A Vegetarian Diet
How can a vegetarian diet that is high in carbs help with diabetes? Isn't that counterintuitive to the carb conscious frenzy imbedded in traditional diabetes management dogma?
Though a plant-based diet may have more carbohydrates than the typical recommendation for people with diabetes, studies suggest a vegetarian approach makes a pancreas happy and reduces the body's risk for heart attacks, strokes, and several types of cancer. Most of the studies involved type 2s, yet the importance of reducing risks for complications via improved A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol, and kidney function certainly may be applied to people with type 1.
This column will review basic definitions, a few studies showing rather spectacular health benefits of a vegetarian diet for the person with diabetes, protein food choices, and further resources for consideration.
Types of Vegetarians
A true vegetarian enjoys a rich diet based on fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and nuts, and will not eat meat, poultry, or fish — period! Subsets include:
Lacto-ovo: also consumes eggs, dairy products, and honey.
Lacto: also consumes milk and honey.
Vegan: excludes all animal products and honey.
Strict vegetarian: avoids any product that uses animal ingredients or products during manufacturing. These are not always listed on the food label (some cheeses use rennet, an animal stomach enzyme; gelatin is made from animal skin/bones/connective tissue; cane sugar may use bone char in the whitening process; some alcohol is clarified with gelatin).
Those who eat mainly vegetarian and add fish are called "pescatarian;" those who add meat are "semi-vegetarian."
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Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...