Basics, Day To Day, Tips

Fight diabetes: become vegetarian

When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you know it’s going to be a life-changing event. There are several strategies you can adopt to help getting into remission. One of them is to switch to a plant-based diet.

There are many reasons why you’d want to become vegetarian: you don’t like meat, you don’t want to kill animals unnecessarily, you want to help the planet by having a more resource-efficient diet, etc. Another reason when you’re diabetic is that a plant-based diet tends to be lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber. These can lead to an improved response to insulin and weight loss. Add to that that meat-based diets have been linked to higher fasting glucose levels and daily consumption of red meat triples heart disease-related chemicals and the risk of heart disease, and the plant-based diet becomes even more attractive.

It can be difficult to become a vegetarian when you’re not used to that sort of diet. You have to be careful to get the needed proteins, vitamins, amino acids, etc. Replacing diabetes with a deficiency in something isn’t a good idea. There are many good sources of information online you can get ideas from.

The additional difficulty when you’re diabetic is that some of the vegetarian diet isn’t good for you. for example, many vegetarians rely on a starchy diet (e.g. potatoes, bread) because it fills you up longer. But that will make you spike. Also some pulses (e.g. lentils, beans) can make you spike (to a lesser extent).

As a diabetic vegetarian, you need to favour green and (some) root vegetables. Greens vegetables (e.g. salad, broccoli, spinach) have no downside. They’re just perfect for you. Mushrooms and soy-based products are also a free for all zone. Avocados are just magical in terms of nutrients and low blood sugar impact (they’re not so great on the planet though, they need a lot of water). Sweet potatoes (that aren’t potatoes) are also good. Again, start from diabetes websites and find your way to vegetarian diets and recipes.

It also depends on your objectives: how hardcore do you want to be in your diabetic diet? A lot of diabetics still eat bread and starch because it makes them feel good, even though they spike as a result. After I was diagnosed, because I wanted to lose a lot of weight fast and I wanted to bring the diabetes under control immediately, we went super hardcore and eliminated everything that wouldn’t contribute to the end result (still making sure that I got the needed nutrients). Not everybody has to do the same. It’s all about management.

My wife and I have been vegetarians for a long time (since 2001 for me; she grew up as one). We’re used to the requirements of that diet. We still had to make changes when I was diagnosed with diabetes: out were the Friday wedges, out was the bread, etc.

You don’t need to necessarily go full vegan, though. At least not suddenly. Ovo-lacto foods are a great source of proteins and fats if you miss animal-based food (though remember that meat and eggs have been linked to increase of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes). They’re not needed since vegetables such as broccoli have at least as much proteins as red meat, but you can compromise if it helps you. Yogurt (make your own to avoid added sugar!) and milk can help and won’t be a major source of spikes for you.

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