Eating a Plant-Based Diet to Fight Diabetes

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Eating a plant-based diet, including vegan and vegetarian diets, is a great prevention strategy and management tool to help fight type 2 diabetes. Learn more about these expert tips on how to eat more plants to fight diabetes.

What is the perfect picture of diet and treatment for type 2 diabetes? While traditional plant-based diets may have focused on certain groups of foods, the latest science paints a more vibrant picture. This approach emphasizes a rainbow of fruits and vegetables alongside whole grains, beans, and a bounty of nuts and seeds. Mounting research reveals the positive impact of plant-based diets, including vegetarian and vegan options. These diets go beyond simply preventing the development of type 2 diabetes, a stressful and life-threatening condition. In addition to prevention, these methods offer effective management for those already diagnosed.

As this disease emerges as a growing global epidemic, with an estimated 422 million cases worldwide and rapidly climbing, the potential of a plant-based diet shows particular promise. This comes at a good time, as I have just published my new book A Powerful Plant-Based Plan to Beat Diabetes, which gives you all the information you need to implement your anti-diabetic lifestyle. And I talked with my friend and colleague, Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, author of Prediabetes: The Complete Guide to rate some of his favorite tips.

Lentil Salad

Feed a Bowl of Lentils

What the Science Says About Plant-Based Diets and Diabetes

Scientists have noticed that vegetarians and vegans have very low rates of type 2 diabetes, compared to non-vegetarians and vegetarians. Human studies suggest that a vegan and vegetarian diet may help prevent type 2 diabetes, according to Weisenberger. Building on prior research, a study using data from the Adventist Health Study-2 revealed that a vegan diet offered stronger protection against type 2 diabetes compared to a non-vegan diet. This advantage held true even after accounting for other lifestyle factors and body fat levels. Furthermore, all types of vegetarian diets provided some degree of protection compared to non-vegetarian options. In a recent scientific review (Journal of Geriatric Cardiology2017), evidence from observational and interventional studies has shown that a plant-based diet can help treat diabetes by reducing the main complications of vascular diabetes.

Free Top view of Asian food with rice noodles cucumber fried tofu and boiled pork with springs rolls served in bowl on table Stock PhotoSavory Oatmeal with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Tofu

How Do Plants Help?

“It is not clear how a plant-based diet can prevent or delay diabetes, but other possibilities include a diet high in fiber, a diet low in heme iron, and a healthy weight status. “When people eat less animal foods, they tend to eat more beans, grains, nuts and other foods that contain a range of phytonutrients, which may act as anti-inflammatory compounds, antioxidants, and insulin-sensitizers,” says Weisenberger. Therein lies the beauty of a plant-based diet.

It is important to note that research includes i level of a plant-based diet for better health outcomes. Which means it’s not just about limiting animal foods and increasing plant foods—it’s about choosing a variety of healthy, lightly processed plant foods over highly refined, junk foods. Swap sugary cereals, white bread, and processed snacks for whole-grain powerhouses! Think: oatmeal with apples and pistachios for breakfast, a vibrant kale salad with blood oranges for lunch, and a comforting chickpea curry with brown rice for dinner.

Free Healthy east dish served on wooden cutting board in cafe Stock Photo
Vegan Pot Pie with Sage, Lentils and Mushrooms

Join the Plant-Based Bandwagon

Motivated to make a change to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, or manage a condition you already have? It’s not as difficult as it may sound to focus your diet on plants.

Not ready to go full plant-based? Flexitarian or pescatarian diets offer a flexible, beginner-friendly approach. (Dr. Weisenberger)

Diabetics counting carbs? Keep going! To monitor your blood sugar effectively, regular checks are crucial. Measure your blood sugar level both before meals and again two hours after. If you notice your readings are too high or too low, be sure to contact your healthcare provider for guidance. If you have prediabetes, you should not count carbohydrates. Just choose healthy foods in reasonable amounts.

Best Ever Vegan Baked Beans - Connoisseurus Veg
Healthy Baked Beans for Vegetarian Food

Power Your Diet to Fight Diabetes

Try these top 4 tips to allow plants to be more prominent in your diet to help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.

Easy Vegan Refried Beans - Connoisseurus Veg
Vegan Refried Beans

1. Focus on Plant Proteins

To reduce your pet’s diet, you’ll need to let plant-based protein be the star of your plate. Top contenders include: beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, tofu, tempeh, seitan, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, hemp seeds, and sunflower seeds.

Market Kale Salad
Tuscan Asparagus Fennel Farro Salad

2. Add Whole Grains to Every Meal

While both refined grains and whole grain flours offer some benefits, whole grains stand out due to their lower glycemic response. Superfood Grains! Whole grains like quinoa & rye are packed with protein, fiber & vitamins – make them a meal staple.

Vegan Kale Caesar Salad
Vegan Kale Caesar Salad

3. Push those veggies

Focus on convenience: Skip the prep, pack colorful veggies (2-3 cups)! Broccoli, peppers, leafy greens – healthy, delicious, ready to go. These plants pack in an arsenal of phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fiber with a low calorie load.

Peach Basil Chicken Skillet — Nourishing Plate
Chopped peaches with basil

4. Let Fruit Be Your Drink

Ditch the gooey & embrace seasonal fruit’s natural sweetness! Persimmons, blueberries, watermelons, peaches, cherries, grapes, tangerines, pears, and apricots are examples of succulent plants that should be celebrated.

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