A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes

A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes

The odds that you know someone with type 2 diabetes is incredibly high. According to the CDC, 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and 90-95% of those cases are Type 2.

You might even be one of the 10% of Americans struggling with this epidemic, but whether your concern is for your own health or that of your family and friends, there’s reason to hope.

A whole food plant-based diet is a proven, powerful tool for preventing, managing, and even reversing type 2 diabetes. By incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet, you can improve your blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and lower your risk of chronic diseases.

Type 2 Diabetes Diet: Whole Food Plant Based

Imagine having more energy, feeling better, and being able to manage your diabetes without relying on medication. By adopting a plant-based diet, you can experience all of these benefits and more.

In the following article, we’ll help you sort out the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and learn about the powerful, healing impact of the whole food plant-based diet on this terrible disease.

Type 1 Diabetes vs. Type 2 Diabetes and the Impact of Whole Food Plant-Based Diets

type 1 vs type 2 diabetes

Image source.

Before considering a change in diet, it’s important to understand the differences between the different types of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease characterized by the body's inability to produce insulin. This leads to high levels of blood sugar (glucose) in the body, which can cause damage to tissues and organs.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that usually results from poor dietary habits, physical inactivity, and excess weight.

Both types of diabetes have serious long-term health consequences such as nerve damage, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, vision problems, and amputations.

However, eating a plant-based diet has been found to be effective in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Plant-based diets are high in complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and legumes, low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and provide many essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Studies have shown that plant-based diets help reduce blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

Why It Works: The Benefits of Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes Prevention and Treatment

You’re probably wondering why this is so effective! We’re here to help. There are many benefits to following a plant-based diet for diabetes prevention and treatment. These include:

  • Improved Blood Sugar Control: Whole food plant-based diets are high in complex carbohydrates (The GOOD carbs. There are actually good ones!). They reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Eating more plant-based foods also decreases the fat intake I your daily diet, which helps manage diabetes better.

  • Reduced Risk of Complications: Plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes-related complications such as heart disease, stroke, and nerve damage.

  • Weight Loss: Plant-based diets are typically low in calories and high in fiber, which can help with weight loss. This is especially beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes, who are more likely to be overweight or obese.

  • Improved Immunity: Plant-based foods contain antioxidants that can help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. This can help reduce the risk of developing infections, which are common among people with diabetes.

Put all of these benefits together, and you begin to see how this one change in how you eat forges a strong defense against the damaging effects of type 2 diabetes!

Is a plant-based diet safe for people with diabetes?

Diet for diabetes

We understand why you would ask this question. Any major change in the way you eat brings up fears about the effects it will have on your body. We’re used to hearing pros and cons about different ways of eating.

However, a plant-based diet is a safe and beneficial choice for diabetics. Studies have shown that a plant-based dietary pattern is associated with increased insulin sensitivity.

But what is insulin sensitivity? It means the body is better able to move sugar out of the bloodstream and into cells where it can be used to make energy, instead of leaving it in the blood.

Delicious Whole food plant based meals for type 2 diabetes

Additionally, the fiber in whole plant foods slows down the absorption rate of sugar as food is metabolized, helping to reduce the sharp spikes in glucose levels commonly experienced with low-fiber refined carbs. (Those are the NOT-good ones, by the way.)

Insulin sensitivity is also aided by the weight loss commonly associated with the whole food plant-based diets. When your insulin is maintained at reasonable levels, it helps regulate hunger signals by allowing leptin (the satiety hormone) to trigger feelings of fullness. This helps prevent overeating and makes maintaining a healthy weight easier.

Not only is the diet safe when properly followed (and we certainly recommend you reach out to a qualified physician or nutritionist), it can be a powerful ally to the body in preventing and treating diabetes!

Can you reverse diabetes with a whole food plant-based diet?

Whole Food Plant-Based Meal Diet for Type 2 prevention and reversal

This point really leaves people amazed, but it’s true. Yes, it is possible to reverse type 2 diabetes with a plant-based diet.

As far back as 2003, a study by the NIH showed that a plant-based diet was three times more effective in controlling blood sugar than previous, traditionally prescribed diabetes diets. In fact, some participants saw their HbA1c level drop so much it would be hard to tell they had the disease at all. 

A whole food plant-based diet (WFPB Diet) can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes. By eating more plant-based sources of protein, such as beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, along with healthy fats like avocados and olive oil, diabetics can reduce their risk of developing diabetes-related complications and improve their overall health.

Additionally, plant-based diets are naturally low in calories and high in fiber, which can help with weight loss. Weight loss is beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes because it improves insulin sensitivity and helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Of course, any diet needs guidance for following it properly. You should consult a physician for the most effective, complete guidance when making a shift like this. However, these are some of the themes you’re likely to encounter:

Limits the High Fats in Your Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

Diabetics should be conscious of their fat intake when following a plant-based diet. Although some healthy fats, such as avocados and olive oil, are beneficial for diabetes management, it is important to limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet.

Diabetes 2 prevention diet

Saturated fats can increase the risk of developing heart disease by raising “bad” cholesterol levels. Therefore, diabetics should be aware of how much saturated fat is in the foods they are eating and focus on consuming plant-based sources of unsaturated fats instead.

Many people following the whole food plant-based diet choose to eliminate oil altogether. Oil-free cooking might sound like a foreign concept at first, but it’s possible and, in fact, it brings out more vibrant flavors in your food. The truth is, oil masks the natural flavors in food, and you have a whole world of other cooking techniques to choose from: steaming, roasting, grilling, smoking – the sky’s the limit!

At Whole Harvest, our ready-to-eat meals are always oil-free. It’s our commitment to providing the healthiest food possible to our subscribers.

Eat plant-based foods that are low on the glycemic index.

When following a plant-based diet, it’s important to focus on foods that are low on the glycemic index (GI). The GI is a measure of how quickly and how much a food affects blood sugar levels.

Foods with a lower GI value have slower digestion rates and release glucose more slowly into the bloodstream, resulting in less of an impact on blood sugar levels. Eating foods with a low GI is beneficial for diabetics because it helps regulate glucose levels and may reduce the risk of developing diabetes-related complications. Low GI foods include:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Grains like quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, and barley.
  • Fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Soy products like edamame and tofu
  • Sweet Potatoes, corn, peas, potatoes, and other starchy veggies

How long does it take to reverse type 2 diabetes through a plant-based diet?

Type 2 diabetes reverasal

The amount of time it takes to reverse type 2 diabetes through a plant-based diet will vary depending on a few different factors. Generally, those with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes or those who only have mild symptoms may experience noticeable improvements within weeks or months of adopting the diet. For those who have had the condition for longer, it could take longer to see meaningful results.

How do you eat a plant-based diet?

Type 2 Diabetes Diet - Whole food plant based meals

Anyone can do it! The basic principles of this dietary pattern involve eating a variety of whole, unprocessed plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Animal products such as dairy, eggs and meat should be limited or avoided entirely.

To start, focus on adding more whole plant foods into your diet and reducing refined carbohydrates and processed foods.

  1. Aim to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables and experiment with different recipes or cuisines.
  2. Incorporate healthy fats such as avocados or nuts into meals to increase satiety.
  3. Finally, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and aid digestion.

That’s a good place to start. For further guidance, we recommend the resources at Forks Over Knives, Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, and the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. We also have helpful information at our Whole Harvest blog.

And of course, lest we sound like a broken record, consult your physician or licensed nutritionist for guidance!

More about the whole food plant-based diet and carbs.

So, we mentioned the carb thing earlier. Carb count tends to be higher in plant-based entrees, and folks ask us a lot about whether it’s a problem.

The short answer is no. While it’s true that a plant-based diet may be higher in carbohydrates than a standard western diet, this isn’t automatically bad for diabetes.

The majority of carbohydrates found in a plant-based diet come from whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, which are a source of important vitamins, minerals and fiber. These nutrient-dense foods can help provide sustained energy and reduce spikes in blood sugar levels. Furthermore, the fiber content helps to slow down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, preventing sharp rises in glucose levels.

In addition to this, plant-based diets typically lack refined carbohydrates found in processed foods such as white bread and sugary snacks, which can cause rapid increases in blood sugar levels. For this reason, the high carbohydrate content of a plant-based diet is not necessarily bad for diabetes.

Plant-Based Meal Ideas for Type 2 Diabetics

We have several whole food plant-based recipes on the Whole Harvest blog for breakfast and lunch and dinner — have you tried a whole food plant-based burger?

In addition to our website, the Center for Nutrition Studies has a wealth of recipes online as does Forks Over Knives. The information is out there for you to fill your days with tremendous variety, flavor, and discovery while eating whole food plant-based. There are many resources out there to support you.

And we happen to be one of them. Whole Harvest was founded to help people maintain a healthy diet, especially when facing serious diseases like type 2 diabetes.

We help you stay on track by delivering chef-prepared, ready-to-eat, whole food plant-based entrees right to your door. Our custom meal boxes allow you to order exactly what you want from our menu full of reimagined comfort foods and international flavors. Our team is an industry leader in innovation and creativity in oil-free, whole food plant-based cooking.

Visit wholeharvest.com to build your first meal delivery box and find the support you need to succeed in eating a healthy diet with the potential to prevent, manage, or even reverse type 2 diabetes.



  • According to the CDC's 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, 13% of the US adult population have diabetes.
    Source: nutrition.org

  • Of the 37 million Americans who have diabetes, the vast majority (around 90–95 percent) have Type 2 diabetes (T2D).
    Source: forksoverknives.com

  • A 2020 study of more than 23,000 people found that those who ate high amounts of fruits and vegetables were about 50 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who consumed less of these foods.
    Source: forksoverknives.com

  • The apparent protection of the vegan dietary pattern remained after adjustment for body mass index and other variables, with vegans having half the rate of type 2 diabetes compared with non-vegetarians (OR: 0.51; 95% CI: 0.40–0.66).
    Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

  • In a cohort of 4384 Taiwanese Buddhists, vegetarian men had approximately half of the rate of diabetes (OR: 0.49, 95% CI: 0.28–0.89), Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

  • Analysis of data from 4.1 million person-years of follow up revealed that those most adherent to the healthful plant-based dietary index had a 34% lower risk of developing diabetes compared with those least adherent.
    Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

  • This review also found that plant-based diets are associated with up to a 35% reduction in serum LDL cholesterol, whereas interventions allowing small amounts of lean meat demonstrated less dramatic reductions in total cholesterol and LDL levels.
    Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
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