Diabetes and the Plant Based Diet | A Case For Plant Based
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. So, let’s take a look at how a plant based diet affects our blood sugar. And, what impact a plant based diet has on diabetes.
High blood sugar, also called diabetes, affects 34 million Americans. Even more concerning though: 88 million Americans have pre-diabetes; that is 1 in 3 adults. Worldwide, over 422 million people have diabetes. In 2017, $327 billion was spent on diabetes in the U.S. alone.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body’s blood sugar (also called blood glucose) is too high. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy and comes from the food we eat. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It helps the glucose get into the cells to be used for energy.
Type 2 diabetes means the body does not use insulin properly. 90–95% of diabetic cases are type 2, but it is treatable and even curable. Unlike type 2, type 1 diabetes is not curable. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin. While there is no cure, it can be managed with medication, as well as nutrition and exercise.
Another type of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which develops in some women who are pregnant. In most cases, the diabetes goes away once the baby is born. However, the woman has a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
A normal fasting blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL (or A1C below 5.7). Blood sugar is considered high at 126 mg/dL fasting (or A1C above 6.5).
High Blood Sugar Complications
Common symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, blurry vision, fatigue, cuts and bruises that heal slowly, and tingling, pain, or numbness of hands and feet.
Diabetes increases risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, and amputation of toes, feet, and legs.
As the American population has become more overweight and obese, cases of diabetes have doubled in the last 20 years.
Being overweight, age 45 and over, a smoker, family history of diabetes, and being physically active less than 3 times per week are all risk factors for diabetes.
The good news is, most cases of type 2 diabetes can be controlled naturally through a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, and regular exercise. Insulin and other medications can actually be a last resort for treating type 2 diabetes.
Prevent and Control Diabetes with a Plant Based Diet
Studies have shown that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is significantly lower in those following a plant based diet. In fact, animal foods have been linked to insulin resistance.
Studies have also shown that a whole food plant based (WFPB) diet is highly beneficial for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes. Further, a plant based diet can even type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, a plant based diet also helps prevent and treat heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, neuropathy, inflammation, and obesity.
A healthy, balanced plant based diet to prevent and treat diabetes includes:
- Vegetables (and dark leafy greens)
- Plant-based protein sources
- Whole grains (no refined grains)
- eliminating or eating less added sugar and oil
- eliminating or eating less processed foods
In addition to eating well, physical activity helps control blood sugar, weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Being physically active also helps prevent heart and blood flow problems, and it reduces the risk of heart disease and nerve damage.
“Not only is [the plant based diet] the most delicious ‘prescription’ you can imagine, but it’s also easy to follow. Unlike other diets, there is no calorie counting, no skimpy portions, and no carb counting. Plus, all of the ‘side effects’ are good ones.” -Dr. Neal Barnard, M.D. and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Real people, real cures
Marc Ramirez’s mother and 6 of his siblings battled type 2 diabetes. Marc’s outlook was grim as he watched them suffer through kidney transplants, pancreas transplants, amputations, and dialysis. When Marc was eventually diagnosed as well, he tried to control his diabetes by lowering his carbohydrate intake and exercising. However, he soon was on daily insulin injections and four other medications. Marc eventually heard about the benefits of a plant based diet. And, in less than 2 months, he was able to come off of insulin and discontinue use of all other medications.
And Marc is just one person who has reversed his type 2 diabetes diagnosis through a healthy plant based diet.
Eric Adams began losing his vision while battling type 2 diabetes. He decided he didn’t want to just slow down the disease progression, but he desired to reverse it. After adopting a plant based diet, Eric was amazed at how quickly his body recovered and the symptoms from diabetes were gone.
“My body was saying, ‘I want to heal you, but every time I try to, you’re giving me more poison.’ So all I did was get out of my body’s way.”
Plants Over Pills!
The meat and dairy industry have a stronghold in the U.S. government. And, the healthcare system benefits financially from all of us remaining sick: they don’t make money if we all eat healthy and need minimal medical intervention. In addition, the pharmaceutical companies stop making billions of dollars if we improve our health and eliminate the need for most medications.
We all have the power to take control of our health. More often than not, we can control the outcome of our health. We have the power to prevent and even reverse chronic diseases by eating a plant based diet. 🙌
Who else feels empowered and encouraged?!
I highly recommend watching this amazing TED Talk by Dr. Neal Barnard. With strong engagement and humor, Dr. Barnard educates us on how to treat diabetes with plant based nutrition. It goes against everything we have ever heard and been told about diabetes. Incredibly eye-opening and inspiring.
You can do it! I believe in you, and I’m here for you. 💚
And, as always, consult with your physician and a registered dietician.