Experts: Best Way to Prevent Diabetes Is With an Affordable, Plant-Based Diet

|Updated Nov 2, 2021
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November is National Diabetes Month. In the U.S., it’s estimated that some 30 million adults ages 18 and older are living with diabetes and 84 million with pre-diabetes. While these dire statistics aren’t going to change overnight, the power to change our health is in our hands, a new study says. One of the simplest things we can do to change our risk? Go plant-based.

Back in August, we reported on a study out of the University of Bergen in Norway, that found that plant-based diets help you metabolize glucose, lose weight (particularly for people who are overweight), and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Now, we’re back with more encouraging news for implementing a plant-based diet as an affordable, effective way to ward off type 2 diabetes.

In a recent review published in Practical Diabetology titled “The Affordability of a Plant-Based Eating Pattern for Diabetes”, the paper’s author, nutritionist Meghan Jardine, MS, MBA, RDN, LD, CDCES, Associate Director of Diabetes Nutrition Education, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, recommends that anyone at high-risk go plant-based and that doctors and nutritionists should make it clear that there are affordable options when ditching meat and dairy.

“Plant-based eating has become more popular as a healthy eating pattern for the prevention and treatment of diabetes,” Jardine writes. “Both observational and interventional studies have reported that plant-based diets reduce diabetes risk as well as improve diabetes outcomes,” she later states, referencing this 2016 comprehensive review on the use of a plant-based diet for management of type 2 diabetes.

Worth mentioning: When it comes to eating a plant-based for diabetes management or prevention, it’s important to consider carbohydrates. It’s heavily processed, refined carbohydrates—like white bread and chips—you want to avoid. As Jardine points out, “A healthy, affordable, plant-based diet is high in [carbohydrates]. Patients with diabetes are often told to avoid foods high in carbohydrate, as these foods have the greatest effect on postprandial glucose levels.” She also notes that studies, such as this 2017 study from the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, show “that a high intake of carbohydrates, such as whole grains and cereal fibers, are associated with a reduction in diabetes risk, whereas refined carbohydrates increase risk.” (For more on healthy carb options, check out our guide to whole grains here.)

A plant-based diet is actually cost-effective, contrary to what people think

While vegan eating may have the rap as a costly lifestyle, as Jardine argues and research supports, eating a healthy, plant-based diet can actually be quite wallet-friendly, and even save you money compared to other dietary regimes with animal products. Some healthy, affordable plant-based options the piece suggests include apples, bananas, oranges, broccoli, spinach, carrots, whole wheat bread, rolled or steel-cut oats, quinoa, black beans, pinto beans, and peanut butter, to name a few.

Buying foods when they’re in season and purchasing items like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains in bulk can also go a long way in reducing spending. Ditto for shopping the frozen aisle for fruits and vegetables—just make sure there is no added salt, sugar, or other icky ingredients—and loading up on vegan pantry items when they are on sale. (If you’re looking for more ways to save, check out 7 Ways to Save Money on Your Vegan Grocery List, According to Nutritionists.)

Bottom line: Plant-Based diets are beneficial for prediabetes and diabetes

“Eating a high-quality, plant-based pattern can be affordable and palatable and may offer specific benefits in preventing and treating diabetes, including quality of life and psychological health,” offers Jardine. “Frequent consumption of animal products has been associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer and overall mortality.” A diet that’s good for our health and good for our wallets? We’ll take it. Spread the word, and spread the overnight oats recipes, dear readers.