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A Whole Food Vegan Diet, My Pre-Diabetes and Me

Freelance writer from the northeast coast of England with a fondness for vegan food and punk rock.

A whole food feast

A whole food feast

I Was Confirmed Pre-Diabetic

I had a wake up call a few years ago, when I came out of the local health centre clutching a pre-diabetes information pack. I’d received the grim news after my annual health review, and I read the pamphlets that night with a sense of foreboding. The test used to check for diabetes is called HbA1c, Hb being an abbreviation for hemoglobin. This test records a person’s average blood glucose (sugar) levels for the last two to three months, and the results are registered on a scale. On this scale, 20 to 38 is normal in healthy people. Values between 39 and 46 indicate pre-diabetes, while 47 and over may be an indication of full diabetes. My reading was 43; well into pre-diabetes territory. I contemplated my prospects; a lifetime on insulin, sight loss, possible amputation and premature death.

Italian lentils and spaghetti with garlic bread, whole grains on the left and refined on the right

Italian lentils and spaghetti with garlic bread, whole grains on the left and refined on the right

A Glimmer of Hope

But there was a glimmer of hope. I cast my mind back to 2017, and the outset of my vegan journey. Obviously, before taking such a momentous dietary step I wanted to make sure I was up to speed on such issues as protein, iron, B12 and other nutritional information. To this end, I educated myself via online videos, and I noticed a recurring theme. Some doctors, no less, were making the claim that a whole food, plant-based diet could arrest, and even reverse type 2 diabetes. With nothing to lose, I threw myself into a battle with my blood sugar.

I Embarked on a Whole Food Plant-Based Vegan Diet

Under my strict new dietary regime, I shunned almost all processed foods. Out went refined rice, pasta and bread, and in came their wholefood counterparts. I also upped my intake of legumes and vegetables. It wasn’t easy to begin with, but I kept my eye on the prize, and I soon adapted to my new diet. My day of reckoning came when I went for my next health review, which had been delayed for six months due to Covid 19. I was hopeful and confident in equal measure that there would have been some improvement, but when I was told my reading had dropped to 35, well within the healthy range, I could have danced a jig right there. I’d reversed my pre-diabetes, just as those doctors had said was possible.


But was the reversal linked directly to my diet? I'd say it's likely, as I've never had any drugs or treatment for pre-diabetes, and the dietary switch was the only lifestyle change I'd made. So I'd say my pre-diabetes reversal was in line with what those doctors had predicted, or else it went away of its own accord, which I've never heard of before. Either way, I'm pleased to be off that particular scale.

An increasing number of people are tackling their diabetes and pre-diabetes with a whole food plant-based vegan diet, and some have taken to social media to share their experiences. One high-profile reverser is New York City's 110th mayor, Eric Adams, who talks about his diabetes in the video below.

What Are Whole Grains?

As the name suggests, whole grains comprise the complete kernel, with nothing removed. Refined foods have some important nutrients stripped away, but this process wasn't developed in the name of achieving more grains per sack, or maximizing profits. It came down to necessity.

A potted history of refined grains would show that in the 1800s, food storage was not nearly so sophistocated as it is today. A grain is made up of three parts, the bran, the endosperm and the germ. A problem with grain storage in those days was that as the bran and the germ contain natural oils, these would go rancid quite quickly when the grains were milled and the oils exposed to air. Stripping grains to retain only the oil-free endosperm revolutionized grain storage, but it came at a nutritional cost, as the following chart shows.

Nutritional Loss Through Refining Wheat

Nutritional value of the parts of a wheat grain, grams per 100 grams

CarbohydrateProteinFatFibre

Bran

63

16

3

59

Germ

52

23

10

35

Endosperm

79

7

0

7

What Now?

It's been over a year since I received the good news about my pre-diabetes reversal, so how are things now, and what does the future hold?

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The positive effect of eating whole foods, as opposed to a lot of processed vegan foods, such as sausage rolls, ice cream, burgers and fries, goes beyond my pre-diabetes reversal. I have lost weight, and kept it off, and I gained other health benefits too, one of which caused my doctor to use the word remarkable. I intend to write about those results when I receive accurate figures from the health centre.

So I'm happy to continue down the whole food road. I enjoy cooking and eating as much as ever, and I feel considerably healthier than I did a few years ago. Of course, I do allow myself the occasional deviation, tucking into the odd vegan pie, sausage or burger, but my palate has adapted to a predominantly whole food diet, so I no longer have a fancy for flapjacks or fries. These days I'd be just as happy with a comforting bowl of homemade soup (recipe for one such below) with some fresh baked crusty bread, made with wholemeal flour, of course.

But most importantly, I'm giving my body the opportunity to shout avast to those medical nasties that are trying to come aboard.

butternut squash soup with seeded wraps, hummus and salad

butternut squash soup with seeded wraps, hummus and salad

Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup Recipe

Whole foods never tasted so good as in this tasty soup, which is typically autumnal, but I have it all year round. I add red lentils to give it a 'heartiness boost'.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 cup kale.
  • 1 litre (4 1/4 cups) vegetable stock
  • 120 millilitres (1/2 cup) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a soup panAdd the onion and saute until soft
  2. Add the garlic, carrot, potato and butternut squash
  3. Add the chilli powder, coriander, cumin and oregano
  4. Stir everything about and then add the red lentils
  5. Pour in the vegetable stock
  6. Finely chop the kale and add it to the soup
  7. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for about 30 minutes
  8. Add the coconut milk and blend to make a smooth soup
  9. Add the lemon juice, season and serve with crusty bread

Whole Foods Prep Playlist

One can never have too many bassists. Leeds post-punk funksters Delta 5 gave a whole new meaning to the phrase double bass, having a brace of thick string thumpers on board. This song is jerky and delicious. Sadly, two members of the band, drummer Kelvin Knight and vocalist/guitarist Julz Sale, have passed on, aged 56 and 63 respectively.

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