Diabetes Diet: The Adventure And Health Benefits Of Meatless Meals

Even if we don’t adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, we can sample its benefits by preparing meatless meals one or more times each week.

A primary benefit associated with vegetarian cooking is an increased intake of essential nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, folic acid, magnesium, fiber, an array of antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.

Health Dividends

For people with diabetes, getting an abundance of plant-based nutrients, and eating more unsaturated fats, can pay substantial health dividends:

    Glucose Dividend. Increasing our intake of veggies, whole grains, legumes, and healthy oils can help make our body more responsive to insulin and improve blood sugar control. This reduces our chances of developing diabetes-related complications, and for some people might mean taking less medication.

    Weight Dividend. People who frequently eat vegetarian meals are more likely to make deliberate food selections, instead of impulsive or emotional ones. They also tend to consume fewer calories, and have lower body mass indexes.

    Heart Dividend. Getting plenty of dietary fiber, and reducing our intake of saturated animal fats lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease, a frequent health complication for individuals with diabetes.

Even when preparing vegetarian meals it’s important to watch our carbs, and avoid eating too many starchy foods such as potatoes, white bread, or white rice.

Tips For Tasty Meatless Meals

As with meat-based meals, it’s variety that keeps meatless fare interesting. Here are seven tips for making vegetarian cooking a fun, nutritious, flavorful culinary adventure:

  1. By getting experimental with spices we can add both familiar and unfamiliar taste sensations to our vegetable cuisine. For instance, we might try sumac - a tangy, lemony berry or powder that perks up the flavor of salads, rice, soups, and veggie casseroles. Or, we can take a tip from down under and use wattleseed, an Australian spice that adds flavor to savory and sweet dishes.
  2. Avocado, olive, and coconut oils add richness, flavor, and healthy fats to our meals. We can saute veggies in these oils, or drizzle oil over roasted vegetables, and soups.
  3. By shopping farmer’s markets, or the “locally grown” section at our grocers, we will enjoy veggies that are in season and at their flavor peak. We might even freeze some to enjoy months later.
  4. Crunchy food is immensely satisfying, so add nuts and seeds (toasted is especially tasty) to vegetarian dishes. Croutons, preferably from whole grain bread sources, give salads the crunch factor, and consider becoming familiar with dukkah—an Egyptian concoction of sesame seeds, hazelnuts, cumin, and coriander.
  5. Meatless meals should include good protein sources, such as lentils, chickpeas, spinach, broccoli, quinoa, cheese, or a chopped, cooked egg.
  6. When grilling or roasting vegetables, high heat creates a delicious caramelization. Try adding wood chips to the fire, or use mesquite charcoal for an even more piquant taste.
  7. Foods such as mushrooms, nutritional yeast, miso, cheese, sauerkraut, plain yogurt, and kimchi deepen the flavor of dishes they are part of, and add significant nutritional value.

Condiments, pieces of fresh or dried fruit, and herbed sauces also add interest and pizazz to vegetarian fare.

One More Perk

When meatless meals are prepared with a creative mix of textures, tastes, colors, and seasonings - and a balance of complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein - most people leave the dinner table feeling satisfied. However, for those reluctant to forgo meat it might help to consider that eating several meatless meals each month is a great way spend less at the grocery store.

Sources: Escoffier; Justine Kelly/Chopra; Global Healing Center; Mayo Clinic; NCBI; NCBI
Photo credit: Port of San Diego

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