Diabetes is one of the most significant and challenging health issues worldwide. However, we can look at a mix of medical interventions and lifestyle changes to cure diabetes. Therefore, it is necessary to follow specific diet plans to control it. Some studies recommend a vegan diet or plant-based foods as the best choices to lower the risk of diabetes. Contrary to popular belief, a vegan diet provides a variety of nutrients in sufficient amounts to maintain good health.
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can opt for a vegan or vegetarian diet for necessary dietary intervention to arrest diabetes. Such diets are easy to manage and can prevent several lifestyle diseases. In addition, one can reverse type 2 diabetes with this diet.
Diabetes and Vegan Diet
If you have diabetes, it is essential to introduce dietary modifications to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Also, some foods cause a rise in blood glucose levels. On the other hand, having food with neutral blood glucose levels may lead to nutrient deficiency. Hence, a balanced diet plan is essential to control diabetes and maintain a healthy life. Experts say a vegan diet or plant-based food is the best choice in this case. ‘Choose Plant based foods more often, as it’s kinder to the body and the environment… this makes it a double win for you and the Earth‘- Parul Dube (Nutritionist with HealthifyMe)
Obesity has direct linkages with Type 2 diabetes. Hence, consuming foods with a low glycaemic index can reduce weight and insulin resistance. Other benefits of a vegan diet include lowering cholesterol, reducing saturated fat, and reducing the risk of heart disease. All of these are good for people with diabetes.
The 12 Best Vegan Foods for Diabetes
Experts recommend eating a low-carb diet to keep your blood sugar levels stable. In extreme cases, it can be fatal. In addition, studies suggest that patients with diabetes are 2-4% more likely to develop heart disease or stroke.
Thus, patients with diabetes need to be watchful and consume a healthy diet. You can maintain blood sugar levels by ensuring a diet low in sugar and low in carbohydrates. These foods are rich in essential vitamins and antioxidants that boost energy levels.
Here is a list of the best vegan foods to include in a diabetic diet plan.
According to a study, quinoa has anti-diabetic properties. This grain is rich in fibre and protein. Therefore, it makes an intelligent pick for people with diabetes. The combination of fibre and protein regulates blood sugar levels. In addition, it contains all essential amino acids required for the formation of protein. It is a great addition to a vegan diet plan, if you have diabetes.
2. 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Whole wheat bread, high in complex carbs, is the best food for managing diabetes. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre that controls blood sugar. So, replace your unhealthy bread with whole wheat bread and reap its benefits.
Beans are a good blend of proteins and soluble fibre, enhancing satiety. It also maintains blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. So it is one of the best foods for people with diabetes.
Lentils contain complex carbohydrates and proteins. The soluble fibre in lentils helps stabilise blood sugar levels.
Oats are rich in healthy fibre and keep blood sugar levels regular. Go for plain or steel-cut oats as they digest slowly and have a low GI value. The GI value of plain oats is under 55.
Lettuce is rich in nutrients necessary for eye health. Eye problems are more common in people with diabetes. Therefore, lettuce is a great and healthy choice for people with diabetes.
Berries have a very low glycemic index. Hence, it is considered a superfood for diabetes management. These are low in sugar and high in fibre. As a result, it slowly raises blood sugar levels, an essential requirement in diabetes.
Broccoli is a vegetable that contains sulforaphane. It reduces oxidative stress and vascular problems associated with diabetes.
9. Flax Seeds
A spoonful of flaxseed powder mixed with salads, juices and noodles works best for people with diabetes. It is rich in lignans and fibre to maintain blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is the best food for people with diabetes.
Methi seeds and leaves are both superfoods for people with diabetes. It is high in fibre. It helps slow down the digestive process and regulates the absorption of carbohydrates and sugars in the body. These improve glucose tolerance. They also lower harmful cholesterol levels. It will help if you soak fenugreek seeds overnight. Also, taking ‘methi water in the morning on an empty stomach is good for health.
Guava has a low glycemic index. It is also high in dietary fibre, which can help treat people with diabetes. It regulates the absorption of sugar in the body.
Research shows that millets are also one of the best options in diet to control blood sugar levels. They are rich in fibre and have a low glycaemic index, thus reducing the sudden increase of blood glucose levels. You can replace rice with millets in meals.
Nuts are low in carbs and high in protein, healthy fat and fibre. Almonds, pistachios, cashews and walnuts are great snack options. However, remember to have them as an evening snack with a spoon full of mixed seeds to reap the most benefits.
An Easy to Follow Vegan Diet Plan for Diabetes
Diabetic patients should follow a modified food plan to control blood sugar levels as part of the weekly menu. For example, drink a litre of lukewarm water early in the morning. If you are not used to drinking a litre of water, start with one glass. Then, gradually move up to that level. If you drink lukewarm water when you wake up, it will cleanse the stomach first. Good gut health leads to the reduction of various lifestyle diseases.
Exercise for an hour after that.
You can go for the usual Indian breakfast like dosa, vada, idly, and sambar. However, control the quantity. In addition, you can have sprouts, brown bread with sugarless tea or eat fruits. Then, of course, you can have idli or dosa prepared using millets like Kodo, oats, foxtail etc. Millets have a low glycaemic index and are suitable for people with diabetes. Its regular intake will have a sustainable effect on controlling blood glucose levels.
Have a Phulka or brown rice or millet rice with dal and any seasonal vegetable curry for lunch. You should also serve sorghum, beans, broccoli, and legumes. Eat your complex carb dishes like chapati/roti/Phulka. However, remember to watch the salt in the dishes so as to check the body’s water retention.
Mid Evening Snacks
You can have dry fruits, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, and certain fruits like guava and grapes as snacks. You can also have vegetable juice and fruit salads. But before choosing vegetables and fruits, check their GI value. However, you should consume them in moderation. For example, one fig or three almonds and one walnut are ideal. In addition, you can have one teaspoon of pumpkin seeds. Consume only one portion of a medium-sized seasonal fruit when you plan to eat fruits.
It is preferable to finish dinner between 7 and 8 p.m. People with high sugar levels should avoid eating fruits at night. Dinner should be light, and you must follow it with a post-dinner walk. You can have a bowl of soup and some salad with tofu or besan chilla for a satisfying but easy-to-digest dinner. In addition, you can have clear soups with grilled paneer/chickpea or red bean salad.
This diet plan is an ideal example of a vegan diet plan for diabetics. However, make sure that diet includes all essential nutrients like proteins, minerals, vitamins, and micronutrients to avoid the risks associated with deficiency of nutrients.
Foods to Avoid in a Vegan Diet Plan
There are certain foods for diabetic patients to avoid in their regular diet plan. Here is the list of those food items and reasons to avoid them.
White bread is a favourite food in general. But unfortunately, it is high in sugar and carbohydrates. These increase the sugar levels in your body abruptly. So refrain from having it.
Sugar Laden Nut Milk
Store-bought nut milk may contain sugar and can be from peeled nuts. Therefore, the fibre content reduces, and antioxidants get removed. As a result, it may spike sugar levels.
We usually love eating white rice. White rice is polished and has a higher GI value. However, it is high in carbohydrates and fibre. These can also cause sugar levels to rise. People with sugar should opt for unpolished brown or red rice instead of white rice.
We all love our share of French fries. However, potatoes are high in starch and can spike blood sugar levels. So it is better to avoid them.
Research shows that an average of 18% of people who consume large amounts of fruit juices develop diabetes. So people with sugar should avoid them.
Raisins are high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, fructose, glucose and antioxidants. These can also cause sugar levels to rise.
French fries are a favourite food of many when going to theatres and restaurants. But unfortunately, the ingredients used in them are made with potatoes. Hence, it is not suitable for people with diabetes.
Soft Energy Drinks
Those with sugar should also avoid soft drinks with added sugar. These include preservatives and additives that increase and cause sugar levels to rise.
Many sugar patients consume artificial sweeteners. However, some natural sweeteners, like stevia, may suit your health better. Moreover, do consult with your family doctor before you make a swap!
Additional Tips to Control Diabetes
Multiple factors impact blood glucose levels that lead to hyperglycaemia. So there are numerous options practices and a vegan diet plan to look over for managing diabetes. You can expect significant improvements if you follow some tips and a vegan diet plan.
Regular exercise in your daily routine can help you maintain a constant weight and increase insulin sensitivity. While exercising, your body utilises the blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction, thus decreasing the levels and maintaining blood glucose within the range.
Research suggests that getting mild intensity walks and simple resistance activities lower blood glucose levels. Simple exercises include walking, cycling, running, brisk walking, squats, dancing, and weightlifting helps in regulating glucose levels in the body.
Drink More Water
Drinking more water is simple, easy and yet best practice to minimise blood sugar levels. Excess moisture in the body helps the kidneys flush out additional blood glucose and other toxins through urine. In addition, water and other zero-calorie liquids without artificial sweeteners help you maintain blood glucose levels.
Maintaining Moderate Weight
Moderate weight management aids in reducing blood glucose levels and thus lowers the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
If you have more stress, then you risk developing type 2 diabetes. When stressed, the body releases glucagon and cortisol hormones that increase blood glucose levels. So try to reduce the stress to lead a healthy life.
Meditation and Yoga
As discussed earlier, stress can affect blood glucose levels. So to reduce it, meditation and yoga are the best practices. They can also rectify insulin secretion problems, thus helping regulate glucose levels in the blood.
Keep Checking Your Blood Glucose Levels
Constantly checking your blood glucose levels will help you understand how your body responds to your diet plans, exercises or medications. Over time, using this strategy you can make the necessary modifications to better maintain your health. Regulate and maintain them within the limit.
Having good quality sleep is essential for your health. Conversely, poor sleeping habits and lack of rest affect insulin sensitivity and lead to stress. In addition, it increases the production of cortisol hormone in your blood. As a result, it increases the chances of getting type 2 diabetes.
Have Healthy Snacks Frequently
Eating snacks between meals reduces the chances of type 2 diabetes. Also, experts suggest eating low glycaemic index foods multiple times in a smaller quantity throughout the day. It decreases glycated haemoglobin readings and improves blood glucose levels.
Food intake, mainly a vegan diet, plays a significant role to control your diabetes. But all vegan foods are not suitable for diabetes. Those with low carbohydrates, low GI and rich in proteins and minerals are the best choices to include in the regular diet on a plan. In addition, plant-based foods are good for diabetes. However, those on a vegan diet may still be at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies like Vit B12, B6, B1, Calcium, Iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids. So make sure to use supplements.
You should also include nutrient-dense vegan foods like fortified yeast, chickpeas, potatoes, bananas, dark chocolate, soya milk, almond milk, flax seeds, chia seeds and kidney beans. Please remember one size does not fit all. It is prudent to take advice from a certified nutritionist when designing a modified menu plan.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Can a vegan diet reverse type 2 diabetes?
A. Yes, a vegan diet can reverse type 2 diabetes. It is a powerful tool to control blood glucose levels. It is also low in fat and enables insulin functioning.
Q. Will a vegan diet lower A1c?
A. A complex carbohydrate-rich vegan diet can reduce A1c levels compared to a diet that contains meat. They decrease by 0.5 points in the vegan group. At the same time, it lessens by 0.2 points in the conventional group.
Q. How long does it take a vegan diet to lower blood sugar?
A. You can find improvement in lowering blood glucose levels after eating a vegan diet. It provides promising results in about 15 to 20 weeks. Then, if you continue to follow it along with medications and exercise, you can expect more significant improvements.
Q. Can vegans use insulin?
A. Vegans can use insulin without any hesitation. In addition, some plant derivatives are also available in the market. It is because they are similar to human insulin anatomically and physiologically.
Q. Can a vegan diet reverse prediabetes?
A. A vegan diet may not cure diabetes completely. However, it can significantly help stabilise blood glucose levels. Hence, it is better when compared to non-vegetarian diets.
Q. Is vegan mayo good for diabetics?
A. Mayo is not suitable for people with diabetes. However, a limited intake of vegan mayo made with healthy fat like olive oil is ideal for people with diabetes. You should stick to one serving or less on the nutrition label.
Q. Are vegan diets healthier than meat?
A. Vegan diets are healthier than meat-based plans. Even though they contain less protein than animal protein, they are easily digestible. As a result, one can find linkages with low risks to chronic diseases, lower cancer rates and blood pressure.