Let's start with the basics:
What is a veganism and what is a vegan diet?
Veganism is a philosophy and way of life and a vegan diet is a part of it. A vegan aspires to avoid all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives.
A vegan diet is one that excludes consumption of meat and all other animal products and by-products such as milk and milk products, eggs, honey, gelatin etc. This is why it is also referred to as a plant-based diet. But this does not in any way imply that adopting a vegan diet means giving up on milk and milk products that are ingredients in almost everything we eat. There are healthier and tastier substitutes for almost everything you would be “giving up”.
(We’d rather say “trading up”) Alternatives include - Soy Milk, Almond Butter, Ice Cream made with a coconut cream base - and these are the beginning of the list.
Vegan food, with its densely packed nutrients and fiber, and lack of cholesterol, is extremely healthy. Adopting a vegan diet improves overall health, and even allows people to wean themselves off prescription medications. Medical research indicates that lifelong vegetarians and vegans visit hospitals 22% less often than meat eaters
Vegan Food and its relation to blood sugar levels & Diabetes Prevention/Treatment:
Glucose (the sugar in our blood) is essential to health because it’s required for the formation of ATP, the energy molecule in our bodies, which is necessary for every organ and cell to function. The two key hormones for blood glucose regulation are insulin and glucagon. When blood sugar is high, such as after a meal, insulin is released and helps to bring glucose circulating in the blood from the breakdown of food into the tissues for use and storage; when blood sugar is low, glucagon is released to break down glycogen (stored form of glucose in the tissues), causing the blood sugar to rise again.
The body tries to maintain a constant balance between the two to function properly. But a state of continued elevated blood sugar can have a very negative effect on it as the body must release a consistent stream of insulin into the bloodstream to maintain healthy sugar levels. This will cause the tissues to become what is known as “insulin resistant”, due to the constant exposure to insulin, which causes more and more insulin to be released to remove circulating sugar that keeps rising as tissues are not responding to insulin anymore.
There is now a significant body of research to show that vegans benefit from lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and up to a 78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-vegans. Part of the advantage could be explained by the higher fiber intake, which may blunt the blood sugar response. A vegan diet weight loss effects may further contribute to its ability to lower blood sugar levels
Vegan Diet Recommendations for stabilizing blood sugar and combating diabetes
1. Green leafy vegetables
Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale and other leafy greens are high in dietary fiber and rich in magnesium, which both help to regulate blood sugar levels, slowing down energy release and glucose absorption. Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash are not only absolutely delicious, but they contain much more fiber than regular white potatoes. They can also be a good option for people dealing with blood sugar balancing problems.
Add your greens to salads, experiment with different varieties and pair them with a citrus vinaigrette or herb dressing. Steam or roast your broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and sprinkle them with lemon juice or chili as a snack or drizzle with tahini as a side dish.
2. Whole grains
Whole grains like oats, brown rice or buckwheat are helpful for blood sugar levels because they are high in soluble fiber and are slower to digest. Quinoa and millet are also great options, as they are high in plant protein, which helps sustain energy without crashing blood sugar. Start your day with a nice bowl of oatmeal topped with berries and cinnamon or mix up your oat game by trying millet and quinoa porridge. Use whole grains to make some tasty veggie burgers or simply mix them with some sautéed vegetables topped with fresh basil or mint. And by the way, if you love your pancakes, pick buckwheat or millet flour, and that yummy maple syrup on top will be much better tolerated when paired with these high fibre and protein flours.
Think black, pinto, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils. These are all high in fiber, complex carbohydrates and protein, keeping blood sugar nice and steady. You can turn them into delicious dips to serve with crudités or into creamy and filling soups. They can be tossed into salads to up your protein intake and used for brownies. No, it’s not a typo.! There are so many recipes for bean brownies or chickpea frostings and mousses. They won’t only provide texture and protein to your treats, but paired with wholesome sweeteners, they can help prevent you from experiencing a sugar high.
This amazing spice has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and cells ability to respond more readily to insulin so that less is released into your body and there will be better blood sugar balancing. It can also reduce cardiovascular disease risk by improving triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels.
Sprinkle cinnamon on your porridge or on your slice of wholegrain toast with nut butter and banana. You can also try experimenting by adding it to savory dishes like soups and curries. And try some cinnamon tea when you get that craving for something sweet. Just infuse a cup of boiling water with a couple of whole cinnamon sticks for 5-10 minutes.
Compounds contained in berries, such as blueberries, raspberries or blackberries to name a few, increase sensitivity to insulin and may reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Plus they’re a powerhouse of plant antioxidants to protect your skin, cells and boost the immune system.
Add them to smoothies, munch on them as a snack and as topping for your favorite granola or yogurt. A delicious treat is mixing a cup of coconut yogurt with half a cup of your favorite berries, some vanilla, and cinnamon or any spice you like, and fill an ice cube tray with the mixture. Freeze for half an hour, pop out and enjoy!
Avocados are full of monounsaturated fat, the kind that helps slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream, promoting less insulin release. Create a tasty guacamole or blend them to make a creamy dressing with some lime juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. And if you’re in the mood for dessert, mix it with some cacao powder and a banana for a creamy and sweet mousse.
Literally, spice up your cooking from curries to stir fries to drinks and baked goods! Turmeric, ginger, coriander, ground curry leaves or cumin seeds all have diabetes-fighting properties, improving insulin sensitivity and metabolism of both glucose and cholesterol, reducing blood sugar and insulin levels.
8. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of fiber, healthy fats, protein and magnesium, which all prevent blood sugar spikes and promote slower digestion and longer satiety. Grab a handful of almonds or walnuts as a snack and pair some Brazil nut or cashew butter with bananas, pears or apples. Let’s not forget seeds like pumpkin, hemp and sunflower and seed butter or tahini, which make an amazing dressing ingredient or a delicious sweet spread mixed with some maple or brown rice syrup.
9. Apple cider vinegar
Vinegar has been found to blunt blood sugar and insulin increases. It is, in fact, able to slow the absorption of carbohydrate into the blood or slow the breakdown of starches into sugars. Have one tablespoon in warm water before meals with a touch of cinnamon to kick-start digestion and blood sugar balancing. Or simply add it to your salads and other meals.
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