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I want to try the vegetarian diet but I don't want to mess up my good record of keeping my diabetes in control.
I don't know the first thing about vegetarian diets. I was diagnosed as diabetic in 1993 and was taken off medication in 1994. I have been able to keep my diabetes diet under control ever since.
However my cholesterol was about 236 the last time it was tested. I don't want to take cholesterol medication if I can keep from it with food that lowers your cholesterol.
I have been using the Type 2 Diabetes Food Exchange Diet. Is there such a thing as a Vegetarian Food Exchange Diet for diabetes? It sure would help me if there was. I am open to any suggestions. -L.M.
Dear L.M., congratulations on your success in controlling your Type 2 Diabetes!
Vegetarian Food Exchange Diet for Diabetes: I found in looking through the American Dietetic Association Food Exchange Lists, that many vegetarian or vegan foods are on the lists - including lots of vegetables on the free foods list. So it's possible to use that diabetes food exchange list as a vegetarian food exchange guide.
Legumes (beans & lentils) are listed under starch, because of their relatively high carb content. Whole grains and refined grains are plentiful there too. I found almond butter, cashew butter, hummus, peanut butter, soy nuts & soy nut butter, tofu and tempeh in the meat & meat substitutes list.
Legumes (and nuts) are major sources of protein, calcium and other vital nutrients for a vegetarian diet. When you combine a beans or lentils with whole grains such as quinoa or barley, and vegetables, you get high quality protein and other nutrients, with usually a low glycemic load.
For example, a small serving of Crockpot Quinoa Red Lentil Stew has an estimated glycemic load of 10, with 6 grams of protein and 20 g carbohydrates. One generous serving of Tofu Veggie Stir Fry has an estimated glycemic load of 6, with 12 g protein and 16 g carbohydrate. One serving of Chickpea Basil Vegetable Soup has an estimated glycemic load of 12, 30 g carbohydrate, and 10 g protein. With any of these flexible recipes, you can reduce, substitute or eliminate any ingredients which don't work for your diabetic diet.
According to everything I've read on the subject, vegetarian diets are quite benefical for diabetics. As a big plus, vegetarian diet, particularly a vegan diet with no dairy, has plenty of foods which lower your cholesterol.
If you need more information on foods, or whole recipes, which don't appear on the American Dietetic Association Food Exchange Lists, go to Nutrition Data and find the nutrient data. Then you'll have a good idea whether or not that's a good food to lower your cholesterol and control your type 2 diabetes.
Here's a quote from Vegetarian Resource Group: "If you are looking for information regarding vegetarianism and diabeties, there is an article in the Winter 1999 issue of Vegetarian Dietetics, 'Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Managed Effectively with a Vegetarian Diet,' which states, 'Consumption of a low fat, plant-based diet, coupled with the benefits of regular exercise, can possibly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A plant-based diet, rich in legumes and slowly digested grains, may improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity and facilitate the successful management of type 2 diabetes.'"
'The Vegetarian Way', by Virginia Messina, MPH, RD and Mark Messina, PhD, has an excellent section on diabetes and a vegetarian diet. You can find it online or in bookstores.
Two other books which might be helpful are:
'The Whole Foods Diabetic Cookbook', by Patricia Bertron, R.D., Patricia Stevenson, and Michael Cook
'Defeating Diabetes', by Brenda Davis, RD & Tom Barnard, MD
Here's another encouraging article: Diabetes Diet by Dr. Jay Levine
I suggest moving toward a vegetarian diet, gradually and cautiously, monitoring and logging the results for your type 2 diabetes and cholesterol. Consult your doctor as needed, of course. I'd be very interested to know how you're doing. FYI, I've attached the free Savvy Veg report on vegetarian nutrition.
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian