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Vegetarian, vegan, and Mediterranean-style eating patterns have the best evidence for benefiting people with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians generally avoid meat, poultry, and pork, but many include dairy products and eggs, and some include fish. A vegan diet includes no animal foods. Both vegetarians and vegans typically eat lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and high-protein plant foods like soy and other legumes. The Mediterranean diet is also high in fruits and vegetables, is generous in olive oil, whole grains, and nuts, and includes modest amounts of fish and low-fat dairy foods like yogurt. While not strictly vegetarian, the Mediterranean diet is low in animal foods. These diets have a strong track record for preventing and treating diabetes as well as heart disease, kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and obesity.
A low-glycemic load diet, which focuses on the amount and quality of carbohydrates in the diet, has also been found to be effective for improving blood glucose regulation in diabetics. The glycemic load of a food is determined by its carbohydrate content and its effect on blood glucose levels. Low-glycemic load foods include high-fiber, complex carbohydrate foods like whole grains and legumes, and low-carbohydrate foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, dairy products, fish, and meats. Whether adherence to a low-glycemic load diet is effective at preventing the chronic conditions associated with diabetes is still unclear.
People with diabetes don’t necessarily need to fully embrace a strict vegetarian, vegan, Mediterranean, or low-glycemic load diet in order to benefit. Taking steps to eat more healthy foods and fewer unhealthy foods on a regular basis can have a dramatic affect on your long-term health. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you make decisions about what to eat every day:
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables:
Include regular portions of soy foods, beans, and lentils:
Enjoy nuts, seeds, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil:
Eat a few servings of fish each week:
Choose whole grains:
Limit portion size of meat to 3 to 4 ounces:
Choose low-fat and non-fat dairy options:
If you choose to drink alcohol, don’t drink too much:
Reduce your overall calorie intake:
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.