Could switching to a vegetarian diet cure my diabetes?

Answer From M. Regina Castro, M.D.

A vegetarian diet probably won't cure your diabetes. But it may offer some benefits over a nonvegetarian diet. For example, it may help to better control your weight, reduce your risk of some diabetes-associated complications and make your body more responsive to insulin.

There's no single vegetarian eating plan. For example, some allow dairy products or eggs, while others don't allow any animal products (vegan). The benefits of a vegetarian diet depend on the type of diet you choose and the food choices you make when following the diet. For most, however, eating a vegetarian diet:

  • Promotes a healthy weight. Vegetarian diets are often lower in calories than are nonvegetarian diets. This can help with weight management. Also, people following a vegetarian diet tend to have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than do people who follow a nonvegetarian diet. A healthy body weight can improve blood sugar control and reduce your risk of diabetes complications.
  • Improves blood sugar control and insulin response. Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts — features of a vegetarian diet — can improve blood sugar control and make your body more responsive to insulin. This may mean taking less medication and lowering your risk of diabetes-related complications.

    But even a vegetarian diet can have harmful effects on blood sugar if it is rich in simple carbohydrates — especially starches, such as potatoes, pasta, white rice and white bread.

  • Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. A strict vegan diet is cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat and usually high in soluble fiber. A low-fat vegetarian diet can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Cardiovascular disease is a common complication of people who have diabetes.

If you're considering a vegetarian diet, it may be helpful to speak with a nutrition specialist. He or she can help you create an eating plan that provides all the necessary nutrients and the right number of calories to maintain a healthy weight. As with any diet, it's important to stay within an appropriate calorie range to lose weight if that's your goal.


M. Regina Castro, M.D.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Nov. 19, 2020 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. Medication-free hypertension control
  2. A1C test
  3. After a flood, are food and medicines safe to use?
  4. Air pollution and exercise
  5. Alcohol: Does it affect blood pressure?
  6. Alpha blockers
  7. Amputation and diabetes
  8. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  9. Angiotensin II receptor blockers
  10. Anxiety: A cause of high blood pressure?
  11. Artificial sweeteners: Any effect on blood sugar?
  12. Bariatric surgery
  13. Beta blockers
  14. Beta blockers: Do they cause weight gain?
  15. Beta blockers: How do they affect exercise?
  16. Blood glucose meters
  17. Blood glucose monitors
  18. Blood pressure: Can it be higher in one arm?
  19. Blood pressure chart
  20. Blood pressure cuff: Does size matter?
  21. Blood pressure: Does it have a daily pattern?
  22. Blood pressure: Is it affected by cold weather?
  23. Blood pressure medication: Still necessary if I lose weight?
  24. Blood pressure medications: Can they raise my triglycerides?
  25. Blood pressure readings: Why higher at home?
  26. Blood pressure tip: Get more potassium
  27. Blood pressure tip: Get off the couch
  28. Blood pressure tip: Know alcohol limits
  29. Blood pressure tip: Stress out no more
  30. Blood pressure tip: Watch the caffeine
  31. Blood pressure tip: Watch your weight
  32. Blood sugar levels can fluctuate for many reasons
  33. Blood sugar testing: Why, when and how
  34. Bone and joint problems associated with diabetes
  35. Pancreas transplant animation
  36. Build resilience to better handle diabetes
  37. Caffeine and hypertension
  38. Calcium channel blockers
  39. Calcium supplements: Do they interfere with blood pressure drugs?
  40. Can whole-grain foods lower blood pressure?
  41. Caring for a loved one with diabetes
  42. Central-acting agents
  43. Choosing blood pressure medications
  44. COVID-19: Who's at higher risk of serious symptoms?
  45. Diabetes
  46. Diabetes and dental care
  47. Diabetes and depression: Coping with the two conditions
  48. Diabetes and exercise: When to monitor your blood sugar
  49. Diabetes and fasting: Can I fast during Ramadan?
  50. Diabetes and foot care
  51. Diabetes and Heat
  52. 10 ways to avoid diabetes complications
  53. Diabetes diet: Should I avoid sweet fruits?
  54. Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan
  55. Diabetes foods: Can I substitute honey for sugar?
  56. Diabetes and liver
  57. Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar
  58. Diabetes: Eating out
  59. Diabetes nutrition: Sweets
  60. Diabetes symptoms
  61. Diabetes treatment: Can cinnamon lower blood sugar?
  62. Using insulin
  63. Diabetic Gastroparesis
  64. Diuretics
  65. Diuretics: A cause of low potassium?
  66. Do you know your blood pressure?
  67. Erectile dysfunction and diabetes
  68. High blood pressure and exercise
  69. Exercise and chronic disease
  70. Fatigue
  71. Free blood pressure machines: Are they accurate?
  72. Frequent urination
  73. Home blood pressure monitoring
  74. Glucose tolerance test
  75. Glycemic index: A helpful tool for diabetes?
  76. Hemochromatosis
  77. High blood pressure (hypertension)
  78. High blood pressure and cold remedies: Which are safe?
  79. High blood pressure and sex
  80. High blood pressure: Can you prevent it?
  81. High blood pressure dangers
  82. How does COVID-19 affect people with diabetes?
  83. Hypertensive crisis: What are the symptoms?
  84. Insulin and weight gain
  85. Isolated systolic hypertension: A health concern?
  86. Kidney disease FAQs
  87. L-arginine: Does it lower blood pressure?
  88. Late-night eating: OK if you have diabetes?
  89. Low-phosphorus diet: Helpful for kidney disease?
  90. Medications and supplements that can raise your blood pressure
  91. Menopause and high blood pressure: What's the connection?
  92. Infographic: Pancreas Kidney Transplant
  93. Pancreas transplant
  94. Pulse pressure: An indicator of heart health?
  95. Reactive hypoglycemia: What can I do?
  96. Reading food labels
  97. Resperate: Can it help reduce blood pressure?
  98. Service dogs assist with diabetes care
  99. Sleep deprivation: A cause of high blood pressure?
  100. Blood sugar testing
  101. Stress and high blood pressure
  102. The dawn phenomenon: What can you do?
  103. Tips for cutting costs of blood glucose test strips
  104. Unexplained weight loss
  105. Vasodilators
  106. How diabetes affects your blood sugar
  107. How to measure blood pressure using a manual monitor
  108. How to measure blood pressure using an automatic monitor
  109. What is blood pressure?
  110. Can having vitamin D deficiency cause high blood pressure?
  111. Weight Loss Surgery Options
  112. What's your high blood pressure risk?
  113. White coat hypertension
  114. Wrist blood pressure monitors: Are they accurate?