Vegetarian for the last 7 months and at a plateau!

Last February 2009 I posted here for the first time and thereafter received some very good insight. However, I was told about a book by Doctor Neil Barnard: ‘Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes.’ (Has anyone else read this book?) I have been doing my best to follow his program for the last 220 days! It has not been easy as my wife (who does most of the cooking) thinks that I am wasting my time. He recommends removing all animal products from our diet; no meat, no eggs, no cheese, and no dairy. His reason is that such foods “gum up” our cells and prevent insulin from getting the glucose into our cells, thereby leaving the glucose in our blood to do its damage (simply put). During the first 3 months my weight went down by over 20 pounds and my morning readings went down to between 130 and 140. My A1C went from over 7 to under 7. I also began feeling better. But recently my readings have been edging up although I have not gained any weight back. I am getting a bit discouraged. My wife is urging me to at least add chicken and fish to my diet. And, yes, I have been eating too much pasta (my wife likes to cook Polish and Italian!) Can anyone else with type 2 diabetes relate to my experience? I am wondering if I should go semi-vegetarian in this regard, yet I am afraid to “gum up” my cells. I sincerely look forward to your input. Thanks. Ron 1/19/10.

Hi Ron,

Congrats on the weight loss!

How are your post meal readings? That’s more telling about how this diet is effecting you than morning fasting.

I’m not familiar with Dr. Bernard’s book, but I hope you’re getting sufficient protein to keep carb cravings at bay & to prevent hunger. Humans have been eating animal products for far longer than being vegans without ill effects regarding gumming up our cells. Recent research strongly suggests that a carb heavy diet is responsible for bad lipid profiles & other health problems. Personally, I can’t see how eating a lot of carbs would be helpful to people with diabetes. All this does is tax the pancreas more & increase insulin resistance. But, if it’s working for you that’s great!

All you can do is change your diet by adding some fish or chicken place of other foods & test to see if your post meal numbers are better. There’s not really a one size fits all diet. Some things work beautifully for some people, but not for others. I go by my meter & how I’m feeling regarding food choices.

I have to be honest with you. I am personally not a fan of Barnard or the groups that he hangs out with (like PCRM and PETA). I’ve read his book, and I really don’t have anything positive to say, so I am not going to say anything more about him.

I will tell you that you can be a vegetarian and control your diabetes, but it will be a lot of work. You need to remember the “first principle,” carbs raise your blood sugar. You need to work very hard to select a veggie diet that is high in protein and fats and that can be very difficult. You need to try to reduce the amount of carbs that you are eating to something like 20% of your calories. That means that the rest of your calories have to come from protein and fat. You won’t be getting that from regular Italian or Polish cooking. I see lots of tofu, tempeh, tvp, avocados, oils and other specialized foods in your future.

Myself, I eat a broad range of meats, dairy and seafood with lots of fats. I follow Dr. Bernstein and unfortunately, in Bernsteins view, a vegetarian diet choice is inconsistent with a healthy diabetic diet. I eat lots of veggies, but I strictly limit my carbs.

Hi natalac,

Would you mind sharing what you eat, typical meals? I was a vegetarian before diagnosed T1. I did eat eggs. Am interested in how you do this without eating many carbs. Thanks.

I sincerely appreciate what I have read so far. And, especially the varying views. Thank you all so far. Perhaps others will also share some thoughts for us to consider. In the meantime, what you have shared will help me be balanced and stay the course. For sure, one of the main things I have heard here is the problem with too many carbs in my diet, especially the pastas. I see now that has stopped some of my progress. I will be looking for ways to eat without filling up on carbs. Please do share what types of foods are working for you. Thanks again. Ron 1/20/10.

I don’t feel like I can give advice to Ron because my experience is with type 1, but Gerri, I’m vegan and type 1. Been type 1 for 23 years, vegan for 3. When I first went vegan, my a1c remained steady at about 7% and my insulin needs didn’t change. Then I switched doctors and had the first good endo in YEARS and we realized I was taking 30% too much long acting insulin which was causing me to eat huge amounts of food at night so my bg could “safely” drop 200 points overnight. Once we fixed my long acting insulin, my a1cs have been in the low 6s, which is the best they’ve ever been.

I’ve always eaten about 60g carb at lunch and dinner, and I’ve easily been able to keep within that range as a vegan. I eat a lot of vegetables, beans, and lentils. Beans and lentils especially have a huge amount of fiber, so they’re really good for steady numbers. Usually half my dinner plate is a nonstarchy veg, a quarter is something bean or lentil related, and the last quarter is about 1/2 c to a 1 c of whole grains. I also really like soups that are heavy in beans or vegetables with a small amount of whole grains or whole grain pasta. I try to keep my carbs lowest in the morning since that’s when I have the hardest time keeping my bgs low. For breakfast I aim for under 30g carb. I know some people do better on lower carb diets, but a moderate amount, about 150g/day has always worked well for me.

My endos had been threatening for years to put me on a statin, but since switching my diet, my cholesterol dropped into that ideal diabetic range.

I can’t really say what a typical meal is because I hate repeating meals, but I do like to blog about food, and with the exception of a food holiday foods and desserts, it’s all carb conscious.

natalac, that appears to be a good diet, high in protein and relatively low in carbs. I do think you are probably much lower in fat intake than I would be confortable with. I am pleased it has worked for you. My concern about the Barnard approach is all back to my “first principle,” carbs raise blood sugar. The whole fat phobia is an area that I disagree with. And I remain highly skeptical that eating vegetarian or raw will in itself will cure type 2, let alone type 1 diabetes. I am a big fan of eating whole foods such as advocated by Michael Pollan, but as you clearly know it takes a great deal of work to find and prepare all the special foods in a low carb diabetic vegetarian diet. If you have a job that requires you to eat away from home or you don’t prepare your own food it becomes almost impossible.

In terms of advice for a type 2 diabetic, I have more sobering realistic views. You can do a vegetarian diet, but you need to work at it, you need to strictly limit your carbs and you need to work hard to get an appropriate number of calories from protein and fats. There are just not a great deal of high protein/high fat vegetarian options.

On the pasta, one suggestion is to replace the wheat pasta with konjac/shiritaki noodles. These are vegetarian, are essentially zero carbs and are made from konjac root and sometimes tofu and are available in asian stores and stores like Whole Foods.

Thanks, Molly!

I can’t handle eating this many carbs without big problems, so that’s been the problem:)

I think you could put 100 diabetics in a room, feed them the same meal, and get 100 different reactions.

Definitely! So true.

Thanks, natalac. Really appreciate you taking the time to write it all out.

Wonderful the results you’ve gotten & how much this has helped you! No arguing with success:)

Wish I could resume eating beans & grains, but they mess with me now. Your meals sound delicious!

Hi Ron, congratulations on your progress. You are trying and that’s what so important. I am T2, diagnosed August 2009. My fasting was 265 and A1c 11%. (self diagnosed - I am a Med.Tech.) Did not see a doc. as I wanted to avoid meds. Got on the internet and srudied and read and studied. I have chosen a very and I mean very low carb. diet and started exercise. Was overweight, Lost 30lb. so far, have about 25 more to go. I walk 30 min. and am in the gym almost daily. Please remember that fat and protein are essential!! In fact, two eggs/day and definitely fish (at least 2 times/week), as well as broiled chicken are all a must. Veggies provide all the carbs you need. Romaine lettuce, Kale, Dandelion leaf salads, tomatoes romaine letuce, asparagus and an occassional avocado. If you go without protein, you are loosing muscle mass! and your brain is not getting abough ebergy either. Should not do that for any extended period of time. My fasting is now around 97 and A1c about 5.5%. Please find a web page “sugar 101” It is the best all aroud information. Good luck, Lucy

veggie recipes rulz! they help me a lot.

LOL! That's a good one!

Strange, everyone seems to be responding to a post by natalac which I don't see.

Anyway, here is my two cents. I'm not going to bother responding to the "you must eat fish" or "only vegetarians are healthy" comments, because I think they're judgemental. How we eat is a matter of personal choice, and can change a lot over the course of a life. I have been a vegetarian for 9 years and am happy with that choice; I also was one for a couple years in my 20s. However, I'm 62 now, so you do the math.

When I was diagnosed 3 years ago I decided I didn't need to change my diet because "I ate healthy" (more judgements). I did, just not for a diabetic, because I ate a lot of pasta, rice, and cereal. When I recognized this I said that my health is most important to me and if I have to go back to eating meat, or at least fish and chicken, I would. I've found I didn't need to do that, but it has been and continues to be much more work to eat as a vegetarian while reducing my carbs. I'm not low carb, but stay just under 100 a day. I am able to do this and eat nutritious and tasty foods because I live near an amazing market where I can find any ingredient I can imagine, I am semi-retired and have lots of time, and I love to cook.

My questions to you would be why you are eating vegetarian. If I'm interpreting your post correctly, you started doing it after your diabetes diagnosis because you thought it would help control your diabetes and you would lose weight. Congratulations on your weight loss. I don't want to minimize that achievement, but people generally are able to have an initial significant weight loss on pretty much any diet because they are reducing intake and perhaps also increasing exercise. Now you feel you are at a plateau. I agree with what bsc said so clearly: high carb is not good for diabetes, and not for weight loss either. I differ from many in that I do believe in limiting fat intake, but a carb is a carb and pastas and cereal won't help you at all. So unless I'm missing something, and you have other reasons for a vegetarian diet (and are willing to do the work to make it more diabetes friendly), I would suggest you eat what you prefer in terms of protein, and work on reducing the carbs by replacing the pasta with healthy vegies and the cereal with eggs in the morning when we are most carb sensitive.

Ok, it was more than 2 cents!

Hi Ron,

I am a vegan. I have been a vegeterian for 20 years and 5 of those years vegan. I was DX with Type 2 this year. Meat, dairy have absolutely NOTHING to do with diabetes. Take it from me. It is genetic first off and secondly - it are those “white” high carb foods that are staple of the vegan diet that create the fat at your tummy that can trigger genetic Type 2 into action. Pasta, rice, potatoes and bread. You stopped eating meat so you are replacing it with pasta. Biggest mistake you can make. If you want to stay being vegan, you need to start eating more things like beans and veggies. Stay away from the white carbs. Serioulsy.

I am still a vegan (I am one for ethical reason and I think I am now allergic to dairy). Believe me, even though I am an advocate of the vegan diet (obviously), I do not believe meat and dairy have anything to do with diabetes. If this was true, I would have never gotten it. There are several other on here who were vegeterians/ vegan when they got diabetes too. So please don’t believe that myth.

Obviously, you will lose weight yes and that is exactly what Dr. Bernards program is geared towards - people who are not already vegan or vegeterian who need to lose weight. I remember when I was first diagnosed and I heard about him and I was excited because I was already a vegan and it is a struggle to stay vegan being diabetic. So I went and look at his book at Borders. It was higher carb than I was eating already! I was not impressed with it at all. It really gave me no answers that made sense to me being that I am a Thin Type 2 and was thin was diagnosed. I thought it might shed some light on what went wrong with me but it didn’t. It was quite disappointing. Needless to say I have 20 years experience so I felt more advanced cooking wise than he was!.

What ‘gums up’ your cells are those refined carbs. Giving up the dairy and meat may help things like high blood pressure, cholestrol - if you have it - and yes, you will lose weight (you will also lose weight on low carb - meat has no carbs btw).

For myself, my vegan diet before i was diagnosed was ALOT of those refined white carbs esp. bread. Even though I only weighed 130 (I am 5’4") at dx so I was not considered overweight - the fat I had (and still have) was in my stomach - and where did that fat come from? Not meat or dairy obviously since I didn’t eat those. Those white carbs! The glucose in those things is what will “gum up your cells”. You might hear the theory about their being fat on your cells too from the meat. (Not sure how I feel about that one - I think eating the wrong kinds of fat ie animal fats - are not good and there are lots of people here who will attack me for that - there are lots of veggie fats you can have that are healthier for you).

If anything, I think dairy is worse for you than meat. It creates alot of mucous buildup in your body and runs down your immune system if you have too much of it. I would avoid that more than meat if I were you.

So, in summary, going vegan isn’t going to get rid of your diabetes (it won’t prevent you from getting it either - just look at me) but I think because you lost that weight (esp if it was around your middle) that is what might be the cause of your better numbers. The organs don’t like fat around them and that is were your pancreas is.

I lost 30 pounds in three months without trying after dx and I now I am at a steady 100 - I would like to gain but it hard on a vegan diet with restricted portions. But my numbers are great - better than they were when I ate all those white carbs. I still have some bread (low carb) but I stay away from potatoes, pasta and rice. More veggies, beans, etc.

We have vegetarian and vegan groups on here. Or if you need any other help on the diet - let me know. Btw, I am half Polish too and Polish food has a lot of potatoe and floury foods - not diabetic friendly. Italian food is another one to avoid! Not that you can’t have any - but it definately has to be in moderation. They are very high carb foods.