How a Vegan Diet Can Improve Diabetes Health
Are you one of the over 30 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes? Are you one of the 84 million now classified as pre-diabetic? If so, there is good news. Research has shown that a vegan diet could potentially save your life and improve your health. Here is everything you need to know about what it can do for you.
What is a Vegan Diet?
Vegan, like a vegetarian diet, is a meat-free lifestyle. The difference between the two is vegetarians still consume products like milk, cheese, and sometimes eggs. Vegans eliminate all food sources that come from animals, and their diet is rich in fruit, vegetables, grains, and nuts instead.
Those who follow the diet say they see many health benefits ranging from slimmer waistlines to longer lives. While the medical community needs to do more research to back up all the claims, recent studies do suggest that people suffering from type 2 diabetes can improve their health in the following ways by going vegan.
Achieving a Healthy Weight
A vegan diet is naturally low in calories and high in nutrients because it is largely made up of fruit and vegetables. A typical vegan veggie burger on a whole wheat bun (including lettuce and tomato) only adds up to about 400 calories, while most of the hamburgers from fast food joints range from 500 to 1000 per serving. Animal products like meat and cheese are a major source of calories in a typical diet. Taking them out of the equation altogether helps you slim your waistline and prevent complications from the disease.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
A 2008 study funded by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that individuals who followed a vegan diet improved their Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) score. This score rates foods and their risks for chronic disease. Higher AHEI scores point to lower chances of cardiac events, meaning diabetics who follow a vegan lifestyle can significantly decrease their chances of being the next victim of cardiovascular disease.
This is important because as many as 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with diabetes die from a cardiac event like a heart attack or stroke. It is well known that a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat (like veganism) can ward off cardiovascular disease, making what you eat just as important as heart health tests like cholesterol testing. (Check out Hanson’s CardioChek and other heart health point of care testing products to learn more).
Better Blood Sugar
A vegan diet has also been shown to improve blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c levels. In some cases, the diet has even allowed patients to decrease or stop their insulin medications altogether. However, that isn’t to say that all vegan food is healthy for individuals with diabetes. While some foods like white bread and pasta come in vegan options, it is still important to stay away from simple carbohydrates like these to prevent blood sugar spikes. Choosing complex carbohydrates like vegetables, beans, and brown rice will help you stick to both a vegan and diabetic-friendly meal plan.
Every day it seems like we learn more and more about the health benefits associated with a vegan lifestyle. It is no surprise that those with diabetes can see significant health improvements too. If you are one of the millions of Americans dealing with diabetes (or rapidly approaching it), sit down for a healthcare consultation with your doctor. Ask what health screening services you should take advantage of to better understand your condition and whether a vegan diet will work for you.