Plant-Based Diet – What Effects Does It Have On Diabetes?

By Shreya Gupta +2 more

If you are battling diabetes and wish to know about the best diet for diabetes, we have news for you. A vegetarian diet is healthier for diabetes. Research shows that there is a 35% lower risk of developing diabetes if you stick to a vegetarian diet. And those who adopt a vegetarian diet after being a non-vegetarian show a 53% lower risk of developing diabetes than their fellow non-vegetarians.

Food plays a significant role in managing diabetes mellitus. By opting for a vegetarian diabetic diet, you can lead a healthy life and gain maximum health benefits.

What is the Best Diet for Diabetes?

A plant-based diet for diabetes is the best. A plant-based diet includes fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds. A plant-based diet helps lower the risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypertension and cancer.

Plant-based foods are rich in fibre, folate, antioxidants and phytochemicals that boost your health.

What Comprises a Vegetarian Diabetic Diet?

Dietary management of diabetes mellitus is the best way to manage diabetes. You can eat all plant-based foods but in moderation. Eating healthy for maintaining your blood sugar levels involves controlling your portion size and fulfilling your nutritional requirements.

The followings foods are to be included in your vegetarian diet for diabetes:

  1. Nuts like cashew, peanut, almonds and tahini.
  2. Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, chia and flax.
  3. Beans and pulses like chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and butter beans.
  4. Vegetable milk like almond, cashew, oats, soy, hempseed, etc.
  5. High-fibre grains like quinoa and millets.
  6. Soy products like tofu, soy cheese and soya milk.
  7. Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, peppers, eggplants, green beans and tomatoes.
  8. Fruits like oranges, apples, papaya, watermelon and berries.

What are the Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet for Diabetes?

There are countless health benefits of a vegetarian diabetic diet. It is good for your heart as it helps lower cholesterol and LDL levels. A plant-based diet lowers your blood pressure levels and reduces the risk of a stroke and a heart attack.

Here’s a list of health benefits of a vegetarian diet for diabetes:

  • Blood sugar control

Plant-based foods or whole foods are rich in fibre content. This helps in the slow absorption of sugars into the blood and helps regulate your blood sugar levels.

  • Weight control

Plant-based foods are lower in calories and higher in fibre. This increases their satiety value, thereby making you feel full for a longer time. Your daily intake of calories reduces, which helps you lose weight.

  • Saturated fat intake control

Most animal-based foods contain saturated fat. When you consume a vegetarian diet for diabetes, you consume less saturated fats, thereby reducing your risk of heart diseases and diabetes.

What are the Vegetarian Diet Tips for Diabetics?

Dietary management of diabetes revolves around plant-based foods for regulating blood sugar levels. A healthy balanced diet is the best diet for diabetes. If you are planning to get on the vegetarian diet for diabetes, you need to be mindful of the following aspects:

A. Consume a limited amount of carbohydrates with each meal. Distribute your carb intake evenly throughout the day.

B. Include a wide variety of plant-based foods in your diet to meet your daily nutritional needs.

C. Your daily diet should consist of a limited amount of carbohydrates, a portion of lean protein and healthy fat in every meal.

D. Monitor your blood sugar levels daily while you are on the vegetarian diabetic diet.

E. Include plenty of vegetables in your diet to improve your fibre intake.

Here are three tips for newbies who wish to start their vegetarian diabetic diet:

1. Portion control for carbs

Most diabetics replace meat with extra carbohydrate-rich foods. This can lead to weight gain and high blood sugar levels.

Try to include carbs rich in fibre to stabilise your blood sugar levels and feel full for a longer time.

Carbohydrates rich in fibre content are:

  • Whole-grain bread
  • Whole wheat/chickpea pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Baked beans and whole pulse (Rajma)
  • Whole Wheat flour with wheat bran (Jowar, Bajra)

2. Plant-based proteins

It’s a myth that you can get your proteins only from animal sources. Your dietary protein requirements can be met through a vegetarian diet as well.

Include the following foods for a protein-rich vegetarian diet for diabetes:

  • Legumes – Black beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, kidney beans and pinto beans.
  • Soy – Soy milk, soybeans, soy-based yoghurt, soy cheese, tofu and soy nut butter.
  • Nuts – Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios and peanuts.

3. Healthy fats

By swapping to the vegetarian diet for diabetes, you ensure a huge shift in the dietary management of diabetes mellitus. Avoiding animal products helps keep saturated fats out of your diet. Plant-based foods are rich in heart-healthy fats like omega 3 and omega 6, which help maintain heart health.

Include these healthy fats in your diet:

  • Avocado
  • Olives or olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Canola oil

Take away

Focus on eating a healthy, balanced, nutritious meal that contains plant-based foods. This is the crux of your vegetarian diet for diabetes. Incorporate nuts and seeds as a part of your mid-day snack or snack on some veggie sticks with hummus. This helps maintain your blood sugar levels and is essential in the dietary management of diabetes mellitus.

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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Dr. K. P. V. Rao

Very good article with plenty of resources to help diabetic patient with ample choice of plant based food. I would like to add that vegetable oils like soya oil, ricebran oil, sesame oil can also help in lowering cholesterol in diabetics. Very helpful article.

Ashir Sahal

Thank you for your feedback. We appreciate it.