Diabetes Blogs

Could I Go Vegan for Better Blood Sugar?

How far are you willing to go for better blood sugar? Managing diabetes is a 24/7 job. Would eating only plants on top of that be asking too much?

Last week, I almost went vegan.

I had written an article about the benefits of vegan living, and how such a diet may improve beta cell function and increase insulin sensitivity in people who were overweight. Not only that, but experts told me that a vegan diet could improve the function of your gut microbiome (important in type 2 diabetes) and help you shed some pounds without counting calories.

So, for a few days, it seemed like something I should try. I had given up red meat last August, so how hard could it be to go cold turkey on dairy and animal protein?

It would mean giving up my beloved breakfast yogurt and buttered Ezekiel toast and the occasional piece of fish or chicken for dinner, but the trade off—a bikini body plus better glucose readings could make such a shift worthwhile.

The researchers I spoke to assured me that after 21 days, the diet would be a breeze. It wasn’t like the old days of veganism: there were great substitutes for dairy and meat and interesting and delicious recipes. A vegan eater since 15, one doctor told me how she delighted in finding new restaurants that served vegan foods.

Inspired, I immediately ordered a vegan cookbook on Amazon. The woman who wrote it glowed with superior health on the back cover. Shiny hair, white teeth, clear eyes, perfect skin. And the cookbook wasn’t all grass and cardboard–there were dishes that sounded pretty good: mushroom risottos and cashew cream mousse.

I pored over the pictures, and then made up a grocery list full of things I had often passed by in Whole Foods–tempeh and flavored tofu, soymilk and sweet potatoes. Quinoa and lentils. Kidney beans.

None of these foods were strangers to me, but when it came to getting in the car and actually buying them en masse as the main ingredients in my diet, I paused. In my chest, I sensed a stab of rebellion. I stared at that meager list of wholesome foods and thought, “Not so fast.”

Which was crazy. The researchers presented the evidence: veganism was an awesomely healthy path. It could help with those last ten pounds. It could lower my blood sugars.

But even as I thought this, I realized I didn’t really want to give up shrimp. Or yogurt. Or omelets.

Wasn’t it enough that I exercised every day? That I remembered to take my meds? That I counted my carbs? That I took my blood glucose readings religiously? That I had to think about my type 2 diabetes 24/7?

I knew what the experts would say: This diet could potentially reverse my type 2 and make me healthier. I thought of that beaming woman on the cover of the cookbook, healthy inside and out. But at that moment, all I craved was more, not less flexibility.

I didn’t toss the grocery list. Or the glowy cookbook. Instead, I took both and filed them under options to revisit in the future. Maybe sometime going forward, I’ll view this whole vegan thing differently.

But until then, I’m going to take my chances with my regimen that has my A1Cs at 6.1. I’ll incorporate all those healthy plant-based foods in my diet, while continuing to savor a little chicken, a little fish and a little cheese.



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