International Vegetarian Week – a much-deserved tribute to vegetables

This week is International Vegetarian Week, an annual event endorsing vegetarianism since 2008, and given that the vegetarian diet is very compatible with diabetes, we’re big fans.

That’s why we’re celebrating the vegetarian diet, and vegetables too. Vegetables have an essential dietary role, particularly within diabetes diet and management, and when eaten regularly they help to combat a multitude of health complications.

Vegetarians have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, improved heart health, reduced cancer risk and longer lifespan. Vegetarianism is also well-suited to a low-carb lifestyle which, among people with type 2 diabetes, has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels and enable weight loss to help people come off medication – essentially putting their diabetes into remission.

People with type 1 diabetes can benefit too. Because a vegetarian diet involves high fibre intake, you feel fuller quicker, helping to lower your food intake and, consequently, insulin requirements. This can help improve blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of health complications.

Unfortunately, all too often people neglect their veg intake. Earlier this year, a survey of 2,000 people found 66% ate three or less portions of vegetables a day, below the government’s recommendation of five. Alarmingly, three out of four respondents were unaware what a portion of vegetables constituted.

There are, of course, those who say, “Look, I just don’t like vegetables”, or those who are sceptical about adopting the diet. If you’re a vegetarian reading this, you may have experienced veg reticence all too often amongst friends and family. But there’s no reason why veggies can’t be delicious (we don’t mean deep fried) – after all, it’s pretty hard to be a vegetarian if you don’t enjoy vegetables, and knowing how best to cook veg is arguably the biggest battle.

Stir-frying is a recommended cooking technique to bring out the flavour of vegetables

Most often people dislike vegetables because they weren’t cooked properly. Our Low Carb Program has great advice on how to boil, stir-fry, steam and roast vegetables to maximise their taste, including tips such as adding roasted nuts, cheese or pesto for flavour, and which spices suit which veggies.

If you find you don’t like certain veg (even vegetarians can dislike certain veg), simply try new ones. Experimentation is key to making vegetables and a vegetarian diet work for you.

We’re advocates primarily of non-starchy carbohydrates. These typically contain 5g or less of carbohydrate per 100g. They’re also generally grown above the ground. Examples include green beans, spinach, peppers and broccoli. These are great to eat as much of as you want because they have such a minimal impact on blood glucose.

On the other hand, starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, parsnips and beetroot – all grown below the ground – are less beneficial. Their carb content is higher, and they should be eaten more in moderation.

Overall, there’s so much good about vegetables. And even if you don’t eat an exclusively vegetarian diet, filling your diet with as many non-starchy vegetables helps to steel up your body against a number of potential health complications. So if you’re already a full-fledged vegetarian or interested in adopting the diet, why not try out some of the cooking techniques in the Low Carb Program. Then let us know in the comments section below how much you’ve enjoyed it.

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About the author

Jack Woodfield

Jack is Editorial Manager of Diabetes.co.uk. He works hard, plays fair and sleeps whenever possible. He has type 1 diabetes, doesn't mind being called a "diabetic", and once won a talent show for dancing to Dario G’s 1997 hit “Sunchyme”.

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