Written by Lauren Ranley. Reviewed by Diana Licalzi, MS, RD, CDE
Most people struggle to change their dietary pattern, but for those with type 2 diabetes, the switch is well worth the effort. Research consistently shows that a plant-based diet can be very effective at reversing type 2 diabetes. A study conducted by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) found that when individuals were assigned to a low-fat vegan diet versus the ADA recommended diet, 43% of the participants following the vegan diet reduced their diabetic medication use . The low-fat vegan group also experienced greater blood glucose control and improved cholesterol compared to the ADA group.
Hemoglobin A1c levels at the start of the study, at 11 weeks, and at 22 weeks. Open circles: all vegan group participants (n = 49); closed circles: vegan group participants on medication; open squares: all ADA group participants; closed squares: ADA group participants on medication.
Another study published in 2018 found that adherence to a plant-based diet compared to an animal-based diet reduces the risk of developing, insulin resistance, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes.
Focus on Small, Manageable Plant-Based Changes
As with any lifestyle change, success comes by taking small, manageable steps. When switching to a plant-based diet, the task may seem daunting and overwhelming but remember, you don’t have to make any drastic changes, especially not all at once. Always start by making changes that you feel comfortable with. If abstaining from certain food groups seems too challenging, then make those foods the last ones you eliminate. For example, if you love cheese but can do without eggs, then keep cheese in your diet for now. Making a diet change, no matter what it is, doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul.
Coming up with small, specific goals that are based on your own personal preferences will allow you to sustain changes longer and will be more beneficial for reversing your type 2 diabetes . Let’s outline some small – yet manageable – changes that can help you go plant-based
Try Meatless Mondays for Type 2 Diabetes
Meatless Mondays, a trend that started in 2003, offers a manageable way to slowly eliminate animal products from your diet. Starting by eliminating meat just one day a week reduces the pressure of having to find plant-based meals for an entire week. It also makes the transition seem more approachable and doable. To further the switch to plant-based, keep adding meatless days to your week. There isn’t just one way to do this either. If a whole day is too overwhelming, start with one or two meals a day and work your way up from there.
Incorporate More Plant-Based Foods with Fruit and Vegetables
Most Americans don’t consume the daily recommended amount of vegetables or fruits, yet both are bursting with nutrients . This study aimed to determine the effects of consuming flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables on diabetes biomarkers. Data from 381 individuals with diabetes was acquired from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Blood samples were taken to determine C-reactive protein levels (an indicator of inflammation), A1C, fasting blood glucose, and insulin. The participants who had a higher intake of high-flavonoid fruit and vegetables had lower degrees of inflammation, better glycemic control, and a reduced risk of developing diabetes-related complications .
Walking into the produce section of the grocery store can be intimidating when you’re trying to increase your fruit and vegetable intake. The best solution is to start with what you like!
- If you have a preference for specific fruits and vegetables, start there and expand on that.
- Pick a new-to-you vegetable, look up a recipe that sounds appealing, and try it.
- Keep repeating this process until you have increased your repertoire of fruits and veggies and new recipes.
- Plan to add a serving of fruit to meals throughout the day, either as a side, a snack, or mixed in.
Choosing Plant Protein to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
Plant-based diets are rising in popularity. This makes it easy to find plant-based alternatives in grocery stores and restaurants. If a favorite dish contains meat, there are ways to swap it for a plant-based option. Foods such as tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans, and jackfruit are all great options. Or you can leave out the meat and add more vegetables, the options are endless! These changes don’t have to be drastic. Milk alternatives are also a great way to make your way towards being plant-based. Incorporate them into foods to start that transition.
- Make your coffee with oat milk instead of cream.
- Use almond milk to make your oatmeal.
- Buy a single soy-based yogurt to try.
There is no one right way to make the change to a plant-based diet but the benefits of doing so are great. Make small, obtainable changes to better manage and even reverse your type 2 diabetes.