About 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, and about twice as many have prediabetes. The good news is that lifestyle — including healthy eating — can play an important role in managing diabetes and preventing type 2 diabetes.
One way to eat healthier is to follow a plant-based diet, which focuses on whole grains, legumes, fruit, and vegetables and limits meat and dairy. While popular wisdom would tell you that diabetes and plant-based eating don’t mix — plant foods have carbs, after all — numerous studies point toward the diabetes-protective benefits of this eating pattern.
Here are several ways plant-based eating may help:
Plant-based foods include kale chips and sugar snap peas, but also potato chips and sugary fruit drinks. The benefits of plant-based eating come from minimally processed plant foods. The best options include whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes (beans and peas), fruits, and vegetables.
Unbeneficial plant-based foods include fruit juices, sweetened beverages, and refined grains. It’s wise to limit these foods, whether you have diabetes or not.
Talk with your dietitian or doctor if you have diabetes and are interested in trying a plant-based diet. Even if you aren’t ready to go completely meatless, try one of the tasty meal ideas featuring recipes from our Food for Health contributors.