As a diabetic, I evaluate my food intake quite a lot. For years, considering what I was going to eat took up way more mental space and energy than I wanted. I’ve eaten a pretty low carbohydrate diet since I was pregnant with Sienna and had to dramatically cut and monitor my daily carbs to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Then, probably about eight years ago, I discovered the paleo diet and further limited my food choices to meat, vegetables, nuts, eggs, and some fruit.
At first, this style of eating was really helpful for maintaining my blood sugar. However, it was obviously limiting and my other health numbers weren’t where we needed them to be: cholesterol, most notably. Since I started taking an additional diabetes medication about five years ago, my cholesterol had been elevated. My endocrinologist kept telling me that a statin in was my future, once I hit 40. There are so many things that magically become an issue at 40!
Eye sight, cancer screenings, and cholesterol medication, oh my!
At the end of last summer, I started reading about the bean protocol. Ironically, it was a paleo blog that introduced me to this approach to eating! Juli of PaleOMG struggled with acne for years and eating beans several times per day cleared up her skin completely. I went to the source of this protocol and discovered an amazing story of one mom’s quest to save her daughter after she was poisoned by insecticide as a toddler. Eating a ton of fiber (mostly from beans) helped her daughter’s liver and kidneys to fully detox when doctors told her (back in 1989) that there was no way to treat her symptoms.
If you’re interested, definitely check out Karen Hurd’s website. The theory, in a nutshell, is that many of the health conditions people experience are due to our hormones being recycled through the body. When we eat enough fiber, those excess hormones are excreted from the body and therefore are not recycled and wreaking havoc on our immune systems. As I researched further, I was intrigued mostly on behalf of Sienna. We’ve tried various dietary approaches to help her focus, in an effort to avoid the medications she does not want to take. ADD/ADHD is one of many conditions that this protocol can improve.
Curiosity and a gut instinct that this protocol could help us all, I gradually increased my bean and fiber intake over a couple weeks, until I was eating 5-6 servings of beans daily in early September. I then started transitioning our entire family, adding beans to meals and researching fun recipes to try. As you would imagine, your body has to adjust to all the fiber, but it wasn’t a big deal for any of us.
Sienna is doing well in school and not taking any medications! She says that math tutoring and her overall maturation as a student are the reason for her success, which is definitely true. However, I think her healthy diet and the extra fiber are helping too.
An unexpected and delightful result of this approach came when I had my annual blood test in late October. I knew that my endocrinologist would advise I start a statin for my cholesterol, if my numbers continued to run in the 200-220 range. After two months of eating a ton of beans, my total cholesterol was down to 154! Wow. That was all the proof I needed that this works and I’m sticking with it! Other benefits I’ve noticed are weight loss, healthier skin, obviously regularity, and more interesting meal options!
There are so many delicious recipes to fit beans into baked goods and treats. This cookie dough dip is a favorite! I’ll use a sugar substitute to keep the carbohydrates down. I created a pizza crust for me to enjoy on our Friday pizza nights. It includes a couple tablespoons of chickpea flour and it’s much closer to a real crust than the many paleo options I’ve tried. My favorite option is a barbeque chicken pizza on this crust (that’s it in the photo!). I’ve really had fun with expanding the types of foods we’re eating, discovering new recipes, and feeling a deeper peace around food choices.
Finding the bean protocol felt like an answer to prayer. For months I’d prayed that God would help free my mind and spirit from struggling with food choices and the associated diabetic guilt. This approach has simplified my eating with one overarching focus: include beans in each meal. Beans are already so versatile, but there are also bean flours, bean chips, bean tortillas, and so many other products made of beans. I’d also been praying for a clear path forward in treating Sienna’s ADD. In addition to adding all the beans, we’ve also reduced sugar for the entire family, especially during the school week. Those things together are helping so much.
So, that’s my story of how beans are helping our family in a variety of ways. Let me know if you have any questions!