Veganism and Blood Sugar

What to blog about this week…It’s the last day of Veganuary and I know Bea and I are looking forward to giving you a post-veganuary update in a week or two!

Today I wanted to blog out something that’s been on my mind and combine vegan chat with health/nutrition chat i.e. being vegan and watching your blood sugar levels. I know it’s a bit of a dry subject (and I’m definitely not a nutritionist) but I know how to research and critically evaluate literature (with some help from Ben Goldacre).

Vegan diets are of course largely plant-based and has so many health benefits but it’s also really easy to be an unhealthy vegan; just stick to loads of high sugar, processed foods. Carbs are good, there’s no doubt about it – I need them to run, lift weights and have enough energy to work on my feet all day… I need that slow release of energy. HOWEVER I’ve had an inkling that this month I’ve been riding a bit of a sugar rollercoaster (and pasta, bread and lots of fruit do play a role in that). So I tested my fasting blood glucose level this weekend and found that it is toooo high. I already knew I was potentially insulin before going vegan but this weekend has been a big wakeup call.

When you look up your blood sugar levels and the words ‘prediabetes’ get banded around it’s time to do something about it! I know plenty of people probably go through life not even realising that their blood sugar is too high but for me it certainly explains a lot about my appetite (hello cravings), energy levels and hormones; I’ve noticed it this month as my carbohydrate and fruit intake has probably increased since going vegan.

So, rather than go on medication (though I don’t think that would be recommended to me yet anyway) I’m going to bring my blood sugar levels down myself by making some tweaks:

  • Make sure I’m taking the right supplements – Iron, magnesium, B12, Omega 3 from chia seeds and some inositol to improve my insulin sensitivity.
  • More slow, gentle carbs – oats, berries, apples, occasionally some brown rice, quinoa and mainly bulking out my meals with veggies, beans and some vegan protein powder.
  • Less instant sugar/high GI foods – pasta, bread, dried fruit, Nak’d bars (cry) as well as limiting some fruits like bananas, melon, mango and grapes which can give me a bit of a sugar rush.
  • Keep lifting weights – strength training and building muscle mass helps your body become more sensitive to insulin.
  • Keep food portions ‘normal’ (normal depending entirely on who you are and your metabolism satiety) – no sparrow portions but equally no dinners that could feed a family as meals that are too large can also spike insulin.

I’m hoping that within 2-4 weeks my blood sugar will be within a healthy range. I’m using the Blood Sugar Diet by Michael Moseley as a guide but needless to say I’m having to make some serious vegan adaptations to the recipes!

I thought it would be impossible to do this on a vegan diet and wasn’t comfortable with having to bring eggs or cheese back into my diet just for the sake of it when I’m quite happy in my new found veganism. After some planning I’ve found it’s not too bad if I meal prep in advance. Yesterday I made a huge pan of soya chilli and broccoli and chickpea curry which I can use for lunches and dinners along with soups and salads. Breakfast is porridge oats or protein smoothies and for snacks I normally have apples, falafel, rice cakes (not ideal but great when work is super busy) and soya yoghurt.

I’ll definitely update again in a later blog with blood sugar numbers! In the meantime we’ll be blogging about vegan wins, fails and beauty products and we’re also on instangram too at @thevegangrrls! – MC x

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