is simply get a fasting C-peptide test, and the way this works is, C-peptide is produced in a one-to-one ratio with insulin, so they produce together, then they break off, insulin does its job, C-peptide goes floats around, and does pretty much nothing. But, it's still a marker indicator, of how much insulin you're producing, and it's very easy, and affordable test, you can go and order it online, and you just go to requestatest.com, you can pay, I think it's roughly sixty dollars to order, from either LabCorp or Request, and you can take the paper in, you can get the test, you don't need your doctor. And the point is, the general range is about 0.8 to about 3.4, that’s like the general range. If you're a person living with type 2, and you go and you see your numbers in range, that's a very good sign that you are producing plenty of insulin, okay.

So, all you need to do is, start living a lifestyle, where you get to maximize your insulin sensitivity, and make it so, that insulin you’re using, can manage your blood glucose without the need of exogenous insulin, and without the need of oral medications. So, it's very empowering, when you get that information, okay, wait a minute, wow I am producing insulin, like, it's there, my body's doing it now, I just gotta optimize, and it can also be empowering, if you're a person, you’ve been living with type 2, for a long time and maybe your pancreas is exhausted, okay. You go, and you get a C-peptide and it's 0.4, it's 0.2, that's low. So, for example, my C-peptide is less than 0.1, so it's in a non-detectable range of how much insulin or C-peptide I'm producing, that's very much characteristic of anyone with type 1 diabetes, I'm producing pretty much zero insulin. Now, living with type 2, you go and you get this test, and you find out that you're in that camp as well, that's okay.

Okay, so now we can reset what our realistic goal is, and don't, you don't have to beat yourself up, or get upset if things aren't moving as quickly as you want, you're not reducing your insulin as much as you see other people doing. If you have that objective information, then you can come in, reset your goals and be, okay, now my goal here is to optimize my health, to really use the appropriate amount of insulin that I need to inject exogenously, in addition to what my pancreas is producing, and your focus is on overall health, and just having the best life you possibly can, living with type 2.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: It's great, okay. Yeah, I can't actually stress just how important this C-peptide measurement is, what you're explaining it's just spot-on, because it's over, and over, and over again, with people in our Coaching Program, with people on the outside world, who have a really difficult time controlling their blood glucose, living with type 2, and then up resorting to oral medication, that sometimes don't even do anything, because the problem is not in your muscle, the problem is not in your liver, the problems in your pancreas, and unless you get that C-peptide measurement, you just never know that that's the case.

Robby Barbaro: And I'd like to add to that, you know, like you said, we have people come in our Program, and sometimes they're doing everything right, and they're struggling. And this happens a lot with also people living with type 1.5 diabetes, so that's also a reality, and a big tip for anybody who is, they're doing everything right, and for some reason things aren't just clicking, another important thing might be to get a diabetes antibody panel, okay. So, this is so, somebody's living with type 1.5 diabetes that is characterized by having some antibodies present, and the low C-peptide test.

So, you go get that panel, and a diabetes antibody panel, will include a GAD antibody being tested, a IA2 antibody, and also insulin antibodies, and so a lot of medical professionals make a mistake of only testing the GAD antibody, and so that would be a mistake, I can share from my own personal experience, if somebody were to only test my GAD, they would be missing some information, because I have very recently had this test done, my insulin antibodies were negative, my GAD antibody was negative, my IA2 antibody was high, so that's the antibody that I'm struggling with, and why my pancreas is not producing sufficient insulin.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Yeah, that's a really good point actually, this is awesome. So, okay let's switch topics just a little bit here. You are a master of buying produce, I've literally never seen anybody that's better than you at, you know, I consider myself to be pretty good, but in comparison to you I'm a child. So, share with our audience, some tips about how you save incredible amounts of money, while buying very large quantities of real fruit produce, give us an idea what you do.

Robby Barbaro: I appreciate the kind words there. I am very passionate about the food tasting amazing, so that's something we teach a lot in our coaching program, what we do at Mastering Diabetes, that on this diet, there is no sacrifice, the food is amazing. And part of that comes down to sourcing, to getting the best ingredients. And also, a big part of it comes down to, using amazing spices and herbs and stuff where Cyrus is an expert at.

But, when it comes to getting good produce, what I have learned is that, number one, taking the time, and the energy, to go and see what is available in your area, that's key, that's step number one. So, you might not live near a wholesale market, we'll talk about that shortly, you might just live in a town, where you have, you know, a couple grocery stores, and that's it. But in that case, go to every single grocery store, so when I was in college, in Gainesville Florida, there were several grocery stores in that town, there was mainstream markets, there were some Asian markets, I went to every single one, and I would find out that different places had better items.

So, this one place have gotten really good papaya, one place had really good local persimmons, another place had, you know, better greens, better vegetables, and some of the major supermarkets, there's some supermarkets that, you know, they get their cantaloupe from one specific farm, and another major supermarket gets it from a different farm.

And I know it might seem overwhelming, like, “I'll have to go to all these different stores?”, but it's initially just to find out, which ones are the best. And you dial into, maybe one to three grocery stores, and that's it, so yes, there's some upfront work of sourcing, what is the best in your area, and that can take some time, but it's worth it. So, you see behind me all this produce, and I go once per week, I go to a wholesale produce market in downtown, Los Angeles, I get up early in the morning, and I go, and I go there, number one not just because I save a lot of money, but the number one reason I go there, is because I have the most options, I can pick the best items, I get the highest quality, best tasting fruits, so I can go to a lot of different vendors at the wholesale market, and there are lots of atholl faux mangoes right now, so you see the yellow mangoes behind me, that's an atholl faux mangoes, also known as a champagne mango. There are probably, at least, ten different brands at the wholesale market, and through experience, and through experimenting, I know that there's one specific brand, it's the purple box, it's called Amanda Panda, we served them at our retreats in the past, but these, this is the best tasting mango that's available to me, in this area.

And, same thing with papaya, you'll notice that there's different stickers, and so there's this one brand, they come in a black box, and those are the best-tasting papayas. So, the point is sourcing, so spending the time to go look, and see, where the options are, and then experimenting, and really paying attention to, okay, what's, what sticker did I buy, how did I like this one, that's an important tip. Another important tip is, getting to know the people, who you can buy a produce from, so that's produce managers, sometimes that's people at a farmers market, sometimes that might be getting to know the people who operate at the wholesale market.

And, when you get to know them, they end up, they know who you are, they know what you want, and oftentimes they give you deals on ripe produce, okay. So, what they call seconds at the grocery store, or the wholesale market, is usually just a little bit damaged, a little bruised, or might just be ripe, and they can't sell ripe stuff, and so, you get to take advantage of that, and save a lot of money, by buying seconds, but also the quality is good, because you know it's gonna ripen, so that's a big deal. And again, there's also an important tip, of learning how, when it comes to fruit specifically, how to ripen it, so a lot of times people don't know how to eat, how to ripen a mango, so may, most mangoes should have a little bit of give, and most people don't wait that long.

Same thing with papayas, you want to have a papaya that has some bounce on it, and it's a bright color, you don't want it to be hard as a rock. So, same thing with nectarines, and plums, you want, they want to have a little bit of give, so experimenting with letting your food ripen a little bit more, can have a huge impact on how much you enjoy it.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Okay, this is great, this is great, this is great. Alright, so here's the last question, that we asked everyone, I'm gonna ask it to you. What's the number one challenge, that you see people face, when it comes to lifestyle change, and what do you recommend for somebody to overcome this particular challenge?

Robby Barbaro: Okay, so I think the number one challenge, is not having a community, not having a people to do this with, if you go out there, and you try and do this all by yourself, you're just you're going upstream, it's gonna be a challenge. But, if you start having some friends, in person is great, but even if they're just digital, even if you have people to reach out to on Facebook, or you make a buddy on Instagram, you start DMing a friend on Instagram, that is a game changer.

So, having a community, having people to do this with, it's really, really important. Because, our environment out there is challenging, we are living in a world where people are encouraging, and celebrating unhealthy behaviors, and then if you show up to, you know, a party, or something, and you're trying to eat healthy, they make fun of it, and say, “oh, you're eating rabbit food”, it genuinely is a challenging environment out there. And, if you can have a sense of community, and a sense of pride, “hey I'm gonna, I'm gonna stick with this, you know, I'm doing i'm doing this cleanser, I'm doing this diet with off with my friend, you know, we're doing this together”, you can sort of talk about the challenging situations, how you dealt with them, and it can become very, very helpful.

So, you definitely, definitely seek out a community, whether it's online, whether it's in person, you can find meetup.com, you can find groups to see people, and share healthy meals, this whole diet is becoming much, much more popular all over the world, so definitely finding people there is a great place, there's, you know, Facebook groups, where you can meet up and, you know, lots of Instagram people, they announce meetups whenever they're in certain towns, so really staying connected, and having a community is essential.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: I think that's a great response actually. And you know, I can say from my personal experience, I think from your personal experience, that you know, when you are part of a community of other people, who are eating not only, you know, similarly to you, but it just makes your life easier, it just really does, right. You know, in everything, in terms of, you know, you sort of validate your experience as a human being, oh, I experienced this problem when “blank”, and someone else says, oh, you know, I get the exact same thing, you know my blood glucose gets a spike a little bit after exercise, as an example, if you're like, yeah, let me help you solve that problem, and then all of a sudden, it becomes this groupthink effort, where everybody's like, great you know, let's work together, because we all want the same end result. So, I think your advice is awesome.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your thoughts here, you know, you've been a pleasure to work with, for many years now, and I absolutely love your story, I love how much of a pro you have become at managing type 1 diabetes, through a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet, and you know, I know there's so many people in our community that just, absolutely love your message. So thank you, for what you do, and keep it going strong man, you're killing it right now.

Robby Barbaro: Thank you man, this has been so much fun, and doing this together is just, it's unbelievable.

Robby Barbaro: We really hope you enjoyed that episode, you've learned a lot and you're going to now take this information and put it into action. If you are living with diabetes, or you want to make sure you don't develop diabetes, you may want to consider joining our coaching program.

So we have an incredibly robust coaching program at an incredibly affordable price. At the time of this recording, we have a waitlist, so if you want to get into our coaching program, you have to go to www.masteringdiabetes.org, click Coaching in the top navigation bar and get your name on the waitlist.

We offer a lot in this coaching program, the price ends up being less than $0.70 cents a day. And we offer an online course that gives you everything you need to know about how to transition to a low fat, plant-based, whole-food lifestyle one step at a time. And it's only the pertinent information, only exactly what you need. The whole point is to not make it overwhelming. So that's the way we've designed this online course in a step by step manner.

Start with goal setting, you learn some of the science, you start changing breakfast, when you're ready, you start changing lunch, and when you're ready, you start changing dinner, and there's lessons about intermittent fasting all along the way, all the nuances about your blood glucose and what to expect and medications, and all that is covered in the online course.

The second tool we offer in our coaching program is a private community where our coaches answer questions within 24 hours. So every time you make an original post, sharing something or asking a question, one of our amazing coaches is going to reply within 24 hours. This community is on Facebook and outside of Facebook, for those who don't want to use Facebook.

So it's an incredible, incredible resource to get your questions answered every step of the way. We have two people in that group that have completely reversed type two diabetes as our coaches. That's Adam Sud, and Marc Ramirez. And we also have Kylie Buckner, RN, who's a registered nurse as one of our lead coaches in the coaching program. And you also have Cyrus and me chiming in when necessary. So we have you covered on all fronts, no matter what type of diabetes you're living with, we're there for you every step of the way.

People are also sharing lots of food pictures and recipes in the community. We're sharing meal planning tips, our team, we're sharing new recipes, we do challenges together. So the community is a really robust aspect of this program. And really, really important for people to have long term success on our program.

The third tool in our coaching program is twice monthly live Q&A calls. And these are fantastic with the first and third Sunday of every month, we use Zoom Video Conference so you can see us and we can see you if you choose to turn on your camera. Or you could just call in with your phone and we answer questions until everybody's questions are answered. And it's really fun. It's great to have that back and forth communication, and we can cover a lot in a short period of time.

The online community is obviously very helpful, you should get any urgent questions answered right away through the community. But it's also nice to have that dialogue and go back and forth on a video conference call. So that's the other tool we offer. And that's the Coaching Program.

So we have amazing results. I'm sure you've heard them on our podcast, seen our testimonials on YouTube and on our website, we want you to experience the same success, okay, our incentives are so aligned it's not even funny. We want you to have the best health ever so we can show the diabetes community how successfully a low fat, plant-based, whole-food diet reverses insulin resistance. It's a win-finity situation, we want you to succeed so, so much. We all benefit and we work very hard as a team to make sure that you get the results you're looking for. That's our point with the coaching program. So again, make sure to get on our waitlist, go to www.masteringdiabetes.org, click coaching and I can't wait to work with you soon.

​Have a great day!

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Reverse Insulin Resistance Using Your Food as Medicine

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About the author 

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD and Robby Barbaro, MPH

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, and Robby Barbaro, MPH are the coauthors of the New York Times bestselling book Mastering Diabetes: The Revolutionary Method to Reverse Insulin Resistance Permanently in Type 1, Type 1.5, Type 2, Prediabetes, and Gestational Diabetes. They are the cofounders of Mastering Diabetes, a coaching platform that teaches people how to reverse insulin resistance via low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition. Cyrus has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002, and has an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from UC Berkeley. Robby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000, and has been living a plant-based lifestyle since 2006. He worked at Forks Over Knives for 6 years, and earned a Master’s in Public Health in 2019.