Is a Vegan Diet Healthy for Diabetics?

The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine has found that diabetics who follow a low-fat vegan diet are more likely to lose weight and lower their blood glucose levels than those following dietary guidelines from the American Diabetes Association.

Unlike the ADA-recommended diet, a vegan diet does not advocate for limited carbohydrate intake. In countries like Japan, China, and Thailand, where carbohydrates are a dietary staple, diabetes is not a common occurrence. But with exposure to American diets, diabetes is much more likely to develop. Too much meat and dairy consumption, oil products, and high-fat diets contribute to unhealthy lifestyle choices for diabetics.

Incorporating a Vegan Diet into Your Life

Eliminate Certain Foods

Vegan diets do not include animal products or by-products, which eliminate animal fats (saturated fats) and animal proteins. This means no red meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs. Vegetable oils, while not animal products, contain high amounts of fat and should also be avoided. High-glycemic foods such as sugar, bread, potatoes, and dry cereals increase blood sugar rapidly to unsafe levels. Cutting out these foods, while not necessary for a vegan diet, increases the effectiveness of a vegan diet on mitigating the effects of diabetes.

Stick to Four Food Groups

Grains: Whole grains have very little fat and cholesterol, but still manage to fill you up. Not all grains have a high glycemic index. Seek out the grains below (about eight servings per day):

  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Rye bread
  • Barley
  • Oatmeal

Legumes: Rich in calcium, iron, protein, and fiber, legumes are low on the glycemic index and enhance any vegan diet. Shoot for three servings per day of the following legumes:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Fat-free soy products

Vegetables: Every vegetable is low-fat, cholesterol-free, and loaded with vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least four servings a day of the following examples:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Green beans
  • Squash

Fruits: Just like vegetables, fruits are low-fat and cholesterol-free. Most fruits, despite having natural sugars, are low on the glycemic index (excluding watermelon and cantaloupe), so at least three servings per day is recommended. Look for:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Cherries
  • Oranges
  • Pears

Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

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