By Alisa Mullins
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone when Paula Deen announced recently that she has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. After all, this is the lady who took Southern cooking and turned it into an extreme (artery-clogging) sport. Her over-the-top fat- and cholesterol-laden dishes like Paula’s Fried Butter Balls and bacon-wrapped Fried Mac and Cheese have been sent up in a five-part Serious Eats series titled “Paula Deen Is Trying to Kill Us.” Even Anthony Bourdain, who isn’t exactly known as an ascetic, has taken Deen to task for her carotid-clogging fare, calling her “the worst, most dangerous person to America.”
But Deen now has the opportunity to do herself and her fans a great service by following in the footsteps of fellow southerner Bill Clinton and embracing healthy vegan meals.
In her defense, Deen claims that she has “always encouraged moderation” and “portion control.” But obviously, that approach hasn’t worked. And if one looks at her recipes, one sees that Deen’s idea of “moderation” is pretty lethal.
Take, for example, her Baked French Toast Casserole recipe, which calls for 2 cups of half-and-half and a half-pound of butter. Tellingly, no calorie or fat-gram counts are provided on the Food Network site, but if do your own calculations, you are in for a rude “portion control” awakening. The casserole is supposed to serve six to eight people. Say you are being stingy and spread this dish out among eight brunch guests: You’ll each ingest about 745 calories and 45 grams of fat per serving—and that’s before you add the suggested maple syrup garnish.
Only have six sitting down for breakfast? Crank that up to about 990 calories and 60 grams of fat per serving, nearly half the day’s calorie and an entire day’s fat allotment for the average adult.
What about Deen’s signature dish, The Lady’s Brunch Burger, a half-pound of ground beef, two slices of bacon and a fried egg nestled between two glazed doughnuts? At over 1,000 calories and more than 70 grams of fat, you’ve once again socked away nearly half a day’s calories—and nearly a whole day’s fat—before lunchtime.
Deen asserts that her diagnosis won’t change how she cooks, even as she launches an online diabetes-management program in association with Novo Nordisk—the pharmaceutical company for whom she is now a paid spokesperson—that will feature low-calorie recipes. Which leads one to wonder—will she actually be cooking these healthier recipes?
PETA has written to Deen and urged her not only to change the way she cooks but also to trade in her chitlins for chickpeas and go vegan. That’s because a vegan diet has proved in several studies to actually reverse type 2 diabetes. In one study, two-thirds of the patients improved so much that they were able to reduce or even eliminate their diabetes medications altogether. In another study, the patients on a vegan diet controlled their blood sugar three times more effectively than those on the American Diabetes Association diet. As an added bonus, people who go vegan also tend to lose weight and lower their cholesterol and blood pressure.
How does a vegan diet help reverse (and also prevent) diabetes? Research has found that the build-up of fat inside our cells is a leading culprit in interfering with insulin’s ability to do its job. Vegan diets tend to be low in fat, while a high-fat diet leads to the build-up of fat in our cells. Eating high-fat foods even for just a few days can have an impact, as can eating low-fat foods.
So, Paula, why not put down Grandmother Paul’s Fried Chicken and pick up a black bean burrito or dig into a bowl of red lentil soup? Your pancreas—and your fans—will thank you.