The Blood Sugar Solution diet plan food list recipes

The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now, by Mark Hyman, MD, is a bestselling book that tackles a wide range of the most pressing health issues Americans face today, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer. Dr. Hyman’s unique approach to eliminating these illnesses is focused on the regulation of insulin levels through nutrition, balancing hormones, reducing inflammation, optimizing digestion, promoting detoxification, providing high quality supplementation, and implementing stress reduction techniques. The book is getting praise from some of the finest minds in medicine, including Dr. Mehmet Oz of The Dr. Oz Show, who writes the following in an endorsement for the book:

“Dr. Hyman has done it again with a lucid description of the causes of the diabesity epidemic and a powerful treatment program. The Blood Sugar Solution is a must-read for anyone anywhere on the spectrum between mild insulin resistance and full-blown type II diabetes—a groundbreaking, science-based, easy-to-follow prescription. Start your journey to healing now.”

Blood Sugar Diet ClaimsThe-Blood-Sugar-Solution-Cookbook-241x300

  • Prevent diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cancer
  • Balance hormone levels
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve digestion
  • Detoxify the body
  • Improve metabolism and energy levels
  • Improve mental health

Food guidelines:

  • Eat natural, unprocessed foods
  • Eat moderate amounts of low-glycemic-load carbs – with stricter limits for the advanced program
  • Avoid dairy and gluten during the program to allow the gut to heal
  • 1 week preparation, 6 weeks program (basic or advanced)

Below on this page is a full description of the food recommendations. Preparation | General guidelines | Basic program | Advanced program | Boosting your nutrition | Reintroduction and diet for life. The book has a lot more information in it.

Get a copy of The Blood Sugar Solution for more information on the reasons behind the recommendations, hormone regulation, quizzes, supplementation, menus, recipes, resources and more.
Also, get The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook for a detailed list of serving sizes and many more recipes for the Basic Program and the Advanced Program as well as Reintroduction, and a few desserts.

The Blood Sugar Solution diet plan – food list

The book calls for 1 week preparation and a 6 week program, followed by a diet for life. There are two plans, the basic plan and the advanced plan – the advanced plan has a more restrictive diet for 6 weeks and a more comprehensive supplement plan.

This description combines The Blood Sugar Solution and The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. Because the cookbook was written a year after the diet book, which had been successful, there are some minor tweaks between the two. We’ve tried to note them here.

If it came from the earth or a farmer’s field, not a food chemist’s lab, it’s safe to eat.

  • Meal guidelines
    • Always have breakfast, with proteins such as eggs, nuts, seeds, nut butters, or a protein shake
    • Eat 3 meals a day with 2 snacks. Eat every 3-4 hours, and try to schedule meals at the same time every day. Have small, frequent, fiber-rich meals throughout the day. Stop eating at least 3 hours before you go to bed
    • Each meal can have up to 15 grams of carbohydrates, and each snack can have up to 7.5 grams. If you exercise regularly or increase your exercise routine while on this program, you can slowly begin to increase these amounts. But have no more than 30 grams of carbs at a meal unless they come from low-glycemic vegetables. As your insulin sensitivity improves, you can increase your consumption of natural carbohydrates to 30-50 grams per meal. Choose nonstarchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lower-glycemic fruit such as blueberries, raspberries, apples, and pears. You should eliminate refined carbs and sugars for the first 6 weeks on the program, then you can have an occasional small treat once a week if it doesn’t trigger sugar or carb binging
    • Eat a low-glycemic-load diet, to avoid spiking blood sugar and insulin (the restrictions above will automatically lead to this)
    • Combine good protein (fish, organic eggs, small amounts of lean poultry, nuts, whole soy foods, and legumes), good fats (fish, extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, olives, nuts other than peanuts, seeds, and avocados), and good carbs (in moderation) (beans, vegetables, whole grains, and fruit) at each meal to balance your blood sugar
    • On half of your plate, put low-starch vegetables (you can refill this part as much as you want). On one quarter of your plate, put some lean protein (following the guidelines above). On the other quarter, add either ½ cup of whole grains (ideally brown or black rice or quinoa) or ½ cup of starchy vegetables such as sweet potato or winter squash. If you are on the Advanced Plan, make your plate 75% low-starch vegetables and 25% protein; skip the grains and starchy vegetables
    • Eat a wide range of produce – red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables; dark green leafy vegetables; dark blue, purple, or red fruits and vegetables; cruciferous vegetables; allium vegetables; citrus fruits; sea vegetables; low-glycemic fruits and vegetables; konjac
    • If you have advanced diabesity or are on the advanced program, make vegetables ¾ of your plate and protein ¼ – until your metabolism resets and you become more insulin-sensitive, about 6 weeks to 12 months
    • Eat more: whole foods, fiber, omega-3 fats
    • Look for foods with a low glycemic load (GL) and a high phytonutrient index (PI – colorful fruits and veggies)
    • Practice mindful eating: Take 5 slow breaths before a meal; offer gratitude before your meal; bring your attention fully to the food; put your fork down between bites, and chew your food well
  • Eat local and seasonal food where possible – support your farmers market and CSA
  • Vegetables
    • Eat organic if you can, especially the EWG’s dirty dozen
    • Green carbs – eat freely: artichokes, arugula, asparagus, avocado, bean sprouts, beet greens, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, broccolini, broccoli rabe, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, red cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, chile peppers, Chinese broccoli, collard greens, cucumbers, dandelion greens, eggplant, endive, garlic, ginger root, green beans, fennel, hearts of palm, jicama, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, napa cabbage, onions (all types), peppers (all types), radicchio, radishes, scallions, seaweed/sea vegetables (e.g. arame, dulse, hijiki, kombu, wakame, etc.), shallots, snap beans, snap peas, snow peas, spinach, summer squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnip greens, watercress, yellow squash, zucchini. Serving size: 3 cups salad greens, 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked – but these are essentially free foods, eat as much as you’d like
    • Red carbs – eat limited amounts (avoid on the advanced program): starchy, high-glycemic cooked vegetables, e.g. beets, butternut squash, carrots, corn, delicata squash, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes / yams, turnips, winter squash. Serving size: 1 cup winter squash, ½ sweet potato
    • There are some starchy vegetables listed in the book but not defined as starchy so the guidelines aren’t clear: carrots, turnips, yams
    • Superfood vegetables: arugula, avocado, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, cilantro, dandelion greens, onions, parsley, sea vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, shirataki noodles (made from konjac, not soy), sprouts (especially broccoli sprouts), sweet potatoes, watercress
  • Poultry
    • Serving size 4 ounces
    • Look for organic, pasture-raised and antibiotic- and hormone-free
    • Remove the skin before cooking
    • Chicken, turkey
    • Mark Hyman’s favorite sources for high-quality poultry: Bell & Evans, local farmers’ markets, Murray’s Chicken, Plainville Farms, Whole Foods Market
  • Seafood
    • Serving size 4 ounces
    • Look for small, wild, or sustainably raised cold-water fish. For guidelines on low-mercury fish, visit http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/walletcard.pdf to download a wallet card you can carry with you for reference when you are shopping. Also see http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/download.aspx for information on which fish may be in danger because of depleted stocks or nonsustainable harvesting practices
    • Fish – e.g. cod, anchovies, butterfish, catfish, croaker (Atlantic), flounder, haddock (Atlantic), hake, herring, mackerel/chub mackerel (North Atlantic), mullet, perch (ocean), plaice, pollock, wild salmon (canned or fresh), sardines, shad (American), sole, tilapia, trout (freshwater), white fish, whiting. Cod and halibut are also included in recipes
    • Shellfish – e.g. clams, crab (domestic), crawfish/crayfish, mussels, oyster, scallops, shrimp, squid/calamari
    • Mark Hyman’s favorite sources for safe fish: CleanFish, Crown Prince Natural, EcoFish, SeaBear, Vital Choice
    • Superfood fish: sardines, wild salmon (fresh or canned)
  • Meat
    • Serving size 4 ounces
    • Look for pasture-raised, grass-fed, and antibiotic- and hormone-free; also local if possible
    • There are no meat recipes in the diet book and only a couple in the cookbook; it looks like it’s discouraged but there’s nothing saying so
    • The only meat listed in the book is lamb – beef and pork and other meats are not ruled out but not listed
    • Mark Hyman’s favorite sources for high-quality meat: community-supported agriculture (CSAs), Eatwild, local farms or farmers’ markets, Whole Foods Market. See http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/ for a guide to eating meat that is both good for you and good for the planet
  • Eggs
    • Omega-3 eggs or free-range eggs
    • Whole eggs are okay
    • Up to 8 a week
    • Mark Hyman’s favorite sources for high-quality eggs: Organic Valley, Pete & Gerry’s Organics
    • Superfood eggs: omega-3 eggs
  • Legumes
    • These are yellow carbs – eat in moderation (and it looks like they can be eaten in the advanced program). Serving size 1/3 cup limit if you are on the Advanced Plan, cooked or canned
    • Beans – e.g. adzuki beans, black beans, butter beans/baby lima beans, cannellini beans, fava beans/broad beans, Great Northern beans, kidney beans, mung beans, navy beans, pinto beans
    • Lentils, e.g. red lentils, brown lentils, green lentils
    • Chickpeas/garbanzo beans, garbanzo bean flour
    • Dried peas,e.g. black-eyed peas, and split peas, e.g. green split peas, yellow split peas
    • Whole soy products, including edamame, soybeans, tempeh, tofu, silken tofu, miso, and natto (serving size not given). Plain unsweetened soy yogurt is included in the cookbook
    • When buying canned beans, seek out BPA-free cans – or better yet, cook with dried beans from the bulk section of your local market
    • Superfood legumes: adzuki beans, black beans, edamame
  • Nuts and seeds
    • Servings size: ¼ cup or one small handful or 10-12 nuts, once or twice a day
    • Raw – not fried, cooked in oils, or salted. Lightly toasted is okay
    • Nuts – e.g. almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts. Optionally soak in water overnight
    • Seeds – e.g. chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds/pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
    • Mark Hyman’s favorite source for high-quality nuts and seeds: Artisana, Barlean’s Organic Oils, Eden Foods, MaraNatha, Omega Nutrition, Once Again, Pacific Foods, Spectrum, WhiteWave
    • Nut butters – e.g. almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, peanut butter, pecan butter, sunflower seed butter, tahini (serving size not given)
    • Nut flours – e.g. almond meal, coconut flour. Mark Hyman’s favorite source for high-quality flour alternatives: Bob’s Red Mill
    • Superfood nuts and seeds: All, especially almonds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Herbs and spices
    • Herbs, fresh or dried – e.g. basil, bay leaf, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, sage, thyme
    • Spices – e.g. black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili peppers, chili powder, Chinese 5-spice powder, chipotle powder, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry powder, fennel seed, garam masala, garlic powder, ginger, mustard seed, nutmeg, onion powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, sea salt, sumac, za’atar spice mix
    • Mark Hyman’s favorite source for high-quality seasonings: Edward & Sons, Flavorganics, Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, Penzeys Spices, Rapunzel, Seeds of Change, The Spice Hunter
    • Superfood spices and foods: cacao (raw), chiles, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, green tea/matcha, miso, turmeric
  • Fats
    • Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil (light or dark), sunflower oil (not listed in the cookbook), walnut oil. Peanut oil is also included in recipes
    • Avocados and avocado oil
    • Olives
    • Coconut butter
    • Tahini
    • Butter is listed in the diet book but excluded in the cookbook, which has recipes with ghee/clarified butter
    • Mark Hyman’s favorite source for high-quality oils: Artisana, Barlean’s Organic Oils, Spectrum
    • Superfood fats: extra-virgin coconut butter, extra-virgin olive oil
  • Beverages
    • Drink 6-8 glasses of clean, fresh, pure water a day. The best option is to filter your own water
    • Matcha green tea
    • Small amounts (1/4 to ½ cup) of alcohol in cooking are fine
  • Condiments and pantry
    • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, capers, chili paste, red chili paste, coconut milk, dill pickle, hot sauces, mirin, mustard, olives, gluten-free low-sodium stock/broth, wheat-free tamari, tomato paste, sriracha, sun-dried tomatoes, tahini, tamari, tomato paste, tomato sauce, cooking wine, Vegenaise, vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, brown rice, rice wine), wasabi paste, Worcestershire sauce
    • Unsweetened applesauce, aloe vera juice, arrowroot, baking powder, cacao nibs, cacao powder, konjac powder, pomegranate molasses, vanilla extract
    • Unsweetened soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk
    • Protein shake powder – rice protein, pea protein, hemp protein, chia protein, or soy (from whole soy foods with isoflavones) protein powder; any good quality plant protein powder
    • Spirulina powder, green powder, maca powder, bee pollen
    • Some of the recipes include raw honey, although it’s listed as a food to avoid; pomegranate molasses and hoisin sauce are also in recipes
  • Fruits
    • Eat organic if you can, especially the EWG’s dirty dozen
    • Lemons, limes, goji berries, and pomegranate are included in the recipes, but there are no guidelines about how freely to eat them
    • Yellow carbs – eat in moderation (avoid on the advanced program, except ½ cup dark berries daily): dark berries (blackberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries); stone fruit (apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines, etc.); apples and pears. Serving sizes: 1 medium piece, 1 cup berries, ½ cup mixed fresh fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit. Strawberries and grapefruit are also listed in the cookbook
    • Red carbs – eat limited amounts (avoid on the advanced program):  high-sugar fruits, including melons, grapes, pineapple – limit to a ½ cup treat once a week.
    • Avoid all fruit juice or fruit packed in juice
    • Other high-sugar fruits are listed in the recipes but it’s not clear whether they’re yellow carbs or red carbs: bananas
    • Superfood fruits: apples, berries (especially wild, organic blueberries, acai, and goji), kiwis, lemons, pomegranates
  • Grains and carbs
    • These are yellow carbs – eat in moderation (avoid on the advanced program). Serving size 1/3 cup cooked
    • Whole grains – brown rice, black rice, wild rice (avoid wheat for the first six weeks)
    • Pseudo-grains – amaranth, buckwheat/kasha, millet, quinoa, teff
    • Cracked grains – corn grits, polenta
    • Organic tortillas
    • Mark Hyman’s favorite sources for gluten-free grains: Arrowhead Mills, Hodgson Mill, Lundberg Family Farms, Shiloh Farms

You could have chocolate, at least 70% cocoa, no more than 2 ounces a day – but ideally you should save this for after the first 6 weeks

The Blood Sugar Solution 1 week preparation – foods to avoid

These are foods you’ll cut out completely:

  • Sugars and carbs
    • All sugar, with any name – including agave nectar, organic cane juice, cane syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, etc.; also high fructose corn syrup HFCS
    • Highly processed carbs that act like sugar, including all flour products, breads, pastas, etc. Especially foods with white flour and white rice. Check labels – there’s a lot of sugar in ketchup, for example
  • Processed foods and additives
    • Foods with labels and more than five ingredients, or with health claims on the label, or with ingredients you can’t pronounce
    • Foods with preservatives, additives, coloring, or dyes, “natural flavorings,” or flavor enhancers such as MSG (monosodium glutamate)
    • Foods with artificial sweeteners, e.g. aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, sugar alcohols (end with “ol,” such as xylitol or sorbitol)
  • Unhealthy fats
    • Foods with the word “hydrogenated” on the label
    • Highly refined cooking oils such as corn oil, soy oil

Reintroduction and diet for life

There are suggested recipes in the cookbook for reintroduction of dairy and gluten – see guidelines below.

  • Stick with the general food recommendations for life
    • Keep sugar, flour, and processed foods to a minimum
    • Include high-quality, whole-food carbs, protein, and fats at every meal
    • Compose your meals according to the 50-25-25 principle (50% vegetables, 25% lean high-quality protein, 25% whole grains)
    • Eat protein for breakfast and don’t eat 2-3 hours before bedtime
    • Limit your intake of addictive substances such as caffeine and alcohol
  • Dairy and gluten – two alternatives: you could stay off them, or you could add them back in
  • To reintegrate dairy and gluten:
    • Start with unprocessed dairy
    • Eat it at least 2-3 times for 3 days
    • Track your reactions for at least 72 hours (weight gain, cravings, fluid retention, nasal congestion, chest congestion, headaches, brain fog, difficulty remembering things, mood problems such as depression, anxiety, anger, sleep problems, joint aches, muscle aches, pain, fatigue, changes in your skin such as acne, changes in digestion or bowel function such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, reflux
    • If you have a reaction, stop dairy immediately
    • Wait 3 days
    • Now try unprocessed gluten. Follow the same process you did for dairy: Eat it 2-3 times for 3 days, track your reactions for at least 72 hours, and quit if you notice a reaction

Pros and Cons

I listened to an interview with Dr. Hyman, and his principles are almost spot-on with what scientific research has revealed. I find that many dietitians would even agree with most of his diet approach.

The main downfall is that he limits starchy vegetables, fruits, and high quality whole grain flours in his book. Blueberries and strawberries should not be limited in order to achieve optimal health!

Low fat and fat free dairy should simply be limited–not completely avoided. There is always controversy surrounding dairy, but a few small servings can get you calcium, vitamin D, and balance in your diet.

All of other Dr. Hyman’s principles are in line with what other health professionals would consider to be the perfect diet approach–plenty of high quality fresh ingredients and a diet consisting of mostly fruits and vegetables.