Robert has type 2 diabetes and is too thin. A few days ago he wrote me that he had searched all over for help and needed “some kind of guide on gaining weight.”
He is 6′ 2″ and says that he needs 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day (because of his workout routines) to get up to 180 to 185 pounds.
Unlike Robert, almost everyone with diabetes is trying to lose weight. But a few need to gain.
It’s not only most of those with type 1 who are too thin. Even some of us with type 2 are trying to get up to a healthy weight, a problem that most people with diabetes would love to have. But aspects of the best strategy for gaining weight apply equally for those who would like to lose weight.
The prescription for gaining weight sounds easy. Just eat more calories than you use.
But how? As I wrote Robert, the best way to gain weight is to eat certain foods that are the most packed with calories.
Those foods are the ones that are high in fat. Compared to carbohydrate and protein, which provide us with 4 calories per gram, fat is more than twice as calorie dense. Fat has 9 calories per gram.
So fat is the food of choice to concentrate on in order to put on more fat. Sounds logical, right?
The trouble is that many people believe that fat is bad for them. Some fats, particularly trans fats, certainly are, but not all. And while the American medical establishment has demonized saturated fat for half a century, it’s on the basis of a theory, not fact. Saturated fat in cheese and meat may well be beneficial for us.
Nothing has made this clearer for me than two of my favorite reference books. The book, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, by the Canadian scientist Udo Erasmus, dispelled the myths about fats. Another great resource on fat is Gary Taubes’s book, Good Calories, Bad Calories.
Several types of fats help heal us. Monounsaturated reduces our blood cholesterol. The foods with the highest proportion of monounsaturated fat are macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, olive oil, olives, almonds, and avocados, in that order.
Another healing fat is called polyunsaturated. But only one type of polyunsaturated fat is helpful. Most of us eat too much of one type, called omega-6, and too little of the other main type, omega-3, which comes largely from cold water fish. This fat is heart healthy, according to the American Heart Association.
Salmon, sardines, and herring are the most readily available sources among those highest in omega-3 fats. When wild salmon is available, I tend to eat it so often that I get tired of it. But lately I have discovered tins of sardines that are wild caught. Particularly those packed in olive oil rather than water taste much better than typical sardines.
If Robert and others who are too thin would eat more of these fats, they will gain weight. Even for those of us type 2s who don’t need to gain weight need these good fats in our diet. Just avoid the unhealthy trans fats and don’t overdo the good ones.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.