Plant-Based Diets and Type 2 Diabetes – Part 2

Plant-based diets deserve a kale-yeah for being the best for your health. In case you missed it, Part 1 of Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes breaks down the science of being powered by plants. To give you the cliff notes, plant-based diets can improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control, lower HbA1c, and decrease the risk of developing conditions associated with type 2 diabetes.

Why a plant-based or vegetarian diet?

The benefits of plant-based eating have “leeked” and are taking the world by storm! Plant-based foods are abundant in fiber and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients give plants their color, health benefits, and come in thousands of varieties. A plant-based diet naturally emphasizes nutrient-dense foods that are packed with fiber! Shhh – you don’t have to go fully vegan to reap the benefits.

Why is fiber so beneficial?

The USDA recommended daily amount (RDA) of daily fiber intake for adults up to age 50 is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Men and women 50+ years old should have 30 and 21 grams a day, respectively. On average, vegans consume 46.4 grams of fiber a day compared to the average American who consumes 15 grams.1 Get your fiber fix with plant-based eating!

Fiber is a component of almost all whole-plant foods – fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Increased dietary fiber intake has been shown to decrease overall food intake and inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, it can reduce fatty acid oxidation, improve glycemic control, and boost satiety when compared to a low-fiber meal.2 Minimize 'hangry' moments and stay full between meals with a high-fiber plant-forward diet.

Studies have shown that C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations, a marker of inflammation, and a predictor of future diabetes, are inversely correlated with dietary fiber intake.3 Since diabetes is considered a chronic inflammatory disease, there is an increased risk for other inflammation-related complications such as allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, arthritis and joint conditions, and cardiovascular disease.4 Fiber is an unsung hero and can stand firm with the best of the nutrients. Set a goal to evaluate if you’re meeting your daily fiber needs; don’t forget to increase water as you increase those grams.

Protect those beta-cells!

Your beta-cells need backup! Beta-cells are located in the pancreas and are responsible for the secretion of insulin. But, they get damaged or reduced in the development of type 2 diabetes, ultimately leading to insufficient insulin secretion and hyperglycemia.5 Protect your beta-cells from oxidative stress with plant-containing phytonutrients and polyphenols found in onion, broccoli, cabbage, apples, berries, and more.1

Mix in more plant-proteins

Don’t get corn-fused. You don’t have to completely omit animal products from one’s diet to reap plants’ benefits. But, meat and other animal products lack fiber and phytochemicals, leaving room for healthful improvement. Additionally, meat-centric diets are associated with higher intakes of saturated fat, sodium, and calories, components that are unfavorable for those with type 2 diabetes can lead to a variety of complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy, and retinopathy.5

Feel good from your head to your to-matoes with these helpful plant-based tips:

  • substitute half of the meat in spaghetti Bolognese for cooked mushrooms or lentils
  • mix in tofu with your beef stir-fry
  • substitute half of the chicken for chickpeas in tikka masala

You don’t have to go 100% plant-based to reap the benefits

Studies have shown that vegetarian diets have comparable benefits to a more extreme vegan diet.1 Following a vegetarian diet can lower the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, decrease A1C values, reduce blood glucose, and improve kidney function.

It’s also been found that individuals following a plant-based or vegetarian diet have an easier time sticking to that eating pattern for health than carbohydrate-counting for weight loss.4 Now that you know all the benefits of plant-based eating, check back in next month for tasty ways to enjoy this lifestyle!

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