• Alyssa Fontaine, RD
  • Jan 10, 2024

Vegan Diabetes Diet: What you need to know

Diabetes is a condition that affects many people worldwide. People with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce the hormone insulin. While those with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin well. When your body doesn’t make insulin or use it effectively, it will result in high blood sugar. Having high blood sugar can cause long-term health consequences.

No matter the type of diabetes, diet plays an important role in the management of the condition.

Continue reading to learn more about how the vegan diet can help with diabetes management and to gain a better understanding of how you can meet your nutritional needs with this diet.

Additionally, at the end of the post, you will find 5 great recipes to help you get started on your vegan diabetes journey!

Vegan-diabetes

What are the Health Complications Associated with Diabetes?

The most common complications of diabetes include:

  • Cardiovascular complications such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke
  • Kidney damage which commonly leads to the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD)  
  • Nerve damage which may result in the loss of sensation in the limbs
  • Cataracts or glaucoma  which can cause vision loss if left untreated

Why is Diet Important for Diabetes Management?

Diet is important for diabetes management because it directly influences your blood sugar levels, especially carbohydrates.

There’s a misconception that people with diabetes must avoid all carbohydrates, The truth is that carbohydrates are not only an important energy source, but their intake is also important for blood sugar control.

Complex carbohydrates such as fibre are important to include in a diabetes diet. That is because Fibre prevents high blood sugar as it is not completely digested by your body and it also delays the digestion and absorption of the other carbohydrates in your meals.

How can a Vegan Diet Help Manage My Diabetes?

A vegan diet can help you better manage your diabetes and thus avoid some of its associated complications.

 A vegan diet incorporates higher amounts of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts, and it excludes all animal-based products including meats, dairy, eggs, fish, and seafood.

Plant-based diets are higher in fibre, antioxidants and magnesium all of which promote your body’s sensitivity to insulin. Fibre also prevents blood sugar spikes. On the other hand, one study found that the consumption of animal products was associated with insulin resistance.

A vegan diet also contains more “good” fats like monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats and fewer “bad” fats such as saturated fats. Saturated fats can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes which is not good for people with diabetes because they are already at a higher risk for cardiovascular complications.

Furthermore, research

Can Vegan Diets Reverse Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?

A vegan diet is unable to reverse type 1 diabetes. However, it can help reverse type 2 diabetes.

Visit the  FAQ’s about vegan diabetes section to get a more in-depth answer to this question and others.

Meeting your Nutritional Needs on a Vegan Diabetes Diet

Is a Vegan Diet Safe for Diabetics?

Yes, if planned carefully, a vegan diet is an appropriate and safe diet to follow if you have diabetes. Reach out to a plant-based dietitian if you’d like to make sure you are meeting your nutrition needs while transitioning to a vegan diabetes diet.

What Nutrients Do I Need to Monitor on a Vegan Diabetes Diet?

Although a vegan diabetes diet is safe and appropriate, some nutrients should be closely monitored to avoid the development of deficiencies.

Protein

Animal-based products such as meats, eggs, and fish are usually a rich source of protein, However, those foods are typically not eaten by individuals following a vegan diet. Close attention should be given to protein because it is an important energy source. Furthermore, just like fibre, it can also help control your blood sugars and improve insulin sensitivity.

There are a variety of plant-based proteins you can eat to help meet your protein needs such as:

  • Pulses like lentils, chickpeas, and beans
  • Soy products such as tempeh and tofu
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa
diabetes-vegan-protein

Iron

Plant-based foods contain high amounts of iron, but it is not as easily absorbed as the iron found in animal products. To ensure you don’t develop iron deficiency make sure you are eating plenty of iron-rich food sources such as:

  • Beans, lentils, tofu 
  • Leafy greens 
  • Whole grains such as quinoa and whole oats 
  • Dried fruit

Pairing the above foods with foods high in vitamin C is a strategy you can use to better absorb plant-based irons. Some examples of foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli.

Calcium

The vegan diet usually doesn’t contain dairy products and thus it; ‘s important you consume calcium-rich plant-foods such as:

  • Plant-based milk beverages fortified with calcium 
  • Kale, broccoli, mustard greens
  • Tofu (with calcium sulfate in its ingredients)

Consuming enough calcium from your diet is especially important if you are over the age of 50 because older people are not able to absorb calcium as well.

Vitamin D

Plant-based sources of vitamin D include fortified foods like mushrooms, plant-based milks, and the sun. However, a Vitamin D supplement may be needed to meet your requirements if you’re unable to obtain enough from your food or the sun.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods like meat and fish. With a plant-based diet, you can meet your vitamin B12 requirements through a supplement or fortified foods such as:

Vegan Diabetes Recipes

Here are 5 great recipes you can try out if you’re curious about starting a vegan diabetes diet, but don’t know where to begin. These vegan recipes are not only tasty but also diabetes-friendly.

Peanut Tempeh Stir Fry

This stir-fry is not only easy to make, but it is also super customizable as the tempeh can be paired with whichever whole grains and vegetables you prefer. Overall, this dish is a good source of fibre, antioxidants, and protein which can all help you maintain good glycemic control. 

High Protein Vegan Pasta Bake 

This creamy casserole packs a punch in terms of protein. Made of tofu and chickpea pasta, each serving of this dish contains 20 grams of protein which can help improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control. The nutritional yeast can help you meet your vitamin B12 needs.

Tempeh Tacos

Tempeh absorbs flavours very well and is also full of nutrients like protein, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Protein and magnesium help maintain blood sugar levels. While iron and calcium are important nutrients to intake with a vegan diet.

Easy Vegan Moroccan Soup 

This ultra-flavourful soup is full of spice and everything nice! It contains a variety of vegetables along with prunes which are great sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Use this dish to help manage your diabetes and also avoid nutrient deficiencies.  

Oatmeal Date Almond Butter Bar Recipe 

This oatmeal bar only requires six ingredients and can be eaten as a snack or dessert. Furthermore, this delicious treat is low in sugar as it’s naturally sweetened by dates which also add extra fibre, an important nutrient for diabetes management.

Want to find out more? – Let’s Chat

Going vegan doesn’t have to be overwhelming, connect with one of our vegan dietitians today to get the additional support you need to take the next step.

© All Rights Reserved, Plant-Based Dietitians 2024