Are You Going Nuts with Diabetes?


Ward Alper is a type 2 diabetic and chef who lives and eats decadently in Portland, Maine. Since his diagnosis more than four years ago, he has refocused his recipes and eating to support his diabetic health. In this article, Ward shares how he reduces carbs while adding nutrition and flavor to his recipes using nuts.

I have heard for years about the benefits of nuts. I even remember the peanut (no oil) diet. Even my crazy aunt Sophie, who was the most conservative of eaters, thought that nuts were a good thing – in moderation, of course.

Going Nuts with Diabetes

Since I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I've found that I am using more nuts than ever in my cooking – not especially because of these findings but for other reasons as well.

In baking: I use nuts to replace up to one-third of the flour in a recipe, which cuts the carbohydrate content drastically and allows me and my family to continue to enjoy baked goods. The bonus here is that the ground almonds, walnuts, or pecans add a subtle flavor and texture to the finished product that, in almost all cases, makes it better than the original. When it came to making my wedding cake this summer (Amaretto Cheesecake), I made some cakes with sugar but all of the crusts with my almond and flour mixture. What I liked so much about the crust as a diabetic, I needed to share with my guests. (Do I have to tell you that they loved it?)

For vegetables: I have, as many folks, made string beans with almonds for years. The butter toasted almonds add incredible flavor to the dish. What I also discovered is that nuts (this time pecans) add great flavor and texture to my Orange Ginger Glazed Carrots, and texture and flavor to a simple salad. For no work at all, we can turn a boring old green salad into a real treat.

And please don’t forget to add nuts to a chicken salad and take the ordinary to extraordinary. This works especially well if you are doing just a plated salad and exuding any bread. Pistachios are often forgotten as an addition to a dish. If you hate shelling them, they can be bought shelled. Just keep them in the freezer after opening the bag. Pistachios are great on a salad or as a stuffing for chicken.

For main dishes: I have been making chicken with walnuts for years. I do it by stuffing the chicken with walnuts, parmesan cheese and sauteed onion. But it also works if you pan fry a chicken breast and then add the nuts at the last minute or so. One of my favorite recipes is Wild Salmon with Pesto and Pistachios – very Middle Eastern flavoring. (If you HATE fish, try it with chicken instead.)

For desserts: Toasted almonds (or walnuts or pecans) add so much to a creamy dessert. Dannon’s Light and Fit Greek style yogurt takes on an almost exotic essence with just the addition of a few nuts. My easy-as-hell Double Chocolate Ricotta Crème becomes better for the addition of just a few toasted almonds. Fresh berries become a real treat with toasted nuts on top and a little sweetened sour cream.

If nuts help to keep you healthier, that is wonderful. That they make foods tastier and more interesting at the same time – HORRAY!

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT! And go nuts!

Click here for Ward's French Chicken and Walnut Salad recipe!

Get more nutrition tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.