Plant Based Diets focus on consuming minimally processed foods and eating a balanced plate utilizing the plate method- half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter of your plate whole grains, and one quarter of your plate as protein- with whole foods which came out of the earth that way. Examples of whole foods include whole beans, brown rice, vegetables, fruit and edamame. These foods all have something in common- they are rich in nutrients, high in fiber, and supply endless health benefits when incorporated daily into your diet. By eliminating animal products such as meat and dairy, many sources of saturated fatshave been removed from the diet, and food is focused around what is available, in season, and provides the best nutrition for your body.
Starting in 2015, the Physicians Committee recommends incorporating plant based eating into a healthy diet and lifestyle. However, for an individual with type 2 diabetes, eating a Plant Based Diet may appear to be extremely high in Carbohydrates compared to a typical meal. Without any animal products, plants must be used to supply your body with protein. Even though plant sources of protein such as beans and whole grains contain carbohydrates, the fiber and minerals in these foods interact with your body for slower digestion and maintain blood sugar levels longer. You may be eating “more” Carbs, but these sources of carbohydrates are beneficial to Hemoglobin A1C as compared to processed grains and other foods which are stripped of their fiber content.
Research studies have shown that switching to Plant Based Eating can reduce Hemoglobin A1C by as much as 1 point in 12 weeks, despite a small increase in the amount of Carbs eaten at each meal. While studies are based on 100% plant-based diets, even gradual changes to plant-based eating results in health benefits! Try 1 plant based meal per week to start by gradually decreasing the animal products like meat and cheese and increasing whole foods such as whole beans, and protein rich vegetables.
Many individuals are concerned with not getting enough protein, and eating too many calories on the plant based diet. Many plant-based protein sources such as peanuts and beans are energy dense, and provide lots of calories. For this reason, limit yourself to 1-2 servings of nuts per day and measure out portion sizes as you start to teach yourself what a portion of protein looks like in plant form. Additionally, as whole plant foods are rich in fiber and nutrients, plant based protein sources often leave you feeling fuller longer and help decrease portion sizes. The average person requires about 50-60g protein per day, which can be achieved using only plants. Aim for about 20g of protein per meal using the guide below for extremely protein-dense plant-based whole foods.
Plant Based Eating may seem like a drastic change, yet the health benefits extend beyond decreasing Hemoglobin A1C. Along with decreasing fasting blood sugars over time-without an increase in medication- plant based eating can help lower blood pressure, lower LDL (“bad”) Cholesterol, increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and help in weight loss and hunger control.
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