Diabetes is a condition that is impacting millions of people every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 10 people have diabetes, and 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t know they have it. Once a diagnosis comes, you might wonder, “Can a vegan diet reverse type 2 diabetes?– in short, yes, but let’s take a closer look at how.
You can’t “cure” diabetes, but the good news is diet is powerful and can have a huge impact.
What is reversing diabetes?
This term is a phrase that can be confusing to understand. Diabetes is considered reversed when high blood sugar levels come down within the normal range without using medication and stay in the normal range for an extended time.
Reversing diabetes is not the same as curing diabetes. At this time, research indicates that type 2 diabetes cannot be cured due to the underlying damage done to cells. This is why you may see it called “remission” instead of reversal.
Can a Vegan Diet Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?
What you eat and don’t eat impacts your blood sugar levels. This study from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine produced these results through a plant-based diet low in fat and high in fiber from vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds showed promising results.
In this study, there were 59 participants in total, and 37% were able to reach remission. The dietary pattern they were following was 75% of calories are derived from complex carbohydrates, 15% from protein (plant), and 10% from fat.
Although the study is small, the results are promising!
Best foods to normalize your A1C
Eating in this fashion, you may find that the answer to your popular question, “Can a Vegan Diet Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?” is likely a yes. Eating this way can lower your A1C into a normal range and manage diabetes without taking medications. This doesn’t mean you are cured; it must be a lifelong change because you are now at higher risk for recurrence.
In this study, the protein intake was at 15%. The protein mainly came from beans and other high-fiber plant-based proteins. Eating proteins helps stabilize your blood sugar; fiber is equally important, which I will touch on in the next paragraph.
The type of carbohydrates here is especially important because, most times, you hear “no more carbs,” but that isn’t necessarily true.
Complex carbohydrates are what you want to focus on. This includes whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils. All complex carbohydrates have fiber, an essential nutrient.
Fiber in these carbohydrates helps prevent blood sugar spikes because it takes longer to digest and is released more slowly than refined grains.
A lower fat diet of ~10% has also shown positive results in various studies. Plant-based diets are lower in saturated fats, which can damage cells in our pancreas, which is responsible for making insulin.
3 Quick steps to take to better your blood sugar
- Eat more plant-based
Are the research indicated above, some participants weren’t even 100% vegan and still saw improvements in their A1 levels.
- Less fat
Aim to have a diet lower in fat. Use 10% total fat as the guideline and adjust to your personal needs and preference that makes sense. Working with a dietitian on this is the best way to find the needs that best suit you.
- Higher fiber
When your carbohydrate intake is higher, the fiber intake must also be higher. This study had fiber intake at no lower than 35 grams per day. When increasing your fiber intake, it’s important to increase your daily water intake as well.
Meal plan ideas
Based on this study’s macronutrients and fiber goals, I have created a 7-day meal plan to follow these guidelines. Of course, always check with your provider before making changes, especially if you are taking diabetes medications.
Diabetes can be a life-changing diagnosis. Our Reversing Diabetes Meal Plan is carefully designed based on the American College of Lifestyle Medicine research on reversing diabetes.
PS: This article is not meant to be used as medical advice, and you should speak with your dietitian or primary care provider before making changes. If you want to schedule an appointment with one of our dietitians, click the button below for a free consultation.