Would You Go Vegan to Beat Diabetes?

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Our local PBS station broadcast a program based on Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes during its pledge week.

Dr. Barnard touts a vegan diet as a way to reverse diabetes. He’s not alone in this. The Lifestyle Center of America advocates the same in its book The 30-Day Diabetes Miracle. Both claim a vegan (or plant-based) diet can make diabetes (all?) better.

But are people with diabetes ready and willing to go vegan in order to beat diabetes? The United States is a country where people when encouraged to eat more vegetables chose French fries!  

What is a vegan diet anyway?

Vegan is toward the most veggie end of the vegetarian spectrum. Vegans do not eat any animal products. No meat. No chicken. No fish. No eggs. No milk. No yogurt. No cheese. No butter.

For a lot of people this seem pretty extreme.

Is a vegan diet inherently healthy, or healthier?

Dave likes to point out that Mc Donald’s French fries and a diet Coke is a vegan meal. Snarkiness aside, the healthfulness of a vegan diet is the same as any diet—it depends on what you actually eat.

If you fill your plate with whole grains, vegetables and fruit that’s a healthy plate. Eliminating animal protein and dairy does eliminate a lot of saturated fat—which is considered a good thing.

But I do have to say that when I was searching Flickr for a photo for this post (search word: vegan) I saw an awful lot of cupcakes and flour-free tortes. It begs the question do whole grains and vegetables just not photograph well? Or is something else going on?

Can I get health benefits by being a sometimes vegan?

If you eat a vegan diet some of the time, then you’re not a vegan. Calling yourself a sometimes vegan is like saying you’re a little pregnant—it doesn’t really work that way. You’re an omnivore, or a vegetarian.

To the extent that you eat healthy food that is lower in fat and simple carbs and higher in complex carbs, vitamins and minerals, then yes you can get some health benefit from that.