Is a vegetarian diet good for people with diabetes? Since vegetarian diets generally contain less fat (including saturated fat) and cholesterol, and include more dietary fiber, they certainly have some advantages over non-vegetarian diets.
A vegetarian diet can:
• Reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes
• Contribute to weight loss, which can improve type 2 diabetes in people who are overweight
• Help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels
• Make your body move responsive to insulin, according to some research
There are different types of vegetarian diets, however, and the degree to which you realize these benefits depends on the diet you choose.
• Vegan: Strictly plant-based, it eliminates all animal-based foods including meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
• Lacto-vegetarian: Includes milk and milk products along with plant-based foods, but no eggs, meat, fish or poultry.
• Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Includes eggs, milk and milk products (such as yogurt and cheese) and plant-based foods, but no meat fish or poultry.
The more you restrict the foods you eat, however, the harder it is to get all the nutrients your body needs. For people with diabetes, adequate protein is essential for effective glucose control. So if you opt to eliminate eggs or dairy products from your diet along with meat, fish and poultry, be sure to include alternative protein sources such as soy products, legumes, lentils, meat substitutes, nuts, seeds and whole grain.
Vitamin B12 is another vital nutrient found almost exclusively in animal products. If you take metformin for your diabetes, you are at greater risk of experiencing a decrease in vitamin B12 absorption. Combine that with a decreased intake of B12 from a vegetarian diet, and you could be a serious risk of a deficiency. You can get vitamin B12 from fortified soy products and breakfast cereals, as well as supplements.
If you eliminate dairy products from you diet, calcium supplementation may help prevent osteoporosis.