Is it Safe for Someone With Diabetes to Follow a Vegetarian Diet?

Yes! When you have type 2 diabetes, a healthy diet is key to controlling your blood sugar, preventing heart problems, and keeping your weight in check. Research supports that following this type of diet can help prevent and manage diabetes. In fact, research on vegan diets has found that carbohydrate and calorie restrictions were not necessary and still promoted weight loss and lowered participants’ A1C.

A vegetarian diet is a healthy option when you have diabetes.

Vegan diets are naturally higher in fiber, much lower in saturated fat, and cholesterol-free when compared to a traditional American diet. The high fiber in this diet may help you feel full for a longer time after eating and may help you eat less over all. When fiber intake is greater than 50 grams per day on a vegan diet, it may help lower blood glucose levels. One way to make your diet more diabetes-friendly is to reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat. Saturated fats occur mainly in animal products, especially beef.

This diet also tends to cost less. Meat, poultry, and fish are usually the most expensive foods we eat.

The Vegan Diet

This is also called the total or pure vegetarian diet. Those who follow a vegan diet do not eat any meat or foods made with meat products.

People with diabetes can choose to follow this type of vegetarian diet too. The vegan diet includes a variety of plant-based foods. Eating sprouts, germs and a mix of vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains provides plenty of protein and other important nutrients. The main nutrient of concern for this group is vitamin B12, so taking a supplement or multi-vitamin is usually necessary.

Getting started

fruits-and-vegetables

Some people prefer to change their eating habits all at once, while others prefer to make gradual changes, eating several vegetarian meals a week at first. Whichever approach you choose to take, here are some tips for getting started on a vegetarian meal plan.

Seek out vegetarian recipes. Buy or borrow a vegetarian cookbook, or visit Web sites dedicated to vegetarian or vegan eating for recipes developed specifically for vegetarian ingredients.

Try vegetarian convenience foods. When you don’t have time to cook, try the various types of convenience foods sold in most grocers’ freezers or refrigerator cases: veggie burgers; “chicken” patties; soy hotdogs; precooked, flavored tofu or tempeh;. Look in the refrigerated section for prepared hummus, baba ganoush, soy cheese, soy milk, and soy yogurt.

Learn to like beans. Beans are an inexpensive source of protein, and when purchased canned or frozen, they’re fast and easy to prepare. Look for edamame (green soybeans) and black-eyed peas in the freezer. Look for black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and pinto beans in the canned section, or, if you have time, buy dried beans and cook them yourself.

Try new grains. Grains are a natural partner to beans, providing complementary flavors, textures, and nutrients. Some whole grains take much longer to cook than refined grains, but not all: Whole-grain pasta, for example, cooks in about the same amount of time as regular pasta. Kasha, quinoa, and old-fashioned rolled oats can be ready in about 15 minutes. Pearled barley, amaranth, bulgur, and millet cook (or soak, in the case of bulgur) in about 30 minutes. Longer-cooking grains can also be cooked in large portions and stored in the refrigerator for at least several days for quick meal preparation.

Eat your vegetables. Starting a vegetarian diet is a great time to try new vegetables or to eat more of your favorites. Dark-green and dark-orange vegetables are particularly high in nutrients, so include those regularly in your meals.

Continue reading labels. When you buy packaged foods, check the Nutrition Facts panel on the label. Canned beans and vegetables may be high in sodium, and convenience foods such as meat substitutes and veggie burgers may be high in fat and/or sodium and low in fiber. Make good nutrition your priority.

Eat out in ethnic restaurants. Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, and Indian restaurants are likely to have vegetarian items on their menus, and even many American-style restaurants serve veggie burgers or other vegetarian restaurants these days.

Eating for good health

The benefits of a vegetarian diet depend on the type of diet you choose and the food choices you make when following the diet.

Improves blood sugar control and insulin response. Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts — features of a vegetarian diet — can improve blood sugar control and make your body more responsive to insulin. This may mean taking less medication and lowering your risk of diabetes-related complications.

Promotes a healthy weight. Vegetarian diets are often lower in calories than are nonvegetarian diets, which can help with weight management. Also,a healthy body weight can improve blood sugar control and reduce your risk of diabetes complications.

Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. A strict vegan diet is cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat and usually high in soluble fiber. A low-fat vegetarian diet can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease — a common complication of people who have diabetes.

Because a vegetarian meal plan has been shown to be helpful in achieving these goals, vegetarianism may be another tool to consider as you travel the road toward optimal diabetes health.

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