Published on November 9, 2023, 12:32 am
Switching to a plant-based diet can have a significant impact on managing type 1 diabetes, according to Drew Harrisberg, an exercise psychologist, sports scientist, and diabetes educator. Harrisberg, who has lived with type 1 diabetes since the age of 22, recently shared his experience on the Plant Based News podcast.
Before transitioning to a plant-based diet five years ago, Harrisberg had tried using a ketogenic diet to manage his diabetes. Although he saw some initial positive results with the ketogenic diet, he found that his blood sugar levels were still highly variable. This prompted him to experiment with a plant-based diet.
Within just a couple of weeks of starting the plant-based diet, Harrisberg noticed a significant improvement in his insulin sensitivity and fasting blood glucose levels. He was able to achieve more stable blood glucose levels throughout the day compared to when he followed lower carbohydrate diets.
Research has shown that a plant-based diet can enhance insulin sensitivity and improve other health markers in individuals with type 1 diabetes. This is particularly important as type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells.
Harrisberg also discovered the profound impact of exercise on blood glucose levels. He observed that after completing an hour-long workout at the gym, his blood glucose level returned to normal. The contraction of muscles during exercise moves the glucose gateway to the surface of cells, allowing glucose from the bloodstream to enter more easily.
Harrisberg emphasizes the importance of not demonizing carbohydrates and urges people with diabetes to consider their overall health rather than solely focusing on blood glucose control. While low-carb diets may be trendy and popular online, they may not necessarily address other risk factors associated with diabetes such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Apart from managing blood glucose levels effectively, adopting a plant-based diet has been linked to numerous health benefits. Research suggests a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, and other health conditions.
Despite the challenges of shifting cultural values around meat consumption, Harrisberg remains optimistic. He believes that social media and influential documentaries like “Gamechangers” have played a crucial role in spreading awareness about plant-based diets.
Harrisberg challenges the stereotype that masculinity is linked to consuming animal products, asserting that true strength lies in standing up for personal beliefs. He emphasizes that it is possible to obtain sufficient protein and build muscle without relying on animal sources.
For Harrisberg, adopting a plant-based diet initially began as a journey toward better health but has since evolved into a commitment to animals and the planet. It’s important to note that individual dietary choices should always be made in consultation with a healthcare professional.
Switching to a plant-based diet offers numerous benefits not only for individuals with type 1 diabetes but also for anyone looking to improve their overall health. By incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds into your diet, you can optimize your well-being while contributing to a sustainable future.