More And More People Are Choosing To Follow A Vegetarian Diet For Many Different Reasons
Its estimated that two per cent of the population now dont eat meat or fish.
Reasons for switching to a vegetarian diet include:
- the health benefits
- concern about the environment and sustainability
- taste some people just dont like the taste of meat or fish.
A vegetarian diet, based on unprocessed foods, can provide many health benefits for us all, whether or not you have diabetes.
If you have diabetes, its important to be more aware of how what you eat affects your body and, in turn, youll hopefully become more health conscious.
So what is a vegetarian diet? Are there any ways it could help manage diabetes? Does it provide any health benefits for people with diabetes?
Review Published In Advances In Nutrition Finds Plant
According to the CDCs 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, 13% of the US adult population have diabetes. If current trends continue, by the year 2050, that figure is projected to climb to between 21% and 33% of the adult population. Most of these cases are projected to be type 2 diabetes, which currently accounts for 90% to 95% of all diabetes cases.
The American Diabetes Association estimates the cost of treating diagnosed diabetes in the US at $327 billion dollars annually. The CDC, however, estimates that more than one-fifth of Americans with diabetes have not been diagnosed. The actual healthcare costs associated with diabetes therefore is likely significantly higher.
Because there is no known cure for diabetes, prevention is key. Given the high prevalence of diabetes, however, finding low-cost treatment and disease management options is also critical. A Perspective published in Advances in Nutrition, Plant-Based Eating Pattern for Type 2 Diabetes Prevention and Treatment: Efficacy, Mechanisms, and Practical Considerations offers strong evidence based on a review of the current scientific research that a plant-based eating pattern is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and is highly effective in its treatment.
Current Guidelines And Macronutrients
In their 2017 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, the ADA states that a variety of eating patterns are acceptable for the management of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, including Mediterranean, DASH, and plant-based diets. These guidelines recommend carbohydrate intake from legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, with an emphasis on nutrient-dense, high-fiber, low-glycemic load foods. They also include a recommendation that people with diabetes follow the guidelines for the general population for intakes of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and trans fat. Plant-based diets are consistent with these guidelines. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that vegetarian and vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of life, from infancy to adulthood, and may provide benefits for the prevention and treatment of diabetes, obesity and ischemic heart disease.
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Can I Replace The Animal Protein In My Diet With More Carbs
It is better to replace animal protein with non-animal sources of protein. These include:
- pulses and beans
There is generally more carbohydrate in plant-based protein sources, so it is possible that your carbohydrate intake may increase when you switch to a vegetarian diet. However, you can still watch your portions, and always look for low glycaemic index options and pick foods that are high in fibre. Doing this could help in managing diabetes and with weight control. The GI is a measure of how quickly carbohydrate is absorbed and the quicker the carbohydrate is absorbed, the higher the GI.
Can Veganism Cure Diabetes
While veganism itself may not be able to completely cure diabetes, it does have a range of potential benefits, including:
- Blood sugar management. Research and studies have proved that following a vegan diet helps improve blood sugar management due to the balance of carbs, protein, and fat present in all meals and snacks.
- Insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the hormone that helps maintain glucose levels. Diabetics have insulin resistance and cannot produce it. Increasing insulin sensitivity through eating a plant-based diet and then reduce blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Weight management. A type 2 diabetes vegan diet can be beneficial for weight loss, which can then help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels. Vegan diets are naturally lower in fat and calories, and thus can make it easier to experience weight loss.
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Diabetes And Veganism Is A Vegan Diet Beneficial
If youve been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be wondering how to lower your blood sugar levels. One of the popular options is switching to a vegan diet that excludes all animal products.
There are many different benefits associated with the vegan diet, but its essential to consider if it will help with your condition before you make the switch. While there are some claims that it can help you control your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, limited research is available.
Mediterranean And Dietary Approaches For Stopping Hypertension
Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches for Stopping Hypertension diets both emphasize the intake of plant-based foods with controlled portions of animal products. Mediterranean diets have been tested for the prevention and treatment of diabetes. Like a plant-based diet, Mediterranean diets emphasize the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and reduce meat, refined grains, and sugar, while allowing modest amounts of animal products. The term Mediterranean diet may be interpreted differently by different people. In research studies, the term refers to a diet that includes abundant plant-based foods, favors olive oil as the primary source of fat, and includes low to moderate amounts of meat, dairy products, eggs, and wine . A high score for Mediterranean diet-style intake, measured by study participants consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish, and the ratio of MUFAs to SFAs, was associated with a 30% reduced risk of developing diabetes in over 25,000 women followed for 20 y. The high Mediterranean diet scores were associated with lower biomarkers of insulin resistance . A meta-analysis of 9 randomized controlled trials with 1178 patients with type 2 diabetes compared a Mediterranean diet with control diets resulting in a greater reduction in HbA1c . There were also improvements in body weight and cardiovascular risk factors .
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Don’t Be Afraid Of Whole Carbohydrates
Have you ever heard that carbs cause diabetes? It’s not actually true. Well, not entirely.
Refined carbs the ones used for processed and packaged foods like white pasta, crackers, white rice, cakes, cookies. have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients. Without fiber, they enter the blood stream quickly and cause blood sugar spikes and drops.
But remember, that studies show that insulin resistance, a characteristic of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, is due to too much saturated fat in the diet .
Why do carbs get the blame? Because if you already have insulin resistance, due to a high fat diet, carb-heavy foods, even natural ones like fruit and potatoes, can cause blood sugar to spike because insulin resistance is preventing the insulin from doing its job and getting glucose to those muscle cells.
The good news: whole grain consumption is actually associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk !
Can A Vegan Diet Reverse Prediabetes
An advanced plant-based diet has been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes in 84 percent of patients, according to a new study just published by a researcher who worked with patients in Slovakia. The diet, called the Natural Food Interaction or NFI Protocol, is basically a personalized whole-food plant-based diet plan.
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Can A Vegan Diet Help Prevent Diabetes
Yes, the research shows that eating a plant-based diet can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. In one study, the more animal products people ate, the higher their prevalence of diabetes . Another study found that those who adhered to a strictly vegetarian diet had a 35% lower risk of developing diabetes.
But remember that too many processed foods, even on a vegan diet, will be detrimental to your health. Fill your plate with plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and youll be on the right track to help slow down your risk of developing diabetes.
Add Healthy Fats To Your Meals
When following a vegetarian diet for diabetes, you will be swapping out saturated fat found in animal products for heart healthy fats found in plant foods. Its important to add healthy fats to your diet because your body cant produce two essential fatty acids on its own: omega 3 and omega 6, which provide good health and disease prevention. Adding healthy fats to your meals such as avocado, olives or olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and plant-based margarines and mayonnaise helps you to:
- Feel full longer, which helps with weight management
- Reduce your risk of heart disease
- Maintain healthy cell membranes and aid in cellular development
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Keep your hair, skin, and nails healthy
Once you have met with your RDN and healthcare team to establish a vegetarian diet plan and carbohydrate goals, consider different ways to build a balanced meal. To help you get started, weve created a vegetarian meal planner.
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What Is A Vegetarian
According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is:”Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter.”
There are different types of vegetarians:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs .
- Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products, but avoid eggs.
- Vegans do not any products derived from animals no meat, fish, dairy or eggs.
What Are The Benefits Of A Vegan Diet For People With Diabetes
Healthcare professionals have long touted the benefit of eating more fruits and vegetables when you have diabetes.
But several studies comparing mostly plant-based/vegan diets to omnivorous ones also reveal that eliminating meat products may be the best route to go, to better manage your diabetes. Plant-based diets have been shown to reduce diabetes-associated risks and improve quality of life too. Here are some of the benefits of adhering to a mostly plant-based or vegan diet:
- Weight loss: People on plant-based diets typically consume fewer calories and less saturated fat. They also have lower body mass index than non-vegetarians. Research has shown that those who followed a vegan diet lost nearly twice as much weight compared to those on diets incorporating meat products. Learn more on how to maintain a healthy weight when you have diabetes here.
- Improved cholesterol levels: Low-fat, plant-based diets can significantly lower your total cholesterol levels by as much as 20% compared to other diets.
- Reduced A1C: Eliminating meat in your diet can significantly reduce your hemoglobin A1C. The research shows a 0.5 point reduction for people on vegan diets compared to 0.2 for those following conventional diets.
- Reduced cardiovascular risk: The prevalence of hypertension is significantly lower in those adhering to a plant-based diet compared to meat eaters. Plant proteins also lower blood pressure more than meat proteins do.
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Are There Any Special Considerations Eating Plant
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin is a nutrient the body needs in order to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out other necessary functions. Vitamin B12 cannot be made by the body, therefore it is important to get this either through supplements or from food .
Unfortunately, plants do not make Vitamin B12 and the body cannot make it on its own. The only foods that naturally contain Vitamin B12 are meats, eggs, poultry, and other foods that come from animals. Therefore, a strictly vegan diet can cause a Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Additionally, some diabetes drugs, including Metformin, have been linked to decreased levels of vitamin B12 . Therefore, people with diabetes treated with metformin, especially large doses and for longer durations , should regularly be screened for a B12 deficiency.
Other factors that can increase the risk of a Vitamin B12 deficiency are being over the age of 50 and having a weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass .
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Less Intake Of Saturated Fat
Food that comes from animal sources naturally contains saturated fat. This includes beef, pork, poultry with skin, butter, cheese, and other dairy products. While some vegetarian diets may incorporate dairy products like cheese or eggs, replacing meat with plant-based protein sources can help with diabetes management and heart health. Some alternative protein sources include:
- Cashew cheese
What Are Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
Vitamin B12 deficiency is serious and early detection is important. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause tiredness, constipation, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia.
Having a Vitamin B12 deficiency can also increase nerve problems such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Other symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, confusion, depression, poor memory, dementia, and soreness of the mouth or tongue .
A thorough HCP may be able to detect a Vitamin B12 deficiency, but a blood test is needed to confirm the diagnosis.
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Are Bananas Good For A Diabetic
Bananas are a safe and nutritious fruit for people with diabetes to eat in moderation as part of a balanced, individualized diet plan. A person with diabetes should include fresh, plant food options in the diet, such as fruits and vegetables. Bananas provide plenty of nutrition without adding many calories.
What Changes Can I Expect With My Diabetes When I Eat A Wfpb Diet
Once you start, you may see a change in your blood sugar almost immediately, or it could gradually decrease over the next couple of weeks to months. Clinical changes you can expect are a reduction in insulin resistance and requirements, a lowered A1c, weight loss, and a decrease in total cholesterol and blood pressure .
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What To Eat For Vegan Diets For Diabetics
Now that youre eating vegan to help control your blood sugar levels, remember to consume foods that are high in fiber and proteintwo nutrients that work together to keep blood sugar levels stable. Plus, choose unprocessed vegan meals like beans or lentils instead of processed vegan protein patties or other imitation meat products that may be high in salt.
- Natural nut or seed butter
- Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, without sugar, added
- Leafy greens, spinach, kale, and chard
- Cruciferous vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower
Unveiling The Power Of A Plant
This study is great because it shows that nutritionally you may be able to prevent type 2 diabetes, says Audrey Koltun, RD, a certified diabetes educator with Cohen Childrens Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, the manager of wellness nutritional services at the Cleveland Clinic, says this investigation supports previous research showing an association between plant-based eating plans and a reduction in diabetes risk. For example, a review of three studies published in June 2016 in PLoS Medicine suggests that cutting back on meat and dairy, and increasing fruit, veggie, nut, and seed intake, is linked to a substantially lower risk for type 2 diabetes.
Even starting small can help, says Kirkpatrick, who was not involved in the research. Choose one or two days a week that will just be plant-based. Make more effort to get natural color in your diet, and try to omit all processed red meat, such as bacon, sausage, deli meat, and hot dogs, per the World Health Organization, which notes that these foods are also associated with a higher risk for cancer.
Yet Koltun, who wasnt involved in the study, warns that not all vegan foods are good for you. French fries, chips, and white bread are all vegan foods, she says. You have to follow a healthy vegan diet with real fiber from whole grains, nuts, and legumes. These foods help slow down how fast a meal is digested, therefore requiring less abundance of insulin to be used.
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What If Im Ready To Try It
If youâre interested in going vegan, talk to a registered dietitian first. Find someone who has experience working with people who have diabetes. After you start your diet, it may be a good idea to get some bloodwork done once a year. Your doctor can check your levels of B12, iron, vitamin D, and calcium to make sure your diet is on the right track. If not, they can help you find vitamins or other ways to make up the difference.
Bethany Doerfler, clinical dietitian, Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Joslin Diabetes Center: âVegetarian Diet & Diabetes.â
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: âPosition of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets.â
Journal of Geriatric Cardiology: âA plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.â
Current Diabetes Reports: âVegetarian Diets and the Risk of Diabetes.â
Diabetes Care: âA Low-Fat Vegan Diet Improves Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Randomized Clinical Trial in Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes.â
BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care: âEffectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review.â
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