Fighting Diabetes with a Plant-Based Diet

Diabetes is becoming one of the leading diseases and causes of death in North America. With fast food, sugary snacks, and soda pop easily available, it’s no wonder that this blood-sugar disorder has become so prevalent. Before you inject yourself with insulin or go on medication, understand that a plant-based diet has been known to dramatically shift and even reverse type 2 diabetes.

For the most part, people living with type 2 diabetes can control their disorder through their food choices.

Those living with type 1 diabetes will never eliminate their need for insulin. However, by adopting a plant-based lifestyle, they may be able to keep their insulin doses to a minimum and reduce the risk of complications.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or your body doesn’t properly use the insulin it makes. As a result, glucose (sugar) builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy.

Here is a quick rundown of plant-based foods that have special properties for maintaining a healthy blood-sugar level:

  • Avocado contains a sugar that depresses insulin production, which makes it an excellent choice for people with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Try adding some slices of avocado to a piece of toast, blend it into a smoothie, or toss it in a salad. Guacamole is delicious too! Ideally eat 1/4 of an avocado several times per week.

  • Soybeans and other legumes, such as kidney beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and lima beans, slow the rate of absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream because of their high protein and fiber content. Ultimately this can reduce spikes in blood sugar.

    Try making a dip with different kinds of beans or tossing them into a salad. They even make great veggie burgers. Eat at least 1/2 to one cup of legumes a day.

  • Onions and garlic normalize blood-sugar regulation by decreasing the rate of insulin elimination by the liver. Onions and garlic are the base of most soups and stir-fries. So consider sautéing them for your next meal. Try to consume half a clove of garlic twice a day and one onion per day.

  • Other blood-sugar-controlling foods include berries (especially blueberries); celery; cucumbers; green, leafy vegetables; sprouts; string beans; parsley; psyllium; ground flaxseed; chia seeds; lemons; oat bran; radishes; sauerkraut; sunflower seeds; squash; and watercress. Many of these items can be combined into smoothies, breakfast cereal, or a colorful salad or grain dish.

Beyond knowing what foods are good to eat, knowing how and when to eat them can be vital in keeping your diabetes in check. Here are some additional tips for naturally regulating your blood-sugar levels with plants:

  • Eat a balanced plant-based breakfast every day because it helps kick your metabolism into gear, which is needed for proper sugar and insulin processing.

  • Don’t go more than two hours without food. Eat six to eight small meals throughout the day. Even eating a small snack before bed may help. Eating more frequently helps keep blood-sugar levels in balance.

    You don’t want to consume large, heavy meals because they can be hard for the body to digest. Additionally, excess food means excess calories, which can increase blood-sugar levels in the body and cause weight gain.

  • Eat a diet high in fiber. Fiber doesn’t raise blood-sugar levels, and it helps with digestion and elimination. Choose whole grains and legumes, and include large amounts of vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens; squash; green beans; sweet potatoes; tofu; and whole fresh fruits.

  • Use natural low-glycemic sweeteners, such as brown-rice syrup, coconut sugar, and stevia — but only infrequently and in very small amounts. These sweeteners have a low impact on blood-sugar levels and don’t cause them to spike as much as white sugar, which should be avoided completely.

  • Stay away from highly fatty and fried foods because they typically contain excess processed oils, which can affect blood-sugar levels and increase caloric intake. Instead choose healthy fats, oils (avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, or other cold-pressed natural oils), raw nuts, and seeds.

  • Remove alcohol, processed foods, sulphured dried fruits, table salt, white sugar, saturated fats, soft drinks, and white flour. Also avoid food with artificial colors and preservatives. These foods are extremely refined and have little to no nutritional value.

    They can contribute not only to an increase in sugar intake (of the worse kind) but also to weight gain because these are all forms of empty calories. People with diabetes should focus on foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, and are beneficial to their blood-sugar levels and overall well-being.

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