How do I navigate diabetes as a vegetarian: 5 essential tips

How do I navigate diabetes as a vegetarian: 5 essential tips

When you have diabetes, especially type 2, everyone is very careful about what they think you should and shouldn’t eat. They mean okay, but they are often misleading. Who can blame them for being confused, as I was, about how to properly manage diabetes? No matter what diet you follow, getting diabetes isn’t easy, but there is definitely a path of least resistance, and a vegan diet can help. Here are five simple ways to control diabetes on a plant-based diet.

Note: This is not medical advice. This is based on my personal journey with type 2 diabetes and my experience as a vegan chef. Always consult your doctor when it comes to your condition.

1Find a dietitian familiar with vegetarian lifestyles

Diabetes management is about education and knowing your numbers.

You need to know your normal blood sugar range, your A1C goal (the amount of sugar bound to hemoglobin molecules in your blood cells), and set any nutrition goals. When I was diagnosed in 2019, I received none of this education, nor was it offered to me. I was simply told to “keep doing what you’re doing”, and I had no idea what that meant.

By meeting with a registered dietitian (RDN) knowledgeable about vegetarians, you’ll have an sympathetic ear when it comes to explaining what you do and don’t eat. When I finally met a dietitian a year later, after I was hospitalized with high blood sugar, I was simply given lists of foods with red, yellow, and green labels. Eat mostly in the green section, a little in the yellow section, and avoid the red section if possible.

The problem with this approach was that I didn’t see any improvements. The “stop” system was very ambiguous. Had she recommended a vegan diet, I think I would have seen better, faster results. A good dietitian who knows about plant-based diets can not only advise you on which foods to eat or avoid, but can also educate you on why.

Knowing how food interacts with your body and your condition can help empower your meal choices and provide a better understanding of what’s going on in your body.

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2 Keep track of your food, but not too much

Keeping track of your food can be helpful, but not to the point where it becomes an obsession. The point of tracking is to be aware of what you’re putting into your body – not to log every single calorie or micronutrient.

When you look at your day or week, a food log can help determine how balanced your diet is. Are you drinking enough water? Have you skimped on fresh produce or supplementing processed foods?

All of these things affect your blood sugar reading, so it’s important to know what you’re consuming and whether it’s making your blood sugar rise or keeping it balanced.

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3 be active

You probably don’t define yourself as a yogi or a runner. Many people don’t, but chances are that there is some type of movement that you enjoy. The key is to identify it and stick with it.

Some of us enjoy a simple walk while others need music in a club-like gym. Whatever makes you move, make it a habit and be consistent. Many see an immediate positive relationship between activity and blood sugar stability.

If you’re keen on doing something more intense like long-distance running or heavy lifting, discuss your fueling strategy with your dietitian.

Research published in the magazine Advances in experimental medicine and biology Offers At least 150 minutes of aerobic and resistance exercise per week can benefit people with type 2 diabetes.

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4Eat more whole foods

Flirting with processed plant foods one at a time is fine, but when your eating whole foods struggles, it’s time to reevaluate. Note: Whole foods refers to food as close to its natural, whole state as possible. For example: apples instead of applesauce or tofu instead of meat products that contain soy.

After my trip to the emergency room in 2020, I found that incorporating large amounts of whole foods into my eating plan brought my numbers down quickly. By cutting out animal products, I can eat better, feel better, and get numbers closer to my normal goal.

This was especially important because my vision was really blurry for about a week. Eating whole plant foods helped me get my eyesight back to normal in just a week and a half because my blood sugar was more in control.

Research supports this. A plant-based diet consisting primarily of whole foods is associated with a number of benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

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5 I like carbohydrates (unprocessed)

People make a lot of carbs, and often, with good intentions, tell diabetics that foods aren’t off the table forever. Who wants to live a life without fruit, potatoes of all kinds, and bread? no one.

Carbohydrates of all kinds have a place in our nutritional plan because carbohydrates are the main source of energy in the body. Eating too few simple carbs can negatively affect your blood sugar just as eating too many processed carbs, so it’s vital that you don’t deprive yourself of this vital (and satisfying) source of energy.

Unprocessed carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, beans, brown rice, other whole grains, and legumes. Artisan bread is more processed, but you can work with your dietitian to determine a moderate amount that doesn’t spike your blood sugar, because living without bread would be a pity.

Search Offers Higher consumption of whole grains is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Still afraid that bananas or carrots are right for you? I may be one case study, but here’s some anecdotal reassurance: During January 2021 I saw my A1C drop from 8.1 to 7.1, and my fasting blood sugar numbers drop to 95-105mg/dL just by leaving out the unprocessed carbs.. .and some bread.

I love artisan baking, but I’m also starting to love brown rice, making my own marinade, and cooking real food for the first time in my life. I didn’t even get a big green salad until May 2020. It’s going to change my life. Literally. And for the record – salad is carbohydrates.

No matter how long you’ve been a vegetarian or diabetic, it takes time to adapt to a new way of eating and living. But these lifestyle modifications will be beneficial to you in the long run. You don’t have to change everything at once, and you don’t have to. But by taking small actions to build better habits over time, you’ll find the payoff in better numbers and improved overall health.

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