Vegetarian Diet For Type 2 Diabetes

A vegetarian diet is a way of eating that excludes meat, poultry, fish, and any foods containing these products. Vegetarian diets come in a variety...

A vegetarian diet is a way of eating that excludes meat, poultry, fish, and any foods containing these products. Vegetarian diets come in a variety of forms. Grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), seeds, nuts, dairy products, and eggs, for example, make up a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet. Vegan diets, a vegetarian diet that excludes animal products such as eggs, dairy, and anything else of animal origin such as honey, are another type of vegetarian diet.

Following a vegetarian diet can be challenging for type 2 diabetes since excluding animal products such as meat, fish, and poultry can limit protein sources. While a higher protein diet can be preferable since it contains fewer carbohydrates, a vegetarian diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar control.

Diabetes is unlikely to be cured by a vegetarian diet. However, it may have certain advantages over a non-vegetarian diet. It may, for example, aid in weight management, minimize your risk of diabetes-related problems, and improve your body's insulin sensitivity.

Indeed, some may claim that vegetarian and vegan diets are healthier, stating studies that show a relationship between type 2 diabetes and red meat consumption, owing to increased insulin resistance and poor glycemic control.

RELATED: 5 Best Diets for Heart Health and Diabetes

How does a vegetarian diet impact each type of diabetes? What can a diabetic vegetarian eat?

Depending on the kind of diabetes you have, a vegetarian diet is treated differently. Your dietician and healthcare team will evaluate the type of diabetes you have when they advise you on eating a vegetarian diet while maintaining blood sugar control.

The following are some factors to consider about for each form of diabetes:


People with prediabetes who adopt a vegetarian diet may lose weight and have better blood sugar management, which can help prevent their prediabetes from advancing to type 2 diabetes. It's critical to consult with a nutritionist to determine a carbohydrate goal for each meal and snack so you can eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet while avoiding excessive carbohydrate consumption.

Gestational diabetes

Pregnant women with diabetes should work closely with their dieticians when adopting a vegetarian diet. Advice that dieticians will give you will ensure that your will baby receives enough protein, calories, and other nutrients for proper growth and development. Proper guidance will also guarantee excellent overall health for the mom. Some pregnant women with gestational diabetes who prefer to eat a vegetarian diet for religious or other reasons will require insulin during their pregnancy. Because many plant-based proteins contain carbohydrates and pregnant hormones make blood sugar management more difficult than usual.

Type 1 diabetes

Insulin is used by people with type 1 diabetes, and their insulin requirements may drop dramatically once the diet begins. As a result, while changing your diet, it's critical to keep track of your blood sugar levels. Children and teenagers with diabetes who eat a vegetarian diet should have their growth curves checked to ensure they are getting enough calories to maintain their growth and development. You can boost healthy fats and plant-based protein sources to offer more calories if necessary.

Type 2 diabetes

Weight loss is a goal for some patients with this type of diabetes, and a vegetarian diet can assist. Medication doses may need to be reduced if people change their diets and lose weight, and it's critical to keep a constant check on blood sugar levels so that prescriptions may be changed.

When you have diabetes, it's essential to consume a well-balanced vegetarian diet. What does that mean?

It's a good idea to consult a nutritionist if you're thinking about being a vegetarian. They can assist you in developing an eating plan that will include all of the necessary nutrients and the appropriate number of calories to keep your blood sugars balanced and healthy body weight. If you want to lose weight, it's crucial to keep within an optimum calorie range, just like any other diet.

Make sure you get enough protein.

Protein is an essential ingredient for diabetes because it affects appetite and immunity and slows digestion. That way, a person can improve blood sugar control. When we think of protein, we usually think of turkey, chicken, fish, and meat, but protein may also be found in plant-based foods.

Vegetarian and vegan meal plans can meet the dietary protein requirements of people with diabetes. Aim to consume a minimum of 4-6 ounces of protein-rich foods per day.

Although protein meals aren't typically included in your carbohydrate "budget," some plant-based proteins do. A 12 cup portion of beans, for example, counts as a carbohydrate choice when eaten for protein (15 grams).

Protein can be found in plant foods such as:


Black beans, mung beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, and split peas are great, low-cost plant protein sources. They're also high in soluble fiber, which offers numerous health benefits. A diet high in legumes can help prevent heart attacks and strokes by improving blood sugar control and lowering blood lipids.


Soy milk, meat alternatives, soybeans and soybean burgers, soy-based yogurt and cheese, tofu, soy nut butter, and other soy products are heart-healthy. Polyunsaturated fat is concentrated in soy foods that can be used as meat substitutes. Polyunsaturated fats have many health benefits, including lowering cholesterol triglycerides and reducing the risk of diabetes.

Make sure you get high-fiber carbohydrates.

Vegetarians consume 50 to 100 percent more fiber than non-vegetarian diets, according to studies. A high-fiber diet can improve blood sugar control, risk of cardiovascular disease, cholesterol reduction, and feeling full. Legumes and whole grains are high in fiber and include slowly digested carbohydrates, which may help with weight control and cardiovascular disease. Carbohydrates are the macronutrient that has the most impact on blood sugars; therefore, it's critical to keep track of your intake.

When people with diabetes begin a vegetarian diet, they may substitute extra carbohydrate foods for meat, resulting in overeating during meals. The result is increased blood sugar levels after meals and weight gain.

Including high fiber carbohydrate options in your carbohydrate choices can help to lower the impact on blood sugar levels. Fiber not only helps to keep blood sugar levels consistent, but it can also help you feel fuller for longer.

Suggestions for high-fiber carbohydrate replacements for a diabetic, vegetarian diet include:

Instead of white bread, use bread with whole grains.

Instead of white rice, use brown rice.

Instead of refined pasta, use chickpea pasta.

Instead of cornflakes, try Bran cereal.

Instead of grits, use oatmeal.

Instead of pretzels, use low-fat popcorn.

Make sure you get enough healthy fats.

According to research, those who eat a vegetarian diet have lower harmful cholesterol levels. Vegetarian diets are high in polyunsaturated n-6 fatty acids, fiber, and plant sterols. Saturated fat is found naturally in products like beef and processed foods.

On the other hand, vegetarian diets can be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, especially if you avoid eggs and seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids have been beneficial with heart and brain function in studies.   Since type 2 diabetes increases cardiovascular disease risk, maintaining a healthy heart is critical.

If you don't consume eggs or fish, you may need an omega-3 supplement (DHA/EPA). However, these healthy fats you can get from supplemented soy milk and foods high in alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based n-3 fatty acid. Plant-based foods like flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, and soy, can also provide some essential fats.

Can vegetarian diets be unsuitable for people with diabetes?

It is common knowledge that consuming more vegetables is beneficial to one's health. Vegetables deliver antioxidants and minerals that protect cells from oxidative damage and inflammation. As a result, the chance of developing numerous chronic diseases, including diabetes, may be reduced.

People with prediabetes or diabetes, on the other hand, frequently wonder whether diets that limit animal protein are a suitable choice for controlling blood sugar or if they are too high in carbohydrates. Vegetarian and vegan diets can help prevent and manage diabetes through a number of factors. Weight loss, particularly visceral fat loss, enhances insulin sensitivity. They're also generally high in soluble fiber, which inhibits the absorption of glucose. Micronutrients, particularly magnesium, are abundant in plant foods and are linked to enhanced glucose metabolism.

Not all carbohydrates are equal.

However, patients must be reminded that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Whole foods, rather than processed foods, provide the benefits of vegetarian diets in general. French fries, chips, and mac and cheese are vegetarian foods, but they are not glycaemic control friendly, as dietitians know.

How can you get enough calcium and iron as a vegetarian?

Iron is often found in large concentrations in vegetables. Check out our list of iron and calcium-rich vegetables.

  • Green leafy vegetables;
  • Mushrooms;
  • Tomato paste;
  • Green vegetables like broccoli;
  • Palm hearts.

RELATED: National Nutrition Month

Can you reverse diabetes with a plant-based diet?

Diabetes seems to have no known cure. You can, however, manage diabetes successfully. In certain cases, it may even go into remission. Leading a diabetes-friendly lifestyle is enough for some people to keep their blood sugar levels under control. If you're overweight, this includes decreasing weight, eating healthier meals, and getting more exercise. However, most individuals with diabetes require medications or insulin injections.

While both diets decreased A1c levels, researchers discovered that the vegan diet was slightly more effective after 12 weeks, with a greater drop in A1c levels. A low-fat vegetarian diet promotes glycemic management and hypertension risk factors.

Join our community

Join our community of people who are passionate and full of ideas for healthy living. To help you live well with diabetes, get our recipes, research updates, and expert advice. Join here.