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Vegan Meals for Diabetes

vegan-diabetic-meal
10 min reading time

With growing concerns about health and sustainability, plant-based diets have been gaining recognition. If you have diabetes or are at risk, you may be wondering if you can benefit from a plant-based diet. The answer is yes!

 

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of plant-based diets in the management of type 2 diabetes. We will also answer some FAQs and share our top tips for making delicious plant-based meals curated by vegan dietitians. We also include our top 10 vegan recipes for diabetes to help you get started on your plant-based journey.

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Can diabetics be vegan?

Yes, diabetics can adopt a vegan diet, and many do so successfully!

 

In their position statement on vegetarian diets, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states:

“Appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases”. 

 

Among the diseases that can profit from a plant-based diet is type 2 diabetes. Adopting a vegan diet can be advantageous for diabetics, particularly in terms of type 2 diabetes management.

 

However, just like for anyone else, a diet should be approached thoughtfully and with attention to nutritional needs. There are a couple of nutritional considerations to keep in mind when adopting a vegan diet. 

 

Nutritional considerations for adopting a vegan diet 

  • Carbohydrate management
  • Iron
  • Protein sources
  • Fats
  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D

If you’d like to know more about how to meet your nutritional requirements, visit Vegan Diabetes Diet: What you need to know. We also invite you to reach out to a plant-based dietitian to optimize your diet. 

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Is a vegan diet good for diabetics?

Yes! A vegan diet can be advantageous for diabetics, specifically for those with type 2 diabetes. 

 

Adopting a plant-based diet can have many benefits for the general population and especially, for people with diabetes. Emerging research highlights the positive effects of a vegan diet on key aspects of diabetes – blood sugar and cardiovascular health.

 

Benefits of a vegan diet for diabetics 

  1. Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance. This means that insulin, the hormone that lowers our blood sugar, isn’t as effective. This leads to the high blood sugar levels that are often seen in type 2 diabetes. 

 

However, emerging research highlights that plant-based diets can improve insulin sensitivity. This means that the body can use insulin more effectively, leading to enhanced blood sugar control. 

 

  1. Weight management

For individuals with diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. Plant-based diets have many attributes that have been shown to be beneficial in weight management efforts. Some beneficial features include lower caloric density, higher fibre content, and lower saturated fat content. For additional information, visit our Vegan Meal Prep for Weight Loss

 

  1. Promotes cardiovascular health

Research has found that vegan diets may lower one’s risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease. This effect is primarily due to plant-based diets typically being lower in saturated fats and rich in heart-healthy nutrients like fibre and antioxidants. As people with diabetes have an increased or cardiovascular disease, adopting a plant-based diet can be particularly advantageous for them. 

 

  1. Improved blood pressure regulation

A lipid profile refers to the levels of different fats (lipids) in your blood. A poor lipid profile, which is characterized by abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, can lead to high blood pressure. Having high blood pressure (hypertension) can increase the risk of diabetes-related complications like cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and retinopathy. 

 

However, research has shown that plant-based diets can improve lipid profiles. As a result, adopting a plant-based diet can help people with diabetes manage their blood pressure and reduce the risk of complications. Features of a plant-based diet that can aid in blood pressure regulation include a reduced intake of processed foods (sodium) and saturated fats.  The greater intake of fibre and antioxidants associated with the transition to a plant-based diet also contributes. 

 

  1. Reduced inflammation

A vegan diet may aid in reducing inflammation in people with diabetes, which can be advantageous in many ways. Type 2 diabetes is associated with chronic inflammation and this longstanding inflammation can impose several health risks. By virtue of anti-inflammatory nutrients, healthy fats, and fibre, a plant-based diet can help mitigate these risks.

 

  1. Promotes overall health

A balanced plant-based diet can meet all your nutritional requirements and provide a diverse range of beneficial nutrients. With a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, a vegan diet can promote overall health in addition to supporting diabetes management. 

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Tips for plant-based meal planning in diabetes

  1. Prioritize whole foods

When grocery shopping, opt for whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Whole foods are more so found around the perimeter of grocery stores whereas processed foods tend to be located in the middle aisles. 

 

Processed foods are foods that have been changed in some way from their natural state. This can be done for various reasons like making them last longer on the shelf, improving taste, or making them easier to prepare. Although not all processed foods are necessarily bad for you, there are some that can make managing your diabetes more difficult.  Think of things like chips, candy, sodas, sweets, fast foods, and juices.

 

  1. Plan your meals & snacks

Planning your meals and snacks ahead of time can be extremely helpful in managing diabetes. We recommend cooking in batches and freezing portions to save for the days where you don’t have the time to cook. This not only can help ease your mind, but it also reduces the likelihood that you might grab processed foods in a rush.  

 

For optimal blood sugar control, leave a maximum of 4-6 hours between mealtimes. It’s also important to have a snack before bedtime. For snacks, we recommend that you pair a carbohydrate with a source of protein. Examples include apples and peanut butter, vegetables and hummus, and chia pudding. 

 

  1. Choose complex carbohydrates

Diabetes Quebec recommends 45-75 grams of carbohydrates per meal. Choose complex carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index like:

  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc.)
  • Legumes and pulses (beans, lentils, etc.)
  • Non-starchy vegetables

These kinds of carbohydrates are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, leading to better blood sugar control. 

 

  1. Control portion sizes

For optimal blood sugar control, it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes. Even though complex carbohydrates affect your blood sugar less than simple carbohydrates and refined sugar, they still have an impact. Aim for ¼ of your plate to be composed of carbohydrates, ¼ protein, 2/4 fruits and vegetables. Using smaller plates and bowls can help with portion control. 

 

  1. Include lean proteins

A balanced protein intake can help manage blood glucose levels. Incorporate a source of protein at every meal (e.g., tofu, tempeh, legumes,…). Protein also helps promote satiety (feeling of fullness), which can contribute to weight management efforts.

 

For additional information on the types of foods that are suitable for a vegan diabetes diet, visit our Vegan Diabetes Meal Plan.

Top 10 vegan-friendly meals for diabetes

 

Lentil mushroom soup

This savory recipe is not only packed with flavours, but also diabetes conscious. Its plant-based ingredients provide complex carbohydrates, fibre, and protein to help you manage your blood sugar. In under 30 minutes, you can indulge in this hearty recipe guilt-free. 

 

Vegan Tostadas

High in fibre, plant-based protein, and bursting with vegetables, this mouth-watering recipe is beginner-friendly and a must-try! Enjoy this flavourful Mexican-inspired plant-based fiesta knowing that it aligns with your diabetes-conscious choices.

 

Cauliflower fritters with tomato, cucumber, and chickpea chop

Developed by Diabetes Care Community, this recipe provides different textures and flavours to satisfy your palette. This recipe leaves room for adjustment so you can easily include your favourite vegetables and legumes in the “chop”. With minimal preparation time, this recipe can be a staple in your repertoire of diabetes-friendly meal prep recipes.

 

Chickpea tofu stir fry with spinach, zucchini and lemon

This diabetes-friendly recipe is a great way to elevate your meal prep. In addition to plentiful nutrients, this quick recipe adds a burst of freshness to your plates. Its balance of nutritious ingredients promotes blood sugar control so you can enjoy the taste without the worry!

 

Easy vegan Moroccan soup

This plant-based Moroccan-inspired recipe is flavourful, packed with nutrients, and requires only 30 minutes to prepare. Not only do the red lentils in this recipe contribute important nutrients like protein, iron, and fibre – they also constitute a diabetes-friendly choice. Red lentils are complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index meaning they help control your blood sugar. With its vibrant flavours, nutrient-dense ingredients, and diabetes-friendly profile, this recipe can be a great addition to your menu.

 

Rainbow Summer Rolls 

As registered dietitians, we encourage you to “eat the rainbow”. Choosing a variety of vegetables and fruits of different colours allows you to get a wide range of nutrients. With plenty of fibre and protein to help manage your blood sugar, this diabetes-friendly recipe does just that! 

 

Note: rice noodles have a lower glycemic index than soba noodles, making them a more diabetes-friendly choice. You can mix them with zucchini noodles (thinly sliced zucchini) to lower the glycemic load of the meal. These rolls can be served with the sauce of your choice. If you’re making your own sauce, refrain from adding sugar. 

 

Vegetable Stir-Fry

Stir-fries are a classic dish made to easily fit within the busiest of schedules. This go-to recipe offers plenty of nutrients along with the chance to use up any of the leftover vegetables in your fridge. With various sources of fibre and protein, this recipe is a diabetes-friendly choice. 

 

Note: when choosing a Teriyaki sauce, opt for the one with the lowest sugar and salt content. 

 

Spiralized Vegetable Noodles with Smoked Tofu and Spicy Peanut Sauce

This dish offers tops of vegetables topped with pan-fried smoked tofu for a protein-packed crunch. Not only is this dish diabetes-friendly, it’s also fun to make. This dish is a health-conscious choice that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

 

Vegan Stack Burger

Using fibre-rich and low-glycemic plant-based ingredients, this recipe transforms burgers into a healthy and tasty diabetes-friendly option. An emphasis on vegetables and legumes has never tasted so good. This recipe is one that the whole family can enjoy. 

 

Vegan Lentil Bolognese

Our top 10 recipes wouldn’t be complete without vegan lentil Bolognese! Yes it’s true, pasta, a classic comfort food, can be diabetes-friendly! By choosing whole-grain noodles, you can reduce the glycemic load of the meal. Along with plenty fibre and protein, you can enjoy this plant-based dish that’ll make you forget about meat!

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Final thoughts – vegan meals for diabetes

 

A plant-based diet can be tremendously beneficial for those with diabetes, especially those with type 2 diabetes. The benefits of a vegan diet extend beyond blood sugar control. Weight management, cardiovascular health, blood pressure regulation, reduced inflammation, and overall health can be fueled by a balanced vegan diet. 

 

In addition to managing your carbohydrate intake, a vegan diet requires special attention to protein, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium intake. The key to unlocking the benefits of a plant-based diet for diabetes management is balance. Our top 10 diabetes-friendly vegan recipes can help you take a step in this direction.

 

To ease the transition and reap the diabetes-related benefits of a plant-based diet, there are a few steps you can take. Prioritizing whole foods, planning your meals and snacks, choosing complex carbohydrates, controlling portion sizes, and including lean protein are some of many.