Is there a vegan diet for diabetes?
Veganism is becoming an increasingly popular lifestyle choice. How does it fit with people with diabetes? We look at the facts.
Veganism is on the rise. Mainstream supermarkets are stocking more vegan options, the diet is on the menu in many restaurants, and countless celebrities seem to be endorsing plant-based eating. Meanwhile, the Vegan Society reports that the number of vegans in the UK have quadrupled between 2014 and 2018 and now stand at 600,000
But moving on from hype and trends, is veganism a long-term healthy lifestyle choice? And where does a vegan diet for diabetes fit into the picture? Here’s the need to know.
What exactly is veganism?
According to the Vegan Society, ‘Vegans follow a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey – as well as products like leather and any tested on animals.’ Of course, for many people veganism is an ethical choice. But much of the current interest in the diet has focused on the potential health benefits.
Why veganism can be a healthy lifestyle choice
Fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds are at the heart of a healthy vegan diet. These plant-based foods have been shown to help in the treatment of a number of chronic diseases and are associated with reduced cancer rates, lower cholesterol levels and less hypertension. In other words, providing you eat a healthy vegan diet (more on that below) there are likely to be benefits.
What about a vegan diet for diabetes?
'Vegetable diet will beat diabetes' claimed one British newspaper headline about a 2015 study. According to the NHS1, these claims, contain little or no truth.
But there is good news. A well-rounded vegan diet will contain plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. This is certainly a healthy choice – and a healthy diet can help manage type 2 diabetes.
And there is more positive news in terms of pre-diabetes. A trial2 has shown that overweight people enjoyed positive benefits from a vegan diet. Specifically, the group showed improvement in beta cell function, a reduction in which is often associated with the gradual onset of type 2 diabetes.
Why a well-rounded vegan diet is crucial
It's time to take the halo off veganism a little. While it can be a good lifestyle choice, fatty crisps, chips, bread and any amount of processed food can be vegan. In other words, the choices you make within your vegan diet are crucial.
On a similar point, a healthy vegan diet shouldn’t just be about eliminating meat and dairy – eating lots of plant-based fruit, veg, nuts and seeds is also key.
Finally, if you are following a vegan diet for diabetes you need to ensure you are not deficient in essential nutrients. While many of us will instantly think ‘protein’ when it comes to deficiencies in vegetarians and vegans, this is not necessarily the case. Most of us eat as much protein as we need with no problem (deficiencies are rare) and there are plenty of vegan choices – think nuts, seeds, beans and pulses.
However, if you are eliminating meat and dairy from your diet, you will want to keep a close eye on the following, to ensure you are getting enough:
- vitamin B12
- omega 3 oils.
A vegan diet is no magic diet. And, as the NHS states, 'It's important to note that non-vegan diets that include low-fat dairy products and oily fish, among other recommendations, can also aid weight loss and help control or prevent type 2 diabetes.' But a vegan diet for diabetes can be a healthy diet for those with type 2 and play a part in managing diabetes. And evidence suggests it can also help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. To find out more about living a healthy vegan lifestyle, visit the Vegan Society.
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