- Healthful vegetarian diet reduces type 2 diabetes risk substantially
- Vegetarianism and diabetes
- Small changes, large benefits
- How to Follow a Vegan Diet With Diabetes
- The Pros of a Vegan Diet for Diabetes
- The Cons of a Vegan Diet for Type 2 Diabetes
- How to Follow a Vegan Diet if You Have Type 2 Diabetes
- The Bottom Line
- Type 2 diabetes
- The cause of type 2 diabetes
- Treatment of type 2 diabetes
- More education
- Vegetarian diets and diabetes
- What is a vegetarian?
- Why try a plant-based diet?
- Veggie Q&A
- Will I be getting enough protein?
- Can I replace the animal protein (meat/fish) in my diet with more carbs?
- How can I lose weight if I’m a vegetarian?
- How can I get enough calcium and iron?
- Will a vegetarian diet control my cholesterol levels?
- How can I eat more fibre?
- Do I need to take supplements?
- Shouldn’t I be eating fish for omega-3 fatty acids?
- Is it expensive to be a vegetarian?
- Recipes for you to try
- Going vegan could prevent type 2 diabetes
- Studying the effects of a vegan diet
- ‘Food really is medicine’
- Is a Vegetarian Diet Better for Diabetes?
Healthful vegetarian diet reduces type 2 diabetes risk substantially
A new study, published this week in PLOS Medicine, shows that a diet low in animal-based foods and high in plant-based foods substantially lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. They also find that the quality of the plant-based diet plays a significant role.
Share on PinterestEating fewer animal products reduces diabetes risk.
It is common knowledge that eating fruits and vegetables is essential to maintain a healthy body.
It is also becoming clear, as research mounts, that a diet featuring fewer animal products is also a healthier option.
For instance, a study published in 2013 that followed almost 70,000 people concluded that a vegetarian diet lowered the risk of cancer.
Similarly, a study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases in the same year followed more than 15,000 individuals and found that a vegetarian diet lessened the risk of diabetes.
As a final example, a meta-analysis of more than 250 studies, published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014, demonstrated that a vegetarian diet significantly reduces blood pressure.
Vegetarianism and diabetes
The latest study in this vein once again looked at the effect of a vegetarian diet on diabetes. However, this study also looked at the quality of the vegetarian diet.
They took into account whether the vegetarian diet was high in nutritious plant-based foods, such as whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables, and contrasted it with less healthy vegetarian diets that included items like refined grains, potatoes, and sweetened beverages.
The team, headed up by Ambika Satija, also collated information about the amount of animal-based foods that the participants consumed.
In all, the study used data from more than 20,000 male and female health professionals across the United States over a 20-year period. The participants filled out regular questionnaires covering diet, medical history, current diagnoses, and lifestyle.
To evaluate each individual’s diet, the team used a plant-based diet index; animal-derived foods were given low scores, whereas plant-derived foods received higher scores.
The team found that a diet low in animal products, but high in plant products, reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 20 percent.
When the researchers split the plant-based diets into healthier and unhealthier versions, they found that it impacted heavily on the risk of type 2 diabetes. Healthy plant-based diets produced a 34 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and the less healthy plant-based diets were linked to a 16 percent increased risk of the condition.
This implies that abstaining from animal products is not sufficient to stave off type 2 diabetes. Simply skipping the unhealthier items is not enough; it is important to make sure that healthier plant-based food items are included in the diet.
“A shift to a dietary pattern higher in healthful plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods, especially red and processed meats, can confer substantial health benefits in reducing risk of type 2 diabetes.”
Senior author Frank Hu, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Small changes, large benefits
The team found that just a relatively modest drop in the consumption of animal-based products, from five to six servings down to four servings per day, reduced type 2 diabetes incidence.
A diet high in plant-based foods is thought to reduce type 2 diabetes risk thanks to their high levels of antioxidants, fiber, micronutrients – such as magnesium – and unsaturated fatty acids. The lower levels of saturated fats in plant-based foods might also play a role.
Additionally, the authors theorize that a vegetarian diet has a positive influence on the gut’s microbiome, which could also help reduce type 2 diabetes.
Although the study used a large sample of participants, there are some limitations. The main issue is the use of self-reported dietary behavior. However, because the data was taken cumulatively over a number of years, the potential for error is minimized.
The researchers conclude that, as previously demonstrated, a diet with lower quantities of animal products is healthier than one with higher levels. But, they also show that the quality of the diet plays an important role.
Learn more about how a vegetarian diet could lower blood pressure.
Written by Tim Newman
How to Follow a Vegan Diet With Diabetes
The same day now-58-year-old Nara Schuler was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010, her doctor told her she’d have to start medication immediately — and stay on it for the rest of her life. But Schuler refused to accept this treatment recommendation. “I have to at least try to do something for myself,” she recalls thinking.
With some research, Schuler learned about the potential benefits of a vegan diet for people with type 2 diabetes, and she began cutting meat and dairy, as well as packaged, processed, and fast food from her diet.
Her new eating plan consisted mainly of nonstarchy vegetables, plus some fruit, beans, nuts, and seeds. And, to her delight, her diabetes improved.
Within three months, her A1C, a measure of average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months, returned to normal. “I could see that the blood sugar was lowering every single day,” Schuler says. Within seven months, she had shed 90 pounds, helping to increase her insulin sensitivity.
“I felt so empowered — it was amazing,” Schuler says. “It gave me a feeling of accomplishment that’s indescribable.”
The Pros of a Vegan Diet for Diabetes
“There’s a lot of new evidence showing up telling us the benefits of following a plant-based diet,” says Marina Chaparro, RDN, CDE, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who has type 1 diabetes.
A review published in June 2016 in the journal PLoS Medicine suggested that following a plant-based diet rich in high-quality plant foods may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And a vegan diet may also provide benefits if you already have diabetes, according to a review published in May 2017 in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology.
This review cites a small randomized controlled study published in August 2006 in the journal Diabetes Care that found while a diet based on guidelines from the American Diabetes Association and a low-fat vegan diet both resulted in better lipid and glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes, those individuals who followed the low-fat vegan diet saw the best results.
There are several reasons why a vegan diet may help prevent or control type 2 diabetes. For starters, because many plant-based foods, including nonstarchy vegetables, many types of fruit, beans, nuts, and seeds, tend to be low on the glycemic index, there’s less of a risk you’ll spike your blood sugar when you eat them.
A vegan diet made up of foods that have a low glycemic load also may help enhance healthy gut biofilms, the thin protective barriers that form around bacteria in the gut and make it hard for glucose to penetrate, which in turn slows the glycemic effect in the diet, says Joel Fuhrman, MD, a family medicine doctor in Flemington, New Jersey, and author of The End of Diabetes.
More specifically, Dr. Fuhrman says it’s the combination of green and leafy vegetables, along with the onion family, including cooked mushrooms and beans, that will enhance the biofilm and create what’s known in the medical community as the “second meal effect.”
If you’re regularly eating greens and beans, you may see less of an effect on your blood sugar levels if you eat a fruit that has a higher glycemic load at the next meal. “It helps slow the glucose absorption from other foods, even in meals where you don’t eat beans,” he says.
Because weight is closely linked to type 2 diabetes — about 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, according to the National Institutes of Health — eating low-glycemic foods also helps prevent insulin resistance and combat fat storage. “Typically, the more fruits and veggies we consume, the better our weight will be,” Chaparro says.
As a big plus, the main proteins in a vegan diet are plant based, which may help reduce saturated fat intake, lower cholesterol levels, and help prevent heart disease, of which people with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk than people without diabetes.
The Cons of a Vegan Diet for Type 2 Diabetes
Experts agree that, for a vegan diet to be effective, it must be carefully thought out. “French fries could be vegan, or we can eat a vegan cupcake — but both still have sugars and a high number of carbs,” Chaparro says. “The key words well-planned, well-balanced, and a nutritious vegan diet.”
Focusing on foods like green leafy vegetables, onions, mushrooms, beans, berries, and nuts, and seeds — which are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants — is ideal, Fuhrman says.
Because you won’t be eating meat or dairy, it’s important to consume enough protein and some healthy fats, to promote a healthy weight and overall health. “You can’t load your diet just full of starches or carbohydrates, because they’ll impact your blood sugar the most,” Chaparro says.
Some people, such as those older than age 85 and those who are athletic, might need more protein. Because meat is the richest sources of the easy-to-absorb “heme” form of iron, people who follow a vegan diet will need to be more mindful of getting enough of this important nutrient from their food, as will those who have a genetic or inherent digestive problem that prevents them from absorbing iron. This is true regardless of whether the person has type 2 diabetes, Fuhrman says.
Good vegan sources of iron include lentils, chickpeas, tofu, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, quinoa, dried apricots, dried figs, raisins, and fortified breakfast cereals. Keep in mind that vegan sources of iron are in the more difficult to absorb “non-heme” form, so it’s best to eat them at the same time as a food high in vitamin C, which can help your body absorb this form of iron more readily. For good sources of vitamin C, go for kiwi, oranges, broccoli, strawberries, pineapple, or bell peppers.
People who follow a vegan diet are also at risk for nutritional deficiencies, such as calcium, zinc, vitamins B12, riboflavin, and D, and may need to focus on certain foods, or take supplements.
How to Follow a Vegan Diet if You Have Type 2 Diabetes
Talk to a certified diabetes educator. A dietitian certified in diabetes education can help you plan a healthy diet and better understand how foods may affect your blood sugar, as well as make sure you’re taking the right supplements if you need them.
Count carbohydrates. Watch your portion sizes and your carbohydrate intake, and always read labels.
Choose high-fiber grains. If you’re going to include grains in your vegan diabetes diet, make sure they’re high in fiber, like brown rice or bulgur. Fiber can be a powerful nutrient for blood sugar regulation.
Eat vegetables at every meal. Fill up half of your plate at every meal with vegetables, preferably nonstarchy types. Not sure how to incorporate veggies into your breakfast? Schuler says she packs her morning smoothies with green leafy veggies.
Use the right type of oil. You’ll want to avoid oils that contain saturated fats, but those with monounsaturated fats, like olive, canola, or avocado oil, and polyunsaturated fats, like sunflower, safflower, or sesame, are an important source of healthy fats in your diet. “These are the ones that are going to give you more bang for your buck,” Chaparro says.
The Bottom Line
Schuler says she is excited to share her story in hopes of helping other people with type 2 diabetes. When she returned to her doctor after changing her eating habits, she says he was shocked. “He said, ‘If you didn’t do the blood test in here, I would say these are two different people,’” she recalls.
Despite Schuler’s success, Chaparro cautions against the idea that a vegan diet may help cure diabetes. “Following a vegetarian or vegan diet is not going to magically improve your diabetes — if done right, you’re going to see some benefits for sure,” she explains.
To sum it up, a vegan diet may be healthy and safe if you have diabetes, but it’s important to focus on nutrient-dense foods, continue to monitor your blood sugar levels, and consult a certified diabetes educator to help guide you.
Type 2 diabetes
By Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD, medical review by Dr. Bret Scher, MD – Updated October 30, 2019
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form of diabetes (around 90% of all cases).1
The disease is getting more and more common, and there’re already an estimated 330-500 million type 2 diabetics worldwide.2
Most people who are affected are overweight (especially those carrying excess abdominal fat), are middle aged or older, and may have high blood pressure, low HDL and high triglycerides.3
For more on the background to the epidemic, how you can test if you have diabetes and how to naturally regulate your blood sugar:
Diabetes – normalize your blood sugar
Here you’ll find more specific information on the cause of and treatment for type 2 diabetes.
Table of contents
- The cause of type 2 diabetes
- Other lifestyle modifications
- Dietary supplements
- More education
The cause of type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes results when the body can no longer handle large amounts of circulating blood sugar. As the blood sugar increases, the body needs to produce larger amounts of the blood sugar-lowering hormone insulin. However, over time sensitivity to insulin can decrease and the blood sugar rises out of control. At the time of diagnosis, type 2 diabetics often have ten times more insulin in their bodies than what’s normal. As a side effect all this insulin causes fat storage and weight gain, something that often has been going on for many years before the disease is diagnosed.
So what’s the cause of this? This is still controversial and much debated. But there appears to be a clear correlation with the amount of sugar in the food. The more sugar people consume the more they get diabetes in the long run. According to a recent investigation this correlation is found in all countries around the world.
Probably also contributing is ingestion of other rapidly-digested carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, because these too cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. Here too there are clear linkages: people who eat more simple carbohydrates are more likely to get type 2 diabetes.
The associations between sugar, rapidly-digested carbohydrates and type 2 diabetes hold even in more rigorous studies. To give advice in favor of carbohydrate-rich food increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes and worsens blood sugar levels in people who already have type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes could thus very well be called sugar disease. And since starch in bread turns into glucose in the body – white flour is in fact also a form of sugar.
Treatment of type 2 diabetes
How do we treat type 2 diabetes? Old wisdom and new science produce the same logical answer. The most important thing is to avoid eating too much blood sugar-raising food.
Avoid eating large amounts of sugar and starch and your blood sugar will be better from the first meal on. Your high insulin levels will likely drop towards normal levels. Because insulin is a fat storing hormone when insulin levels drop most people gradually lose weight as well.
If you’re lucky, especially if you haven’t had type 2 diabetes very long, this action may be all that’s needed to reverse your diabetes and become healthy.4
Try it yourself: LCHF for beginners
NOTE: If you’re being treated with insulin or insulin releasing tablets (Sulfonylureas) you may need to taper off this medication if you are eating fewer carbohydrates. Please discuss this with your doctor before changing your diet as you may be at risk for dangerously low blood sugar levels. If you do experience low sugar levels, make sure to eat something sugary right away and contact your doctor immediately.
Other lifestyle modifications
Although other lifestyle habits can help treat type 2 diabetes, eating significantly fewer carbohydrates is definitely the most important thing. We recommend that initially you put all of your self discipline into changing your eating habits. It’s hardest in the beginning (first weeks and months), and should get easier over time.
Gradually, as your new eating habits start to flow easier you can start trying other beneficial lifestyle changes such as:
- Exercise smart
- Stress less, sleep more
According to recent studies there is one supplement that can help many with type 2 diabetes a little: Vitamin D. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D, especially during the winter months. Studies show that supplementation can improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity somewhat in type 2 diabetes. In addition this may cause weight loss.5
Around 4 000 IU daily (100 µg) may be appropriate for most people with type 2 diabetes. However, this may depend on your baseline level, so ask you doctor for a simple blood test top see where you are.
If diet changes and other lifestyle changes don’t improve blood sugar sufficiently, then you doctor may suggest stating medications. Although medications have a role, it is interesting to note that studies have shown worse outcomes with more aggressive medical therapy.6 So far, this has not been shown with lifestyle therapy. In fact, the opposite is like true!
Metformin is the first-line treatment of choice. It’s an old and proven treatment that not only improves blood sugar, but it also aids in weight loss and potentially improves survival for those with type 2 diabetes.7
The most common side effects are stomach pain, nausea or diarrhea. These usually subside with time, but your doctor may want to start at a low dose and titrate it up over time if needed.
A dose of two grams daily is often sufficient for a positive effect, and the maximum dose is three grams daily.
2. GLP-1 analogues or SGLT-2 Inhibitors?
When Metformin isn’t sufficient, or if you don’t tolerate it, then what to do? This is controversial today.
Often insulin injections are used. However, since overweight patients with type 2 diabetes already have pathologically high insulin levels, adding MORE insulin in this situation doesn’t make much sense. It will often cause a gradually worsening insulin resistance and obesity. Although not conclusive, it may even increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.8
Newer and potentially better alternatives are GLP-1 Agonists and SGLT-2 inhibitors.
GLP-1 agonists are injections that increase satiety, lower blood sugar and often lead to substantial weight loss (over 20 lbs is common). Together with Metformin, the effect on the majority of patients is very positive for both blood sugar and weight.
SGLT-2 inhibitors stimulate the kidneys to excrete excess glucose, thus lowering the blood glucose level without increasing circulating insulin. In fact, insulin levels tend to go down. While trials have shown reduced cardiovascular events in diabetics taking SGLT-2 inhibitor, they unfortunately increase the risk of a life threatening condition called euglycemic ketoacidosis.9 This is very rare, but may be more common in those following a low-carb diet. Therefore, we do not recommend SGLT-2 inhibitors for those who are low-carb.
Our hope, of course, if to take control of diabetes with low-carb nutrition so that we do not need any of these medications. Make sure you discuss your progress with your physician to see if you require medication or not.
Sometimes pills are not enough to control dangerous blood sugar levels and your doctor may recommend insulin injections. These are not without their concerns as they are expensive and may lead to weight gain. and they can also exacerbate the underlying disease by worsening hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.
Fortunately, studies show that patients can quickly and dramatically reduce their need for insulin with low-carb diets. Therefore, if you are on insulin, please talk to your doctor before going on a low-carb diet as you will likely need to reduce your dose to prevent dangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). Learn more in our guide Starting low carb or keto with diabetes medications.10
Can you reverse type 2 diabetes?11
In only six months? Without medications or surgery? Now science says you can. Two different nonrandomized trials demonstrated that low carbs diets are effective at normalizing blood sugar while also reducing the need for medications.12
No expensive injections. No surgery. Just low-carb nutrition. That’s powerful.
Read more in our guide on reversing diabetes.
You can also read more blog posts about type 2 diabetics that have tried a low-carbohydrate diet and inspirational stories from people who have taken control of their diabetes with low-carb nutrition.
For example, pictured below is a large number of blood glucose readings in a type 2 diabetic in the first six months on an LCHF diet. The blue area corresponds to optimal blood glucose levels. Note that not one single elevated number was recorded after a few months! And then after just three days she was even able to stop daily 70E insulin injections. She also lost 68 lbs in the first year.
Studies on an LCHF diet for type 2 diabetes
Monitoring your blood sugar yourself seems to have a small positive effect, even for diabetics that are not insulin-treated.13
Of course, how great the effect will be depends entirely on whether the monitoring leads to an improved lifestyle. Just checking your blood sugar and writing down the number in a book will of course not make you any healthier at all. Monitoring of blood sugar for non-insulin-treated diabetics should be used for the purpose of improving diet and exercise treatment and adjusting medications as needed.
One reason to care
High blood sugar produces a risk for severe complications in the long run. It “eats” away the body’s small blood vessels. The higher the blood sugar the higher the risk for heart attack, blindness, amputations and other misery.
Just ask Richard Roseman, one of millions of victims of common complications of diabetes:
Obviously one would want to avoid this. But a conventional low-fat diet (today’s dietary guidelines) and medications don’t cure diabetes. In the best case scenario the disease is kept under control without causing major damage. At worst it will go like it did for Richard Roseman.
A better treatment than this is needed. It exists, and it’s obvious and logical when you understand. We want to promote the science and practical aspects of using low carb to treat type 2 diabetes so the millions of people at risk don’t end up suffering as Richard did.
Please keep reading and learn more in our guide How to reverse your diabetes
A presentation on diabetes and a low-carbohydrate diet by Mary C. Vernon, an American physician, since long specializing on the subject.
- How to Lose Weight
Vegetarian diets and diabetes
More and more people are choosing to follow a vegetarian diet for many different reasons. It’s estimated that two per cent of the population now don’t eat meat or fish.
Reasons for switching to a vegetarian diet include:
- the health benefits
- ethical and moral reasons
- religious or cultural reasons
- concern for animal welfare
- concern about the environment and sustainability
- taste – some people just don’t 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, it’s important to be more aware of how what you eat affects your body and, in turn, you’ll 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?
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 (usually free range).
- Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products, but avoid eggs.
- Vegans do not any products derived from animals – no meat, fish, dairy or eggs.
Why try a plant-based diet?
Plant-based foods, particularly fruit and vegetables, nuts, pulses and seeds have been shown to help in the treatment of many chronic diseases and are often associated with lower rates of Type 2 diabetes, less hypertension, lower cholesterol levels and reduced cancer rates.
These foods are also higher in fibre, antioxidants, folate and phytochemicals, which are all good for our general health.
Vegetarian diets have been shown to be beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes where weight loss is often the most effective way to manage the condition. A wholefood vegetarian diet often contains fewer calories and can help you to maintain a healthy body weight.
It is important to keep an eye on portions sizes of high-fat foods such as cheese and nuts or you might find yourself putting on weight. With the increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people with diabetes, keeping your weight under control and reducing blood pressure and blood cholesterol are all essential and plant-based foods can help with these.
Will I be getting enough protein?
Vegetarians who eat dairy products and eggs will have a good protein intake. If you are a vegan, there are also many plant-based protein sources that can help you to meet your protein requirements. These include:
nuts, seeds and their butters, eg cashew, peanut, almond, brazil, tahini
- beans and pulses, eg butter beans, chickpeas, lentils
- vegetable milks, eg soya, almond, hempseed
- soya products, eg tofu, soya cheese, soya milk.
Can I replace the animal protein (meat/fish) 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 lowglycaemic index (GI)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.
How can I lose weight if I’m a vegetarian?
Following a vegetarian diet can be healthy, but if you simply replace meat and fish with processed foods, which can be high in calories and low in vitamins and minerals, eg ready meals, pastries, pies, takeaways, cheese, creamy sauces and dips, your diet may be unbalanced and you’re likely to put on weight. That is why it is important to replace such high-fat foods like these with cottage cheese, eggs, dishes based around beans, tomato-based sauces, and nuts and seeds in moderation, and fill up on vegetables served with wholegrain rice, pasta or bread. It is extremely important to watch your overall portions. Keeping active is also important for weight management.
How can I get enough calcium and iron?
There’s plenty of calcium in dairy products and it’s also found in cereals and cereal products, green leafy vegetables, nuts and pulses, eg baked beans and dried lentils. Meat is rich in iron, but there are also vegetarian sources of iron, which include:
- breakfast cereals
- dark green vegetables
- dried fruit
- beans and pulses.
Consuming more fruit and vegetables can also help as they are high in vitamin C, which increases the amount of iron your body absorbs.
Will a vegetarian diet control my cholesterol levels?
Saturated fat has been linked with raised cholesterol levels and is mainly found in animal foods and processed foods. Therefore, replacing meat with cheese is unlikely to reduce your saturated fat intake or your cholesterol levels, so if you’re eating dairy foods choose reduced-fat versions, eg cottage cheese, quark, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and lower-fat/lower-sugar yogurts.
How can I eat more fibre?
Fibre is important for gut health but is also associated with reduced risk of some chronic diseases, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. There are two different types of fibre, soluble and insoluble, and most foods contain a mixture of both. Both are valuable to health. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to stools and helps them pass through the gut effectively whereas soluble fibre helps control blood glucose levels and reduces cholesterol. Foods such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds have a good mix of soluble and insoluble fibre so include these options more often.
Do I need to take supplements?
A vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients you need for good health. The only exception to this is vitamin B12, which vegetarians can obtain from eggs and dairy foods. The only reliable sources for vegans are fortified foods such as non-dairy milks, yeast extracts and breakfast cereals. Alternatively a suitable nutritional supplement is recommended.
Specific nutritional supplements may also be considered for people who are particularly at risk of deficiencies, for example elderly people, infants and children. Speak to your doctor if you think you may be at risk of any nutrient deficiency.
Shouldn’t I be eating fish for omega-3 fatty acids?
There is evidence to suggest that people with diabetes may benefit from omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, which are useful in the prevention and treatment of heart disease. But vegetarians can make sure they get adequate sources of this fatty acid in their diet by including omega-3 enriched eggs, flaxseed and rapeseed oil, walnuts, soya-based foods such as soya milk, and tofu and walnuts. These sources are not as good as oily fish, so it is important to include them on a regular basis in order to get adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Is it expensive to be a vegetarian?
A vegetarian diet doesn’t have to be more expensive and may even be cheaper! Dried foods such as beans, peas, quinoa, lentils and rice can be very inexpensive and go a long way. It’s often cheaper to buy in bulk and these foods can be stored a long time. Look out for special offers, try buying fresh fruit and veg from your local market and have a go at batch cooking and freezing, too.
Recipes for you to try
Our recipe finder has lots of veggie recipes to inspire you. Why not try our black eyed bean, feta and herb burger? Our Andean style quinoa is healthy and quick and easy to make .
Going vegan could prevent type 2 diabetes
Excess weight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Recent research, however, suggests one strategy that could help to prevent the condition in people who are overweight, and it involves giving up meat and dairy.
Share on PinterestResearchers say that a vegan diet could prevent diabetes in people who are overweight.
Researchers found that overweight people who switched to a vegan diet for 16 weeks showed improvements in insulin sensitivity plus the functioning of beta cells compared with a control group.
Beta cells reside in the pancreas and produce and release insulin.
The vegan diet also led to improvements in blood sugar levels, both during fasting and during meals.
Lead study author Dr. Hana Kahleova, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., says that the findings have “important implications for diabetes prevention.”
Dr. Kahleova and colleagues recently reported their results in the journal Nutrients.
Type 2 diabetes arises when the body is no longer able to respond to insulin effectively — which is a condition known as insulin resistance — or the pancreatic beta cells do not produce enough insulin. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
As a result of this, blood sugar levels can become too high. This can lead to serious complications, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetic eye disease, and nerve damage.
It is estimated that more than 30 million people in the United States are living with diabetes, and type 2 diabetes accounts for around 90–95 percent of all cases.
Studying the effects of a vegan diet
Being overweight is one of the leading risk factors for type 2 diabetes. In fact, around 80 percent of people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.
Making lifestyle changes — such as adopting a healthful diet and increasing physical activity — can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The new study from Dr. Kahleova and her team provides further evidence of this, after identifying a vegan diet as a possible candidate for the prevention of type 2 diabetes in people who are overweight.
To reach their findings, the researchers enrolled 75 men and women between the ages of 25 and 75 years. All participants had a body mass index (BMI) of between 28 and 40, making them overweight or obese, but they had no history of diabetes.
For a total of 16 weeks, subjects were randomized on a 1:1 ratio to two different groups. One group followed a low-fat vegan diet, which consisted of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. This diet had no calorie restriction. Participants in the other group (the controls) were asked to make no changes to their diet.
The team notes that neither group made any changes to their physical activity, nor did they change their use of medications.
Beta cell function, insulin sensitivity, blood glucose levels, and the BMI of each subject were assessed at study baseline and at the end of the 16 weeks.
‘Food really is medicine’
The study results revealed that the participants who followed the low-fat vegan diet experienced a significant reduction in BMI, compared with the control group.
What is more, the vegan group experienced increases in insulin secretion after eating, as well as improvements in insulin sensitivity.
Subjects who adhered to the vegan diet also experienced reductions in blood sugar levels during meals and while fasting.
Based on these results, the team suggests that adopting a vegan diet could be an effective way to prevent type 2 diabetes.
“If nothing changes, our next generation — the first expected to live shorter lives than their parents — is in trouble. A third of young Americans are projected to develop diabetes in their lifetimes,” says Dr. Kahleova.
“Fortunately, this study adds to the growing evidence that food really is medicine and that eating a healthful plant-based diet can go a long way in preventing diabetes.”
Dr. Hana Kahleova
The researchers note some important limitations to their study. For example, they point out that the study subjects were “generally health-conscious individuals” who were willing to make significant dietary changes.
“In this regard, they may not be representative of the general population,” say the authors, “but may be representative of a clinical population seeking help for weight problems.”
Still, the results certainly warrant further investigation.
Is a Vegetarian Diet Better for Diabetes?
Research suggests that well planned, vegetarian diets that are rich in whole grains, fiber, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated fats can help improve blood sugar and may even prevent diabetes. Here, a registered dietitian and type 1 tells you what you need to know. Written by Marina Chaparro, RD, CDE, MPH 6
Vegetarian diets are becoming more mainstream. The words Meatless Monday, vegan and plant-based are the new buzzwords in today’s nutrition frenzy. But you might be skeptical to try a vegetarian diet if you have diabetes fearing you will consume too many carbohydrates and no animal protein to stabilize your blood sugars.
Eggs, cheese, meat, fish and other protein sources have long been considered “safe” for people with diabetes because they don’t raise blood sugars as do carbohydrates found in grains, fruits, and legumes—all cornerstones of the vegetarian diet. But it turns out, following a meatless Monday or vegetarian approach may be beneficial to your waistline as well as your diabetes control.
New research points to the protective effects a plant-based diet can have on people at risk of developing diabetes or with existing diabetes. Vegetarians and vegans tend to live longer and have a lower risk of developing diabetes as well as other chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension, certain types of cancers and obesity.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recent position paper, a well-planned vegetarian diet that is rich in whole grains, nuts, and soy, seeds, fruits, and veggies can be nutritionally adequate and suitable for all life stages. The key word here is well-planned. Vegetarians can be at risk for nutritional deficiencies, in particular, iron, vitamin D and calcium if not appropriately planned. People with diabetes may need to consider additional factors if choosing to adopt a vegetarian-type eating pattern.
Although there is no “one size fits all” diet for people with diabetes, more organizations are recognizing the advantages of plant-based diets in the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes. Recently, the 2017 Diabetes Care Guidelines emphasized a healthful eating pattern with nutrient-dense foods that includes plant-based and Mediterranean diets. Additionally, the Canadian Association of Diabetes has included in their guidelines a plant-based diet as nutrition therapy for individuals with type 2 diabetes due to its effectiveness in targeting multiple modifiable risk factors.
What Is a Plant-based Diet?
Plant-based or vegetarian diets are devoid of most or all animal products. There is no single version of a vegetarian diet, but rather a spectrum of vegetarian patterns that vary with the types of animal products (eggs, fish, dairy) they include. People choose to follow a vegetarian lifestyle for many reasons including animal rights, environmental factors or for better health. That being said, vegetarian diets do not necessarily equate to a nutritious diet. A person can avoid animal meat, but still consume excess calories from donuts and vegan chips as they are considered vegetarian. Below are 5 different types of vegetarian diets:
- Vegan. Excludes eggs, dairy or other animal-based products. Includes only foods from plants (fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, grains, and nuts).
- Lacto-vegetarian. Includes dairy products but no egg.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Includes eggs and dairy products.
- Pescatarian. Includes fish
- Flexitarian. Eat mostly a vegetarian diet with limited meat, eggs, and dairy
How a Vegetarian Diet Can Improve Blood Sugar Control
Excess weight and diabetes go hand in hand. Almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight. Not surprisingly, around 80%-90% of people living with diabetes are overweight or obese. Plant-based diets are associated with a lower body mass index and may yield better weight loss results than non-vegetarian diets. Some observational studies have seen vegetarian diets perform better than non-vegetarian diets with greater weight loss results.
Despite the common misconception of over-reliance on carbohydrates, people who follow a well-planned vegetarian diet consume foods which are low-glycemic, higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat, which translates into better blood sugars. A study done in Diabetes Care compared a low-fat vegan diet versus an American Diabetes Association Diet in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Ironically, the vegan diet yielded greater improvements in weight, glycemic control, and cholesterol compared to the ADA diet. Forty-three percent of individuals lowered their diabetes medications vs 23% in the ADA group.
The unique portfolio of foods found in vegetarian diets promotes metabolic improvements in people with diabetes. Additionally, the lack of saturated fat and reliance on lean proteins like nut butter, soy, and legumes makes for a healthier heart. Needless to say, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people with diabetes, so heart health is especially important.
Is It Safe to Eat No Meat?
Following a vegetarian diet will not “magically” improve your diabetes—that would just be wishful thinking. Diabetes is a very individualized chronic condition: what works for you may not work for another. Meet with a registered dietitian will help you understand the fundamentals of vegetarian eating and help you develop a well-balanced, nutritionally-adequate vegetarian diet.
Here are some additional pointers to consider:
- Count your carbs. Eating a vegetarian diet will NOT eliminate carb counting Remember fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains contain carbohydrates and will impact blood sugars. People with diabetes need to keep portion sizes in check and count carbohydrates accurately to avoid elevations in blood glucose.
- Choose high fiber whole grains. Avoid relying too much on highly-processed carbohydrates like white flour, pastries, and white bread. Instead, choose high-fiber grains like quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, and oatmeal. These whole grains have a lower glycemic impact due to the fiber and additional protein content.
- Pack in the protein. Protein remains an important nutrient for people with diabetes because it can stabilize blood sugars as well as help with satiety. Being a vegetarian does not mean you eliminate protein. Make sure you include other non-animal options like tofu, beans, soy, nuts, and nut butter in every meal. For ovo-vegetarians, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and milk are other nutritious sources of protein.
- Get plenty of veggies. Vegetarians should be consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A good rule of thumb is to fill your plate with half a cup of non-starchy vegetables like dark leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms.
- Consider taking a supplement. Nutrients of concern include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron. Vegans are at higher risk for low calcium and vitamin D due to the lack of dairy sources. Depending on what food groups you exclude, taking a supplement might be advisable. Be sure to consult your doctor or registered dietitian.
Well planned, vegetarian diets that are rich in whole grains, fiber, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated fats can help improve blood sugar fluctuations in people with type 2 diabetes and may even help prevent the appearance of diabetes. However, there is no such thing as a perfect diet for people with diabetes.
Do you need to become vegan or eliminate all animal products to see health benefits? Not at all. The research clearly states that eating more fruits, whole grains, and less meat is associated with overall improved health. Vegetarianism isn’t a diet; it’s a lifestyle.
If you’d like to experiment with this way of eating, I recommend starting out with the flexitarian approach. Instead of eliminating meat altogether, start to gradually reduce the amount of meat you consume. If you typically eat meat for lunch and dinner, try eating it at dinner time and having a plant-based meal at lunch. See how that works for you.
Or, join the Meatless Monday bandwagon and slowly incorporate more plant-based products rich in fiber and low in saturated fat. After all, there can be no harm in eating more fruits and veggies.
I’d love to hear your results. Follow me on Instagram or Twitter @nutrichicos
Updated on: June 6, 2019 View Sources Continue Reading How Low Can You Go? Expert Advice On the Keto and Other Low-Carb Diets and Diabetes