Diabetes is a lifestyle disease. This is why doctors suggest complementing medicines with healthy changes to your lifestyle. These changes can not only help control blood sugar levels but also aid medication to work more efficiently. The result of these lifestyle modifications differs from person to person. In general, healthy food choices and regular physical exercise are recommended. But specifically which foods are suggested to each individual depends on tastes, discipline and how your body reacts to each dietary change.
The plant-based diet, characterised by a marked absence of any and all animal products is one such dietary option that is widely talked about. Animal products refer to mean everything that comes from an animal including dairy, dairy products, meat and meat products, fish, eggs, turkey, honey etc. So it is everything including byproducts like fish scales in gelatin and so on. (1)
The debate has propounders on both sides. Some groups believe that animal products are essential to meet the body’s protein requirements. However, that’s not enough to run down the plant-based diet plan. An average person needs a proportion of 80-10-10 (80 carbs 10 protein 10 fat) and these requirements can be met on a wholesome plant-based meal too including greens, beans, pulses, grains, nuts, seeds, tofu, etc.(2)
Here are some nuts you must include in your diet.
Pro plant diet argues that in Diabetes, especially Type 2, insulin resistance causes sugar increase in the blood. But when on a plant-based diet, insulin resistance goes down and sugar uptake improves and hence diabetes can be reversed.
We spoke to an expert about why one should consider the plant-based diet, and how to go about implementing it.
Madhura Vayal has a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science from Kentucky, US. She is a whole-foods, plant-based nutritionist certified from e-Cornell New York.
According to Madhura, the main cause of diabetes is a diet that is high in fat. “Animal products are high in ‘bad’ fats like LDL and cholesterol. (5) These fats interfere with the functioning of insulin causing insulin resistance and reduce glucose uptake by cells increasing blood sugar.(1,2,3) Animal products are also highly processed and contain chemicals and preservatives, which interfere with our hormones leading to hormonal imbalance. This, in turn, causes diabetes.”(1)
Madhura recommends a whole, plant-based diet devoid of animal products, as it is naturally high in vitamins and minerals, and low in fat. It is also high in fibre, which helps in regulating the absorption of excess blood sugars and in losing excess body fat. Plant-based meals have also been found to increase insulin sensitivity.
Here is a list of starter tips to make the transition to a diet free of animal products a smooth and painless one:
- Start your day with a green smoothie containing any greens plus fruits like banana and dates for sweetening. This neutralizes body acids and provides the necessary carbs and fibre to regulate blood sugars.
- Avoid tea and coffee. Instead, have herbal infusions or natural green teas like lemongrass tea, etc.
- Substitute dairy products with non-dairy milk like rice, soy, almond, oats milk, etc that can readily be made and are also commercially available.
There are high amounts of casein, cholesterol, and hormones in dairy cheese. Avoid consuming it, and replace it with plant-based substitutes made from nuts and seeds such as cashew cheese, tofu mayonnaise. Similarly, dairy yoghurt can also be substituted with plant-based yoghurt made from non-dairy milks such as peanut, rice, almond and soybean.
- Replace refined sugar. There are several healthier alternatives such as dried figs, dates and raisins. Make a paste by soaking dates and grinding them in a blender. This paste can be used as a sweetener in practically everything. Read this to find out if you are addicted to artificial sweeteners.
Ban processed foods. With homemade versions of the same food, you get to avoid animal products and refined foods, both of which can have devastating effects on health. Refined foods like maida, white sugar, white rice, refined oil, refined salt all are chemically processed. Processed foods like chips, bread, ketchup, biscuits, etc. have animal products and harmful chemicals in the form of preservatives, which act as hormone disruptors. Explore healthy recipes and alternative ingredients that are wholesome, unprocessed and preferably organic. Don’t forget to check our homemade flour (atta) recipe here.
Whole grains and flours instead of maida and white rice, dates and raisins instead of refined sugar, and prevent peeling and polishing grains and pulses.