A new study published in Nutrition & Diabetes shows that a low-fat, plant-based diet may hold promise in treating diabetic neuropathy associated with type 2 diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy can manifest as pain or numbness in the fingers, toes, and/or feet. By lowering total fat intake, while focusing on plant-based foods, you can expect to see blood sugar levels stabilize as a result of increased insulin sensitivity—allowing cells to get the fuel they need to function.
The good news is the dietary prescription is easy to follow, whether you have type 2 diabetes or are simply looking for ways to kickstart weight loss and overall health. The participants in this 20-week study lost 14 pounds, lowered blood pressure, and improved total cholesterol levels.
Here is a five-step plan you can use to get started:
1. Eliminate Animal Products
The first step to transition to a plant-based diet is to purge your fridge of animal-based foods: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. This includes yogurt, milk, cheese, most salad dressings, and mayonnaise. By taking out the animal products, you eliminate dietary cholesterol and decrease your total fat intake, which can interfere with glucose metabolism. Eliminating these foods from the diet frees up space in your kitchen for your healthful plant-based picks, fresh herbs, and bold spices.
2. Limit Unhealthy, High-Fat Foods
In addition to purging animal products, make sure to take inventory of other unhealthy, high-fat foods in your pantry: oils, pastries, creamy salad dressings, and fried foods. Choose small to moderate servings of healthy fats that have fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as avocados, nuts, and seeds. Use them to “season” foods such as salads, soups, stews, breakfast dishes, and more instead of making them the main event at all your meals.
3. Fill Up on Fiber
Stock your refrigerator with these four food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. High-fiber foods will fill you up without filling you out. Plus, they deliver an instant boost to your antioxidant intake, providing you with an abundance of essential nutrients your body needs for optimal health and increased longevity. Aim for 40 grams of fiber a day from plant-based foods.
4. Favor Low-Glycemic Options
The glycemic index gives you an extra bonus. It identifies foods that increase blood sugar rapidly and allows you to favor foods that stabilize it. High-glycemic index foods to avoid include sugar, white potatoes, white and wheat bread, and most refined cereals. Low-glycemic index foods to favor include leafy greens, brown or wild rice, oats, pumpernickel or rye, quinoa, some fruits such as berries, sweet potatoes, barley, beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and most vegetables.
5. Supplement with Vitamin B12
Make sure to supplement your plant-based diet with vitamin B12. A vitamin B12 supplement is your best bet for a consistent source of this important vitamin needed for optimal health.
One last tip is to share your diet changes! Prevention is key with a current forecast that one in three children born after the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes at some point in his or her life. Moving plant-based foods to the center of the plate, is one way we can start to turn these statistics around, creating sustainable nutrition habits that will last a lifetime.
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