Can you be vegan when you have diabetes?
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which a person’s pancreas does not have the ability to create enough or any insulin to support the transfer of blood glucose into their cells to be used for energy. Our primary source of energy comes from the food in which we eat. Normally our pancreas releases insulin to support the transfer of blood glucose or blood sugar from our blood and into our cells. Our cells then store this glucose for energy to be used throughout the day. When someone is diabetic and lacks insulin the glucose stays in the bloodstream, which makes for your blood glucose to be too high and can cause an array of different health problems. The most common types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Here are the differences between diabetes types:
- Type 1 diabetes – this means your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make the hormone insulin. This means your body does not make any insulin and you need insulin daily to survive.
- Type 2 diabetes – this means your body is not efficient at making insulin. This can develop at any time and is the most common type of diabetes. People often will take some form of insulin or medication to help monitor the blood glucose level.
- Gestational Diabetes – this form of diabetes only develops in women when they are pregnant. Most of the time it disappears once the baby is born. However once having gestational diabetes you are at greater risk to form Type 2 diabetes later in life.
What is Veganism and Vegan Keto?
Simply put, vegans only eat plant-based foods and avoid consuming anything from or of animals. This means chicken, fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy are out of the picture and for strict vegans even honey is avoided. Vegans and Vegetarians both eat plant-based diets & refrain from eating animal meat. The primary difference between the two is that vegans do not eat any animal products or byproducts. For example: a vegetarian will eat eggs and dairy. Vegans will often avoid any animal-derived ingredients altogether, which includes such things as albumin, casein, gelatin, pepsin, shellac and whey. These might not sound like common ingredients, but they’re often found in things like beer, wine, marshmallows, cereals, candies and even chewing gum. Some vegans go beyond avoiding the consumption of animal containing foods and live an ethical vegan lifestyle altogether. Ethical vegans are opposed to the mistreatment and exploitation of animals and won’t buy any products derived from animals, which includes leather, skincare, makeup and so on. Additionally, sustainability vegans avoid animal products due to the large contribution of greenhouse gases involved in climate change that is caused by global modern farming.
Now when it comes to diabetes and veganism the challenge is mainly from a carbohydrate standpoint. If you are diabetic than limiting your carbohydrates and having low glycemic fruits should be at the forefront of your diet to help your body better cope from an insulin standpoint. A lot of diabetics will result more towards a ketogenic diet in which foods such as:
- Grains, rice, dairy, sugars, starchy vegetables, trans fats and alcohol are avoided.
However many studies have proven a vegan-keto diet can provide health benefits such as lowering your risk of heart disease, better gut health, reduce insulin levels, better sleep and overall better mental health. So what does a diabetic vegan ketogenic person eat? They can enjoy:
- Vegetables: tomatoes, eggplants, asparagus, leafy green, cucumber, bell pepper, cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, sea vegetables
- Fruit: berries
- Fats: avocado, oil, flaxseed, chia, pumpkin seed, sesame, nuts, and nut butters
- Proteins: Vegan meats
- Sweeteners – stevia, monk fruit
As previously discussed carbohydrates are the main macronutrient group keto-vegans are trying to avoid. However, it is important to add a variety of vegetables into your diet to ensure you are getting enough minerals and micronutrients. If you are choosing carbs that metabolize quickly (aka quality nutrient dense carbs) than your body will move quicker into a fat burning ketogenic mode. Be sure to always have a variety of vegetables in your diet, I cannot stress this enough if you chose to have a keto-vegan diet. Some vegetables should be used more sparingly than others such as vegetables that grow underground tend to have a higher sugar content such as: carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens, lettuce and arugula are lower in net carbs so can be used on a daily basis. It is normal to experience some bloating when transitioning over to this diet due to the high fiber content. You can still remain in a ketogenic state if you have small amounts of carbohydrates this is usually under 50 grams and sometimes under 100 grams depending on how your body metabolizes the carbohydrates and for how long you have in ketosis. Note, you really only need to be in ketosis if you are looking to obtain weightloss goals. When it comes to diabetes and maintaining your current weight you really only need to apply the rules of vegan keto which is eating fats, proteins and low carb. You should also be sure to maintain adequate water intake, supplement with vitamins and continue to rotate vegetables to ensure you are getting enough nutrients. Some negative side effects of a keto diet is you can experience constipation when you are not eating enough vegetables. Additionally, if you push your body too far into ketosis you can get flu like symptoms which is why you will want to ensure you are eating enough if weightloss is not a goal! So as a diabetic fill up on healthy fats such as avocados, enjoy vegan meats and eat a plethora of vegetables!
3 Vegan Keto-Breakfast Options
Having a green smoothie daily ensures you are getting in all Ingredients:
1 cup of green juice ( ¼ apple, spinach, lemon, ginger, kale)
1 tbsp flax oil
½ cup of frozen berries
3 tbsp hemp hearts
Handful of spinach
Blend and Enjoy.
Tofu has been a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets from day 1 of their plant-based journey. And because it has been around for so long it tends to get mixed reviews such as it being bland, boring and complicated to cook. Anyone with tofu experience will know it is a very versatile ingredient and will take on the flavors you present it with. One of my favorite recipes happens to be a breakfast recipe using tofu to mimic an egg scramble and with the secret ingredient: PEANUT BUTTER
- 1 14 oz. box firm or extra firm tofu
- 1 cup fresh spinach (chopped)
- 1 small onion (chopped)
- 1 Tbsp of coconut liquid aminos
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp. of fresh garlic or garlic powder
- 3 tbsp. Peanut Butter
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. basil
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- Option to add any other fresh chopped vegetables such as tomato, mushroom, bell pepper, etc.
- Preheat skillet on medium heat with olive oil and sauté the onions.
- Once the onions are sautéed add in any other vegetables and sauté for a few mins.
- Crumble the tofu by hand into a mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Add tofu mixture and cook for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tofu is thoroughly warmed.
- Serve with a side of toast or fresh berries and ENJOY!
Overnight Vegan Chia Parfait
Making a vegan parfait only requires a few ingredients or as many as you want depending on your level of creativity and hunger. The parfait I like to make I sometimes will have for breakfast or even a snack. This one only requires 6 ingredients.
- 1tbsp goji berries
- ¼ cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- ¼ cup of chia seeds
- In a mason jar add the chia, goji berries and almond milk. Stir.
- Top with the berries
- Refrigerate overnight and then enjoy in the morning.
3 Vegan Keto-Lunch or Keto-Dinner Options
Vegan Tacos with Cashew Sour Crema
I love having a dedicated taco night throughout each week. They are easy and the options are unlimited for bases and toppings. As a “meat” base you can go as simple as just having veggies like broccoli and cauliflower or make a mushroom meat base or walnut taco meat base or even use a vegan sausage or vegan meat substitute. The toppings I like to use range from: lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, pico de gallo, salsa, beans, cauliflower rice, pickled veggies, fresh cilantro, guacamole, and vegan cashew sour crema. And if you are being carb conscious which all diabetics should be you can opt out of flour or corn tortillas and try a grain free tortilla such as the Siete line that contains chickpea, almond, cashew and cassava/coconut or try a lettuce wrap or jicama tortilla.
Lets start with the vegan cashew sour crema – its super easy – 5 minute recipe and has healthier ingredients than if you were to purchase a sour cream (vegan or non-vegan) in the store! And the sour crema will take on the taste of whatever seasonings you adopt so you can make it savory or sweet.
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Pinch of salt
Yields: 1 ¼ cup
- Soak all the cashews in hot water for about 10 minutes then drain.
- In a high-speed blender or food processor add all the ingredients and blend.
- Blend until the mixture is creamy and be sure to stir so everything gets properly mixed.
- Serve chilled and keep refrigerated.
- Add garlic for an extra kick
- Use lime instead of lemon and add some fresh cilantro for a lime cilantro dip
- Add in any of your favorite spices and fresh herbs
Protein bowls are an easy vegan lunch or dinner option and also quite trendy at the moment. I think the best protein bowls come from your left overs: adding some veggies, greens and lastly a protein source to complete your protein bowl.
1 cup cauliflower or broccoli rice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons tamari
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice (from ~1/2 a lemon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of roasted vegetables
1 large avocado, sliced
1 dollop of vegan cashew sour crema
Salt & pepper
- In a frying pan saute the veggies with the garlic, tamari, olive oil and a squeeze of the lemon juice.
- In a separate pan saute the cauliflower rice with some olive oil.
- Combine all the ingredients into a bowl on a bed of arugula. Dollop the vegan cashew sour cream. Cut the avocado and sprinkle pumpkin seeds over the top.
Author: Tessa Mini owner of Bare Health