Living with diabetes isn’t easy. This condition can affect your physical and psychological state in many ways – so people with the disease often need to be more conscious about their life decisions, especially when it comes to food. Creating a thorough diet plan that would fit in with your health specifics can be tricky and complicated.
Plant-based diet, due to its undeniable health benefits, has been proven to change people’s lives for better rather than for worse. However, some are wondering whether it is safe to use plant-based diet for diabetes as a means of controlling blood sugar level, getting rid of toxins and generally contributing to one’s wellbeing.
So, can a plant-based or vegan diet work for people with diabetes or even become a cure – or is it just another trend that will pass in a few months? How exactly will it contribute to your health? Let’s ponder the issue together.
Getting to know diabetes:
If you’ve come that far in reading this article, the odds are, you’re probably well-acquainted to the definition of diabetes. However, let’s structure the most important information for the sake of clarity and simplicity (if you know it all, feel free to skip to the next part!)
Simply speaking, diabetes is a disease where your blood glucose level is higher than it should be.
People without this condition have a resistance system for having too much glucose in their bloodstream. The pancreas senses when glucose enters the blood and lets out enough insulin (protein hormone) to get the sugar from your bloodstream to your cells. However, this system doesn’t work for people who have the notorious disease.
There are quite a few varieties of diabetes, but there are two main types: Type 1 and Type 2.
Bodies of people with Type 1 do not produce any insulin at all, so it needs to be injected as a part of treatment. People diagnosed with Type 2 can produce insulin, but it’s either not enough, or it doesn’t work efficiently. Both types cause the glucose to begin building up in your blood. A high blood sugar level can consequently lead to various complications and troubling health conditions.
Needless to say, life with this disease requires a thorough approach to one’s lifestyle. Some people (usually those who have Type 1) need insulin injections to sustain their wellbeing, but it doesn’t stop at that. If you have diabetes, you need to be very careful about what you eat.
To find out whether plant-based or vegan diet for diabetes can benefit in this scenario, let’s look at the pillars of this approach to nutrition.
Plant-based eating: main concepts
We will keep it short.
A plant-based diet is based on plant-derived foods with limitation or complete avoidance of animal-based products.
Unlike veganism, which main idea lies in ethical attitude towards all living creatures, plant-based approach mainly focuses on health concerns. It generally means giving up processed, sugary, refined products in favor of whole foods.
The meals here are based on of veggies, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. You have a huge variety of ingredients to choose from and even more ways of combining them to make sure you get all the proteins and nutrients your body needs. Some people also use supplements (e.g. vitamins, protein shakes, bars, etc.)
Green diets as a preventive measure
Now we have enough data to come to at least one conclusion: plant-based or a low-sugary vegan diets for diabetics are definitely not going to make it worse.
In that case, can veganism cure diabetes completely?
Many things happen in life, but statistically, a complete healing of a disease rarely happens by only following a certain diet.
Furthermore, following a plant-based diet can actually be a better option than going vegan – while vegans ‘are allowed’ to eat processed, overly sweet, and generally not-so-healthy products (sometimes even enjoy it way too much), followers of a plant-based approach focus on excluding them from their ration. They are also allowed to eat it, of course, just choose not to.
Even if it’s not a cure, those changes in your ration can positively affect your wellbeing and even reduce the amount of risk factors for developing a disease.
A diet with predominance of plant-derived whole products has been proven to significantly lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. If you haven’t been diagnosed, but your family history has this disease, plant-based diet can become a great tool for preventing a possible diabetes development.
Diabetes and Diets
Simply speaking, following a diet that bases itself on whole foods and excludes overly processed products can benefit your health in many ways. Let’s look at the most common positive outcomes:
1. Better psychological state improves health
Research has been done to find out how plant-based diet affect peoples’ health and wellbeing. A systematical analysis showed the significant improvement of both physical and emotional state, together with the reduction of depression symptoms.
All right, but what does it have to do with diabetes?
However random it may sound, those two things could actually be directly connected. Some scientists frequently associate the development of diabetes with depression, which seems to affect the ability to control and sustain blood glucose levels. Depressive symptoms improvement caused by a newly acquired healthier ration seem to have an unexpected, yet considerable impact on health of people with diabetes.
2. Less sugar – less problems
Eating less processed food also means less sugar entering your body – an obvious, yet nonetheless important advantage for those who have diabetes.
Moreover, blood sugar levels have been proven to fall more distinctly in those who fully or partially excluded animal-derived products from their ration. Along with that, the mentioned menu change usually comes with some weight loss – and that positively affects the level of fats in your blood.
3. No need for nerves
Research links a plant-based diet with reduction of nerve pain. It seems to affect and slow down the speed of progressive nerve damage – a condition also frequently associated with diabetes.
Overall, while following a plant-based diet won’t necessarily reverse or cure diabetes completely, switching to it may actually have a considerable impact on health of people with diabetes.
It has proven to improve physical and psychological wellbeing (both of which are directly connected to diabetes), lower the blood sugar level, help losing weight and cause the fall of blood fats. It has also been linked to normalizing blood pressure and slow the nerve damage.
Switching to a completely new type of diet can be hard, especially when a health condition needs to be taken into consideration. However, even the small steps and tiny changes can have a valuable impact on your wellbeing.
If you choose to follow a plant-based diet, don’t rush. Start with doing your own research (this article is a great start!). Try including more and more healthy plant-derived ingredients into your casual meals. Learn new recipes and experiment with them to find what you like the most.
Important note: if you have diabetes, don’t forget to treat it accordingly – as serious condition. Continue taking your medications, and consider consulting with your doctor before making any sudden or drastic changes in your casual diet.