Plant-Based – Does it Just Mean Vegan?

diabetes diet by Emma Baird
Avocado, mushrooms, bacon and salad – plant-based, hmm?

Happy New Year from all of us at the Diabetes Diet. Here’s wishing you health and happiness in 2018.

Anyone with an interest in health and fitness can’t have missed noticing the current furore around veganism. Proponents tout it as THE ethical and environmental way to eat, and it is very fashionable. Your local supermarket has probably vastly increased its vegan offerings (or the labelling of such foods anyway) and you’ll notice many restaurants and take-away chains have jumped on the bandwagon too.

There are even those who argue a vegan diet is helpful for diabetes, such as Dr Neal Barnard who promotes a vegan, fat-free way of eating as the way to reverse diabetes.

I don’t dispute veganism as an ethical choice. As far as environmental factors go, you could point out that wide-spread veganism would increase the production of mono-crops, a process that depletes the soil and cause issues. The recent over-consumption of coconut oil and avocados in the west has caused enormous problems in their countries of origin.

Health Benefits

When it comes to health, the bonuses of veganism often occur because people shift from a diet of highly processed foods and little fruit and veg to a way of eating that is plant-based. The health benefits may not come from ditching meat, fish and dairy per se, but more from vastly increasing how much fruit and veg they eat and getting rid of processed foods which are hard to find on a vegan diet*.

Let’s argue semantics here. I eat a plant-based diet. The bulk of the food on my plate is plants, nuts, some lentils and pulses and the odd wholegrain.

I just happen to eat meat, fish, eggs and dairy too. Yesterday, I ate scrambled eggs and chopped tomatoes for breakfast, an avocado, mushroom and bacon salad for lunch, and for dinner I had tomato, onion and barley stew with some haddock and steamed broccoli. I ate some peanuts for a snack.

That’s a plant-based diet, isn’t it?

Plant-based Taken to Mean Veganism

For whatever reason, plant-based is now taken to mean veganism. Perhaps someone somewhere thought plant-based sounded nicer than veganism, or they wanted distance from the term, which in the past might have had negative connotations.

Just as Dr Barnard puts forward an argument for veganism as a way of treating diabetes, so do we with low-carb eating. The global diabetes community, diabetes.co.uk, runs an award-winning digital health intervention for people with type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity. It was developed using the feedback and opinions of more than 100,000 people who reported good results from low-carb. Like our approach to diabetes, the site’s website promotes lots of vegetables. Plant-based again, right?

If ethical concerns still bother you (as they do me), there are steps you can take.

  • Buy your eggs from the Farmers’ Market where they are likely to be free-range and organic.
  • Buy meat that has an RSPCA stamp on it, or again from the Farmers’ Market where animals are more likely to have been raised and slaughtered in a better way.
  • Eat dairy sparingly, and again choose organic options, preferably from local producers.
  • Investigate where your fish comes from and how it is farmed.
  • Base some of your meals around egg-free Quorn products and tofu.

Here’s to a plant-based 2018! And if you’d like to start a low-carb diet, check out our book – available in e-book and paperback on Amazon.

*Though the food industry is now doing its best to up its production of vegan junk food.

Free Style Libre Trial – My Experiences

free styleMy Free Style Libre trial ended this week. Was it a good/bad/in different experience?

The Free Style Libre is a new way of testing your blood glucose levels. You attach a sensor to your upper arm (right arm if you’re left-handed like me and vice versa), and then you use a reader to scan the sensor and it gives you your results in a second.

You can also see what your blood glucose has been doing for the last eight hours, and you can tell if it’s going up or down, quickly or slowly, or staying stable.

Calculating Insulin Doses

There’s also a feature for calculating insulin doses, and you can use the reader in the traditional way to test blood glucose through a finger prick if you have the strips suitable for the system. I didn’t use either of these features.

It was interesting. As someone who only recently managed to get out of the slightly obsessive compulsive blood testing habit, I scanned a lot. It’ll be hard to go back to limited tests. Seeing what your blood sugar does over eight hours – particularly overnight – is also fascinating.

In general, my blood sugar dips first thing, and then rises through the hours of the morning – something I believe is common in most people.

Checking Levels

I liked it because I could check frequently. Do I think it improved my overall control? Too hard to tell and two weeks doesn’t give you that knowledge. Would I like to keep it? Yes. It’s wonderful being able to check your levels whenever you want. Jokes aside about obsessive compulsive testing – and actually, I didn’t do check half as much as I thought I would – knowing that you can check whenever you want is liberating. I get through five boxes of 50 blood testing strips every two months and sometimes it’s feels as if I’m eking them out, as that works out as less than five strips a day.

As I said in my original post, which you can read here, the biggest drawback of the Free Style Libre is that it is not available on the NHS. The sensors need to be replaced every 14 days and they cost £56 (£48 when you apply the VAT exemption you are entitled to as a type 1 diabetic), which works out at £1,248 a year if you use it all the time.

Occasional use is an option though. It would be nice to have a few sensors in stock for that possibility.

Have you used the Free Style Libre – or is it something that appeals to you? What do you think the benefits to you could be? We’d love to know.