A plant-based diet can be a POWERFUL tool to help you manage your diabetes. But did you know that it can even help you reverse it?
A few weeks ago, Larissa had a bit of a scare with her blood sugar levels shooting up. Because she can’t take any medicines such as Metformin to help her control her diabetes (she’s allergic), she needs to ensure she’s eating right and moving. This recent scare prompted us to go back and review some of the basics about controlling diabetes.
In this episode of the Vegetarian Zen podcast, we share 7 things you should know about being diabetic on a plant-based diet. Listen here…
…or read on for a quick summary of what we discuss.
Disclaimer: We aren’t medical professionals or licensed nutritionists. The information we share here is intended for you to use when consulting a professional.
Don’t Hide Your Head in The Sand. Know Your Numbers!
After some persistent nagging, Larissa finally decided to stop avoiding it and check her blood sugar levels. Needless to say, it wasn’t good. Her blood sugar had risen higher than it had ever been.
Denying the truth will only make things worse! The sooner and more consistently you track your blood sugar levels, the sooner you can take control of the situation.
You can learn more about the importance of monitoring your numbers from the CDC website.
Simply Avoiding Meat Isn’t a “Cure-All”
Just avoiding meat isn’t a complete fix for controlling or reversing diabetes but it is important. Why? Animal products contain a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat causes heart disease and insulin resistance.
Simply adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet doesn’t mean you’re adhering to a healthy diet. In fact, plenty of junk foods are vegan by accident, as we discussed in episode 286: Are Fritos Vegan?.
Giving up animal products is definitely a step in the right direction but just remember, there’s more to a healthy diet than just giving up meat.
You Can Still Eat Fruit When You Have Diabetes
Fresh, frozen, and even canned fruits (without any added sugars) are actually perfectly fine to eat while managing your diabetes.
Because they contain fructose (naturally occurring sugar) and are high in fiber, most fruits are low on the glycemic index (GI).
A nice, juicy piece of fresh fruit can help satisfy your sweet tooth while providing you a good source of fiber and nutrients!
You Can Still Have Carbohydrates…Just the Right Kind
Not all carbs are created equal! The key is to eat carbs that contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Carbs that come from processed foods don’t do this for you. Carbs that come from fruits and vegetables do.
While there has been a lot of emphasis on cutting carbs to lose weight, this alone hasn’t proven effective for the treatment of diabetes.
A study performed in 2003 by the National Institute of Health found that a plant-based diet helped control blood sugar about 3 times more than a diet that restricted carbs and calories.
In a rather short period of time, those who participated in the study lost weight and their A1C levels dropped.
In some cases, their diabetes was reversed completely!
Limit high-fat foods.
To oil or not to oil, that is the question! Much like coffee, I’ve read a lot about the good and the bad of oil.
While animal products are high in saturated fats, the unsaturated fats in vegetable oil still make it less-than-healthy. It is high in calories which promotes weight gain and higher insulin resistance.
When I took the Rouxbe Forks Over Knives cooking course, one of the many things I learned was how to cook without using oil. I really didn’t believe this could actually be done…until I did it!
Since our bodies don’t require a lot of fat on a daily basis, it’s really easy to get what we need from natural fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and peanut butter.
Eat plenty of fiber.
Fiber helps us feel full which makes us less likely to overeat and gain weight.
While fiber is great for our digestive health, it’s important to note that if you’re not accustomed to eating a lot of high-fiber foods on a daily basis, you should increase your intake slowly. Even though they’re good for you, it can take time for your body to adjust. Suddenly eating a lot of fiber (especially foods with added fiber or when using supplements) can cause gas, bloating, or constipation. Also be sure to drink plenty of water, because fiber needs water to move through your body.
You Still Need to Move!
Adopting a plant-based diet is a great way to manage your diabetes, but don’t underestimate the power of exercise.
When Larissa’s blood sugar levels get a little out of whack, it’s amazing how quickly she can get things back on track just by moving.
According to an article on Harvard Health exercise not only helps you control your weight but also helps reduce your blood pressure and control your LDL (the bad cholesterol).
Additionally, diabetic women can lower their risk of heart disease by about 40% if they spend about 4 hours a week walking or doing moderate to vigorous exercise.
If vigorous exercise isn’t your thing, even simply walking can help to lower your blood sugar levels. The best time to exercise is 1-3 hours after eating. This is the time your A1C levels will typically spike.
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Thanks for listening!
Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa