Can Vegetarian Diets Help Prevent And Manage Type 2 Diabetes?
By making healthier lifestyle changes, it is possible to manage and even prevent Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes happens when your body uses insulin insufficiently or produces less insulin than needed.
It is the most common type of diabetes and is most commonly diagnosed when you are in your middle to late years.
Those who are overweight or obese are very likely to suffer from Type 2 diabetes.
Treating Type 2 diabetes is generally done with diet and exercise and can use medications to control blood sugar.
There is much research to suggest that eating a healthy, whole-foods based vegetarian diet can significantly reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
One of the largest and longest nutritional studies to ever take place is that of the Seventh-day Adventists.
This group has been collecting data on volunteer members for years, and because of their unique approach to diet and lifestyle, have yielded significant information about vegetarianism and its impact on health.
Recent data from these studies support the lowered risk of diabetes among those choosing a vegetarian lifestyle
(Beyond Meatless, the Health Effects of Vegan Diets: Findings from the Adventist Cohorts, Le, et al.).
Others studying vegetarianism have found similar results, lending support for these claims.
But why does eating a vegetarian diet lower your risk for Type 2 diabetes?
It Can Reduce Sugar In Your Diet
Choosing a whole-foods, plant-based diet means you are opting out of foods with high amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates.
These foods are particularly problematic for those with diabetes risk factors or who have already been diagnosed as prediabetic.
When you eat foods high in sugar or simple carbs, your body doesn't have to work very hard to convert that food into glucose.
Your glucose levels will then rise, which signals your pancreas to release insulin.
If your body is already insulin resistant, your pancreas will release more insulin. You are in a vicious cycle that raises your risk of diabetes significantly.
If you eat a diet high in simple carbs, you have a 40% higher risk of developing diabetes.
(Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, and Chronic Disease Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies, Barclay, et al.)
By consuming more whole foods and complex carbs and fewer simple sugars, your body will release glucose at a steadier rate, keeping your blood sugar in check.
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are all excellent at regulating your glucose levels compared to their processed counterparts.
A vegetarian diet high in these foods will be beneficial to treating your diabetes, then.
You Will Eat More Fiber and Whole Foods
By consuming whole foods like vegetables and fruits on a vegetarian diet, you are providing your body with needed fiber.
Eating a high-fiber diet can help you manage your overall weight, which is important for preventing or controlling Type 2 diabetes.
You can also manage your blood glucose and insulin levels by consuming high-fiber foods.
Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, releases into the blood slowly, providing a gradual increase in blood glucose and avoiding sugar spikes.
Researchers in Sweden have confirmed the influence of fiber on blood sugar in their 2009 study.
(The influence of Dietary Fibre Source and Gender on the Postprandial Glucose and Lipid Response in Healthy Subjects, Ulmius, et al.)
This gradual release is what your body needs to live healthfully and to control diabetes symptoms.
Eating fiber-rich foods like those found in a whole-food vegetarian diet can, therefore, help manage your Type 2 diabetes.
Choosing Healthy Options
Diets that contain large amounts of processed foods, regardless of whether they are vegetarian or not, are not healthy.
Selecting a vegetarian lifestyle does not automatically equate to health if you continue to eat foods high in sugars, sodium, fats, and additives, all of which are linked to heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
Instead, focus on whole foods that are plant based, especially whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
These foods will deliver a more consistent supply of sugar to your body and can help you reach a healthy weight, which does a long way toward diabetes prevention and care.