Diabetes and Osteoporosis
The Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet to Diabetics
Diabetics must choose any food they eat very carefully, as each food choice they make has a profound impact on their overall health on a meal-to-meal basis. Diabetes affects people of all ages, both genders, from all walks of life and backgrounds. Untreated, it can cause wounds to heal slowly, infections take longer to cure, blindness, and kidney failure. Diet is one of the most important ways of controlling diabetes, and a vegetarian lifestyle with its emphasis on low fat, high fiber, and nutrient-rich foods is very complementary.
Affecting more than 30 million people worldwide, this disease inhibits the body from properly processing foods. Usually, most of the food we eat is digested and converted to glucose, a sugar which is carried by the blood to all cells in the body and used for energy. The hormone insulin then helps glucose pass into cells. But diabetics are unable to control the amount of glucose in their blood because the mechanism which converts sugar to energy does not work correctly.
Insulin is either absent, present in insufficient quantities or ineffective. As a result glucose builds up in the bloodstream and leads to problems such as weakness, inability to concentrate, loss of co-ordination and blurred vision. If the correct balance of food intake and insulin isn’t maintained, a diabetic can also experience blood sugar levels that are too low. If this state continues for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to coma and even death.
Though incurable, diabetes can be successfully controlled through diet and exercise, oral medications, injections of insulin, or a combination. Instead of counting calories diabetics must calculate their total carbohydrate intake so that no less than half their food is made up of complex carbohydrates. Many diabetic vegetarians have discovered that as a result of their meatless diet, they’ve had to use insulin injections less, which gives them a feeling of power and control over their disease
You know that eating a vegetarian diet can decrease the incidence of heart disease and certain types of cancers. You also know that it can make you leaner and healthier. But so many of the health studies are done on men? What about women and the impact of a vegetarian diet on their health as they age?
Diets that are high in protein, especially animal protein, tend to cause the body to excrete more calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. These three substances are the main components of urinary tract stones. British researchers have advised that persons with a tendency to form kidney stones should follow a vegetarian diet.
The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that high animal protein intake is largely responsible for the high prevalence of kidney stones in the United States and other developed countries and recommends protein restriction for the prevention of recurrent kidney stones.
For many of the same reasons, vegetarians are at a lower risk for osteoporosis. Since animal products force calcium out of the body, eating meat can promote bone loss.
In nations with mainly vegetable diets (and without dairy product consumption), osteoporosis is less common than in the U.S., even when calcium intake is also less than in the U.S. Calcium is important, but there is no need to get calcium from dairy products.
We continue to consume meat, while at the same time downing calcium supplements and prescription drugs to prevent osteoporosis, that often have drastic side effects. And most experts agree that calcium supplements are inferior to calcium derived from natural food sources. Doesn’t it make more sense (and cents) to get your calcium from eating a healthier diet?
What are some good vegetarian sources of calcium? Orange juice, for one. Dry beans, such as black-eyed peas, kidney beans and black beans are another good source, as are dark leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale. Tofu is also a good source of calcium.