In a recent post, I explained how four of the biggest health problems facings Americans—heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer—can be prevented, and in the case of some diseases, even reversed, by exercising and eating healthy animal-friendly foods. In this post, I want to focus on type 2 diabetes, a debilitating and potentially deadly disease that has increased threefold in the past 30 years.
People with type 2 diabetes are usually obese and have high blood-sugar levels that can eventually cause blindness; heart, eye, and kidney problems; and nerve damage and affect the circulation in the legs. Research shows that the saturated fat found in meat, eggs, and dairy products puts people at risk of developing diabetes—or worsening the disease if they already have it. An analysis of diabetes studies even indicates that meat consumption can raise a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 41 percent.
Fortunately, studies also show that people who eat plant-based vegan foods, including vegetables, beans, and whole grains, are much less likely to develop diabetes. Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and the author of Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, even found that diabetics who eat low-fat vegan foods are able to stop taking medications—or at least take fewer of them—to manage the disease. For many diabetics, that can mean significant cost savings as well as improved health.
Many people have also lost weight just by eating vegan foods. In fact, studies show that vegans are nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters are, which is significant since obesity is considered a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Barnard encourages diabetics to eat heart-healthy and tasty low-fat plant-based foods such as black-eyed pea and sweet-potato soup, spinach salad, Lebanese-style lentils and pasta with steamed broccoli, and orange-applesauce date cake. He also advises people to avoid added vegetable oils and other high-fat foods as well as foods with a high glycemic index, including sugar, white potatoes, most wheat flour products, and most cold cereals. Instead, choose unlimited amounts of food from PCRM’s New Four Food Groups: grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
If you want to eat healthier but enjoy the taste of meat and dairy products, there are plenty of great-tasting vegan versions of many of your favorite foods on the shelves of your local supermarket. Choose soy sausage instead of pork sausage, beefless tips rather than beef tips, and faux chicken, not chicken flesh. Check out PETA.org for more terrific animal-friendly alternatives to many of the most common animal products.