Vegan Diet for Diabetics
A vegan diet has gained popularity in recent years. The diet excludes animal products, and that includes meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Some people decide to become vegan because they want to avoid animal cruelty. Other people may choose to follow a vegan diet for health reasons. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a vegan diet for diabetes.
How Does a Vegan Diet Differ From a Regular Diet?
A regular diet may vary greatly from person to person. But it often includes meat and fish. People who follow a regular diet may also include meat products, such as eggs, milk, and cheese. But vegans do not eat any of these foods.
What Types of Foods Are Included in a Vegan Diet?
People on a vegan diet may eat a variety of whole plant foods. Examples of foods include:
- Whole grains
If someone chooses a raw-food vegan diet, the foods above are eaten raw or cooked at temperatures below 118F.
What Are the Pros and Cons?
With most diets, there are pros and cons. Below is a list of some possible pros and cons of a vegan diet.
- Usually lower in fat than other diets
- May help with weight loss
- No animals are harmed or killed
- High in fiber, vitamins, and minerals
- Dining out may be challenging at times
- May limit food choices
- Possible nutritional deficits
- Need to be diligent and read food labels
Should Diabetics Use This Diet?
As with any medical condition, it is best to talk to your doctor about specific diet recommendations. Individual circumstances, such as other medical conditions, weight, and activity levels, may play a role in the best diet to follow.
But in general, it appears that following a vegan diet may be beneficial for people with diabetes. According to research in the journal Nutrients, eating a vegan diet provided even more protection against certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, than eating a vegetarian diet, especially in men.
It is also important for people to realize that following a vegan diet in itself does not mean they will necessarily eat low sugar or carbs. Some foods, such as fried veggies and vegan deserts, may be high in carbs and sugar, which is why reading food labels is essential.
What Are the Benefits and Possible Deficits of a Vegan Diet for a Diabetic?
There are benefits and a few possible deficits for eating a vegan diet if you have diabetes.
May Help With Weight Loss
Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight. Since many of the foods on a vegan diet are high in fiber and low in fat, it may help promote weight loss.
Improves Glycemic Control
Studies show that when compared to a conventional diabetes diet, a vegan diet may provide better glycemic control.
Research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 99 people for a 74-week clinical trial. The participants were divided into two groups.
One group ate a conventional diabetic diet, and one group ate a low-fat vegan diet. The results indicated that the group who ate a low-fat vegan diet had greater improvement in glycemic and plasma lipids than the conventional diabetic diet group.
May Decrease Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
People with diabetes are at an increased risk of heart disease. Following a low-fat vegan diet may help. Usually, low-fat vegan diets are high in fiber and low in saturated fats, which may decrease your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Not Enough Protein
Since a vegan diet does not include meat, fish, eggs, or dairy, it is important to be sure to eat enough protein. Good sources of protein for someone on a vegan diet may include lentils, tofu, and nuts.
Lack of Vitamin D
Vegan diets do not include dairy products. So, it is helpful to consider other sources of vitamin D, such as fortified cereal or short amounts of time spent in the sun.
How to Create and Structure Your Meals
Before choosing a vegan diet, consider talking with a certified diabetes educator. An educator can provide ideas on meal planning and any supplements you may need.
In general, try to structural your meals by adding high-fiber foods to most meals, such as brown rice or lentils. Fiber helps with blood sugar control.
Also, add a large serving of non-starchy veggies to each meal. This will provide many of the vitamins and minerals you need.
Be aware of how much fruit you eat and what kinds. Fruit can be high in sugar and may lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. Although you want to include fruit in a vegan diet, be sure to count carbs at all your meals.
Health Risks to Consider
If you have diabetes and want to follow a vegan diet, be aware of a few health risks. Since meat is excluded, low iron levels could lead to anemia. Be sure to eat foods that contain iron, such as chickpeas, chia seed, and beans.
In addition, be aware of the risk of eating too much saturated fat and developing high cholesterol. Just because it is vegan does not mean it is low-fat. Cooking in oils that contain saturated fat can quickly increase your overall cholesterol level.