How Going Vegan Changed My Type 1 Diabetic Life

Vegan Type 1 Diabetes

In one year, my life with type 1 diabetes changed in ways I never thought possible.

After 12 months of eating a plant-based diet, my insulin needs decreased by 50%. As a 24 year old with Type 1 diabetes, I injected on average 60 units of insulin per day. Now at 25, I dial up 30 units per day. While defying conventional wisdom, I achieved these results while doubling my carbohydrate intake – effectively increasing carbohydrate consumption from 100 to 200 grams per day.

For those not familiar with Type 1 diabetes, let me clarify. People with Type 1 diabetes make no insulin. Every carbohydrate I eat is compensated for with insulin. We with diabetes do not know why our pancreas went on permanent vacation, but it did. I can exercise, eat right, and meditate until the proverbial cows come home, and I will still be using insulin.

How then, can we explain that I am eating more carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes) but taking less insulin? Clinical research is beginning to demonstrate that adopting a plant-based, vegan diet without animal protein and fat will improve insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes. (See here) If one is injecting less insulin, this results in less lipid, or fat, production in the body. That’s a motivating factor.

This opportunity for true disease transformation was never brought to my attention by my physicians or dieticians. My assumption was that I should always eat as low-carb as possible. Then, as many a vegan journey begins, I watched Forks Over Knives. I was plant-strong for one week and gave it up. I wasn’t ready or truly motivated yet.

All the while, the vegan dream never vanished. In a divine intervention of sorts, I stumbled across the Rich Roll Podcast. This was my gospel. In the car, at the gym, on the bike, or on a run, I listed to his conversations with his wife Julie, Dr. Michael Gregor, Michael Arnstein, and John Joseph. Now I got the why, and the how, to execute a vegan life. On April 8th, 2013, I jumped off the cliff and never looked back.

It being a little over a year later, the impact of the plant-based choice is humbling. I feel more love. I feel more connection. I feel more vitality. I feel the peace. I now have a garden. I ran two marathons. I gave up coffee… and subsequently let it creep back into my life. I got accepted into medical school. I plan to pursue preventative medicine.

Experiencing the pairing of physiological and spiritual transformation has been wonderful. A plant-based diet might have been the catalyst. Perhaps that catalyst for someone else is running, meditating, cooking, or carpentry. Everyone is different. I do know that it feels good to find the path, especially one where you’re taking less insulin.

Have questions about the plant-based diabetes approach? Reach out below! Have your doubts? Reach out below!

77 thoughts on “How Going Vegan Changed My Type 1 Diabetic Life

  1. My two children each live with T1D (one diagnosed age 5, the other diagnosed age 9). Nobody else in the family has it. We don’t ask “why” they got–like you mentioned in your article–but we surrender and embrace it as our “new normal” lifestyle. These kids were organic, vegan/vegetarian eaters from the very beginning of their lives. They both have completed a kids’ triathlon, mountain biked 25 miles in the Pacific Northwest on one afternoon, and can run a 7-minute mile. I tell them the stars chose them as advocates for healthy living and stepping through your fears. They take needles in front of their friends with pure pride. We embrace the unknown, eat consciously,…and just go with it! Congrats on your accomplishments of living plant-based and being connected…

    • Trish, we truly live wonderful lives. Diabetes, through it’s obstacles, may have been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It has provided so many benefits and shaping experiences. I am learning everyday to surrender. Thank you dearly for sharing. It’s inspiring. Your knowing that the stars chose your boys is uplifting and an outlook we can all appreciate. Feel free to send the DDG updates regarding the adventurous T1D life of your family.

    • Trish, am I understanding this correctly, that your children started out vegan/vegetarian, which is it? they’re not the same… just trying to understand.

      Did you eat meat and dairy when you were pregnant with them?

      Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Hey Ryan
    Im a T1D as well, where do you get your calories from? you said 200 carbs which is 800 calories. Do you get a lot of protein and fat? Ive always had trouble keeping my weight up which is a reason I haven’t chosen to go vegetarian or vegan. Otherwise I am so ready. My email is [email protected] if you want to email me I’m cool with that!

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  4. I’ve been a type 1 diabetic since I was 10 and after 22 years of (quite honestly) poor control, I was forced to start looking after myself when my mental health took a turn for the worst. After a massive life review I decided to join my husband in becoming Vegan, having only eaten chicken & fish my whole life. After 2 months of cutting out dairy & various other junk food I’d been gorging on, I was eating twice as much carbs for dinner than ever before. I went from 4 exchanges per meal to 10 exchanges by simply upping my carb intake. More oats, more fruit & more potatoes. However I’m now starting to hypo more than ever. After reading your article, it makes perfect sense! My insulin requirements are reducing with my change of diet & lifestyle! Who knew the becoming Vegan would have such an amazing affect in my diabetes control!!! Thanks for sharing your knowledge, as without seeing this I’d have been totally lost in what’s happening to my body. ?

    • Lauren–I’m smiling so large right now! It’s so counterintuitive right? More carbs, less insulin. I only know of a handful of people out there who have had similar experiences. On YouTube, there’s a guy named Mindful Diabetic Robby who eats vegan, is a T1D, and vlogs. On Instagram, you might check out @VegAmy. She has a cool story too! Thanks a ton for sharing your story.

  5. This is so inspiring! I am just writing an article about type 2 diabetes, but just wanted to include a little note on type 1 diabetes and how people have been able to greatly reduce their insulin need by going vegan. I linked to this article, as it is such a great example!

    • Cecilie, the effects are amazing! (I’m beginning to sound like an infomercial). But really, it’s been dramatic and science has yet to determine the underlying cause of the drop in insulin need. Feel free to enlighten us if you find anything out! Thanks for the link!

      • Hi Ryan,
        I am so happy to have found your article. I too have had experienced better blood sugars on a vegan diet. Despite eating MORE carbs. My hypothesis is animal products cause systemic inflammation and this in turn causes insulin resistantance. Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

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  7. Hi Ryan, I am SO confused. I am T1D diagnosed at 25 (I’m now 31). I have been following LCHF diet for the past two years fairly strictly spurred on by Prof Tim Noakes Real Meal Revolution booked (a massive craze in South Africa where I’m from). I battle with my conscience often. I don’t feel right about eating so much meat! I always try choose organic, sustainable sources of meat/chicken but even so, is that good enough? Anyway, that’s beside the point. What I’m confused about is now I stumble upon your blog and Forks over Knives and this whole conversation about going vegan etc. It’s been so successful for you, and just reading the comments here, it seems many other people too. So what do I do? I want to try at least becoming vegetarian, but where do I start? Just because it’s right for you and everyone here, how do I know it’s right for me? Any advice you have would be so much appreciated. Thanks, Gemma

    • Gemma — Why does eating have to be so complicated? I know, so many people saying so many things. For me, it came down to thinking about nutrients and health benefits: that’s why I ended up going plant-based. Had no clue it would even impact sugars or insulin. Now, looking back, I suppose I’ve developed more of a heightened concern for animal welfare, but still, I do this for the health benefits (less insulin, cardiovascular health, low cholesterol, etc.). All this said, just go with your what your gut and you’ll more than likely figure out how to make diabetes work within that choice. You’ve made it six years already! (Congrats)

      As far as a good place to start, I just took out meat/eggs/cheese from what I was currently eating at the time (sandwiches, burritos, stir-frys, etc.) and ate more grains/fruit/veggies in its place. Then I saw the insulin needs go down. A great resource for recipes is The Forks Over Knives Cookbook.

      You posted this today and we actually recorded our first ever podcast with another plant-based person with T1D, TODAY! Her name is Amy and we’ll be releasing her show where we go really in depth on what life is like as a vegan with type 1. We give the full rundown on best resources and daily practices. It’s set to release in late March. If you search in iTunes for the Real Life Diabetes Podcast, you can subscribe there or find us on

      Best of luck on the journey! Food is tough, especially when we’ve all been told to eat low-carb for most of our lives.


    • Gemma, View Chef AJ’s what I eat in a day, Episode 36 of her Weight Loss Wednesdays on Youtube to get ideas on what to eat. It’s worth a try to gradually switch over to a vegan diet. The more low density vegetables you can eat early in the day will get you off to a good start. If you like greens like kale, etc. you are lucky. Other than that eat those legumes at Dr. Greger advises. See if you can contact True North to see if they have had any luck with Type l.

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  9. How exciting! I didn’t think I would find any hits when I google’d “vegan and type 1 diabetes” but I found a ton of things like this one! I have had type 1 for 23 years. I am 28 now and work as a RN, CDE and am working to become a NP (should graduate in December 2017! Woohoo!) I am pretty well controlled, but all of the research I’ve found that shows plant based diet is better for people than eating animal meats and dairy is undeniable. I just ordered the China Study and plan to read it cover to cover. Like you, I’ve never once heard from a health care provider that eating plant based may change my control (much less improve it!) However, I decided to take a 1 week challenge after watching Plant Pure Nation. I am hooked! In less than a month (with a couple slip ups-mostly dairy sneaking it’s way into packaged things), my TDD of insulin is down from 45-50 units to 34-38 units with no other changes to my work our routine (I mostly do Barre workouts but also run and have completed 3 half marathons thus far.) My carb intake has increased from about 80-100 grams on average to 150-200 grams but with relatively stable BGs! My dexcom never looked so pretty. I am going to practice this vegan thing a little longer before starting to tell any patients about it, but it IS doable even with type 1!

    • Any recommendations for non-soy protein options? I do tons of nuts, nut butters, black beans and quinoa but feel like I need more protein. I am not so big on the soy rich stuff as some research I’ve done points towards the link from soy to certain cancers. Any pointers are greatly appreciated! #newtoveganism #needmoreprotein 🙂

      • Bethany! You are one of the more qualified people with diabetes I’ve ever met (online counts). Congrats on the results. Once I saw the insulin needs drop, I was hooked too! Alright, let’s talk protein. You’re on the right track. Beans are awesome. I eat a bunch of em. But… beans don’t necessarily hit that ‘protein’ button. I get that. Lentils are a solid option. Seeds of all kinds sprinkled in everywhere have helped (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.). Like you, I had concerns about soy coming in but have gravitated toward eating it 2-3 times per week, based off of some good science (I know, science can give you what you’re looking for). I go with the tempeh form for the extra biome action and digestibility. Best of luck on the journey and please keep us posted!

  10. I have just started looking at going vegetarian or pescatarian and I have noticed my insulin needs dropping from 70-80u/day to below 50 without changing anything else. I’ve never been much of a veggie lover so this could turn into a very interesting experiment. I’m 34 and was just diagnosed 2 years ago and was in honeymoon for about 18 months. Now that the pancreas is officially on vacation for good I need to do something to keep my numbers under control. I’ve never seen my Dex have such a flat line before and my energy levels are through the roof. Now I just have to figure out how to get my blood sugar up before a workout.

  11. Thank you for your great article. I have been a type 1 diabetic for 24 years. Nearly 3 years ago I started a plant based diet and was amazed at the change in my whole outlook on food and how it affects on my diabetes Like all the other post, I am extremely disappointed in the healthcare field not educating diabetics about the importance of good nutrition. My a1c consistently reflects the food I choose to eat. I am so happy to find someone who is writing about type 1 diabetes and how important it is to eat plant based unprocessed foods. This has been a life changing guiding light in my quest to manage my diabetes.

  12. I’m 31, underweight, and with fasting glucose levels that are currently pre-diabetic. My guess is it’s LADA. I’ve changed my diet to follow a very strict low fat, high carb vegan diet in hopes that it would prevent the slow march up, but after several weeks it appears the climb continues. Any suggestions for what I could try next? I’d rather not switch to the other side of the spectrum (HFLC) however it seems a the next logical step. Thanks all!

    • Hi Jon, Sounds like you’re being active in your treatment and are educated in the options! In regards to the low fat, high carb vegan diet, what do most of your day’s look like food-wise?

  13. Hello! I have a friend living with T1D, and I’m trying to convince her of the benefits of a vegan lifestyle to help with her diabetes, but she has her doubts. However not having dealt with it myself, I don’t know a good way of explaining to her that the meat and cheese her doctor has been telling her to eat is making it worse. I know taking out the animal protein and fats improves insulin sensitivity, but I don’t know HOW or WHY. Is there any information you could provide for me, or doctors studies that I could use to show her? She’s very sceptical of going against what her doctor has been telling her for years, and seem’s to thing a vegan diet would only benefit someone with type 2 diabetes. I’d truly apprecite any advice you have, thank you!

    • Holly, you bring up interesting points. They how and why is of major debate. I’ve asked around and there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer. One book that has a load of information on type 2 diabetes and a vegan diet is Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrmann. In terms of research, you can’t find a more comprehensive list than what Dr. Greger has put together on Best of luck on the journey and we’re cheering both of you on!

  14. Amazing! I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes since the age of 11. I am now 35 and have been living with Diabetes for 25 years now. For the past 3 weeks I have been eating raw/vegan and have noticed considerable changes in my blood sugar! There has been about 5 times in the past 3 weeks that I have not had to take my Humulog before my vegan lunch at all!! I currently take 5 dosages of insulin a day and have cut down my short acting from the average of 20 units a day to an average of 8!!

  15. Hi Ryan,

    I’m a 34 year old T1 diabetic and have been for the past 26 years. I am also a backpacker who has been traveling the world for the past 3 years and I became a vegan 12 months ago. My boyfriend and I watched the documentary “Forks Over Knives” and decided to change our eating lifestyle.
    Exactly like you it has changed my life for the better. I am now on half the amount of insulin I was, I have much better control, I lost approximately 10kg and am feeling amazing.
    It was nice to read a positive article about someone in a very similar situation to me, thanks 🙂

  16. Great article! My 11-year old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes eighteen months ago and is doing well with coping with the disease. My partner and I are in the process of transitioning into a vegan lifestyle and your article gives me hope that our daughter might one day join us in this lifestyle choice. It would be great to get any advice you might have on this subject. Thanks for giving us hope! Jonathan

    • Hey Jonathan, Your timing could not be any better! Our next podcast (Real Life Diabetes Podcast available on iTunes) is featuring Robby Barbaro, a plant-based person with T1D who coaches people with diabetes. As a vegan myself, I learned a ton! It should release sometime in the next two weeks. We hit on everything plant-based and type 1.

      Besides that episode, it’s totally possible. Takes practice and an adjustment in ratios over time. When you switch over to plant-based, usually you see a decrease in insulin resistance, and a bump up in carb ratios. (Mine is about 25 carbs to 1 unit of insulin)

      Hope the future episode helps! Keep us posted on the journey.


  17. Dear Ryan, I have been diagnosed with D2 about 8 years ago. Continually the medicine quantity went up, in spite of having no overweight, no high blood pressure, no high cholesterol, being on a low-carb diet and exercising a minimum of a half an hour a day. About a year and a half ago things went totally wrong and despite medicine my values were out of control. Finally the internist tested for LADA. Yes indeed, that is what I have. Now on insulin, 3x a day 6 short, 1x 10 long at night. Since about a year I eat a vegan diet. First with complex carbs, now avoiding the whole grains as they consistently chase up the blood sugar to about 3x what it ought to be. Root veggies and legumes do that too, to a lesser degree, but of course I have to eat something, and refuse to give those up. Do you feel I ought to go back on the whole grains (gladly, delicious) or do you have other advise?

    • Ahhh, great question! It sounds like you’ve done a fair share of experimentation. From experience, I can say that whole grains (like cereal, oatmeal, and bread) are tougher to control that other forms of carbs (like fruit, root veggies, and quinoa). I go back and forth on eating whole grains. Sometimes, I can eat a huge bowl of oatmeal every day for breakfast for weeks, have the sugars under perfect control, and feel confident in my insulin dosages. Sometimes, I go through weeks where it’s hard to incorporate these foods in my life without bringing about too many highs. Quinoa, buckwheat, and steel cut oats seem to be less of an assault on the BGs. It’s a balance! Best of luck striking your cord.

  18. I should add that I do eat whole oats in the morning, mixed with chia seeds, linseed, some raisins, curcumin, Ceylon cinnamon, and peanut butter. I make this in big batches and freeze it in in portions. Served with unsweetened almond or coconut milk. Hermi.

  19. My husband has been a type 1 for the last 40 years, he’s 53, and controls his blood sugar with a low carb, high protein diet and lots of exercise. We want to go vegan, but he’s not sure how to do that and not have high blood sugar. How do you compensate/count carbs to lower your insulin intake?

    • I thought about this before making the switch too! It’s important to remember that everyone is different here. Some are more sensitive to carbohydrates, some are less sensitive. I jumped right in, kept counting carbs, and adjusted as I went along. In the first week, I noticed a lower amount of daily insulin and my carb ratios gradually increased. If he’s had the disease for 40 years, he’s got the skills to make whatever tinkering is necessary. I tested my blood sugar a little more often (it would have helped to have a CGM then) and I had a pretty good feel for the new patterns after a couple of months. As long as I ate clean, whole foods (not white bread and white rice), even though I was eating more carbs, I didn’t notice too many differences in high blood sugars. Best of luck on the journey, if you decided to venture that direction!

  20. My 9yo son was diagnosed with T1D two months ago. We have adopted a lower carb lifestyle. His bg is consistently at the low end of his range and he requires very little insulin (2 units bolus on average and 9 basal). We were never a vegetarian family, but we ate much less meat than we currently do. Sometimes I lament this shift, but I am so thankful that the changes we are making help our son. That being said, I miss my lentils, beans and rice! I guess I want to thank you for helping me stay open to still eating them, and also to educate my son that throughout his life he (and we) gets to experiment and shift and change how he manages his health. We don’t have to be afraid. We have some good options.

    • Nicole,
      First, congrats on the initial blood sugar consistency! Those first few months can be so challenging. You nailed the big point: we all get the chance to experiment and find what works for us, whether it be a low-carb or high-carb approach. There’s no right or wrong, just a journey! We just released a podcast with Robby Barbaro about this specific topic. I think you’ll love the content! (Available on iTunes if you search Real Life Diabetes Podcast)

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  22. I’d love info! I was diagnosed T1D a year ago at age 49! Talk about a life change. I’m super interested in making some changes but afraid. I think I’ll struggle mostly with the organization and planning. Ugh. Ideas on where to start? You’re article is so inspiring!

    • Kelly, Whoa! What a life change at 49. Your fears are normal, it’s a complex disease! I started off with one meal at a time, would watch how my blood sugars responded, and made adjustments on the fly! As time has gone on, I’ve counted carbs more diligently and it’s really helped with the higher carb meals (I know, shocker). Keep us posted on the journey!

      • What is you a1c? I don’t care about carb content but the proof is in the pudding. What’s your target blood sugar ?

        • Chris–Appreciate the comment! The pudding holds lots of good wisdom, almost a crystal ball. In the last year, the pudding has shown that my daily habits have slowed a1c progress. I’ve made some adjustments, including wiser food timing and more diligent carb counting.

          My a1c is currently 7.1. Pushing toward a goal a1c of 6.5 in 6 months (June 2017). On a daily basis, my target blood sugar is 120. This I plan to ratchet down to 100 eventually, as I start to lose sympathetic nervous system symptoms.

          To the (minimal) highs and lows. –Ryan

  23. My husband and I watched Forks Over Knives and decided we would give it a try for our own benefits. Our Son has been diagnosed for the last 7 years, and while we/his dr feel he has good control over his numbers, we worried about what increasing his carb intake would do. I did a Google search for Vegan and TD1 and came across this post. Thank you for this, it only makes me want to try harder by teaching him that although it may not be a cure he’s looking for, it’s definitely a great direction to go.

  24. Hi Ryan,
    I eat LCHF currently, and I guess my ‘issue’ with Vegan and still eating alot of carbs is around the rollercoaster and stable blood sugars, rather than the quantity of insulin required. My requirements on insulin are still very low, pumping a basal of about 15 units a day, and 5-10 units for food. Eating low carb is hugely beneficial to a diabetic, as you stop the rollercoaster blood sugars which is what does alot of damage long term. Still eating carbs doing vegan, surely still allows your BG to rise and fall outside normal ranges. I follow Dr Bernstein largely, but also LCHF by way of Tim Noakes etc. I eat meat and fat, and <30g of carb a day. I keep my BG between 4 and 7 99% of the time, and my A1C is 5.1%. If I was to introduce carbs, I would be back to where I was, irrespective of fat or meat. On the rollercoaster, constantly trying to match doses of insulin with carbs and finding carbs digest faster than insulin gets metabolised, going high then going low later, etc etc. I 100% agree that a high fat diet can cause insulin resistance in some people, however healthy fats in moderation and good protein foods, and low carbs (only circumstantial carbs from veges and dairy) means stable blood sugars, no spikes, no long term damage.
    So I am very curious about how stable your blood sugars are eating vegan and therefore eating carbs. So many carbs are inflammatory, such as grains. People were not designed to metabolise that stuff. Animals with stones in their throats and beaks, however were. Would love to hear from you.

    • JB, Thanks for dropping a comment. These are all good points. And, huge congrats on the quality control. In regards to the carbs and roller coaster ride analogy, there’s definitely truth there, a truth that I’ve definitely felt, but it’s not black and white. For fruits and vegetables, I’ve experienced less of a roller coaster and more of a stable plateau of blood sugars. Like you mentioned toward the bottom about grains, grains are more tricky. Especially fat involved with grains (say in tortilla chips or oatmeal with coconut oil), I’ve seen that steep climb in sugars. I do eat grains (not much wheat), but it’s taken practice, and for me, it’s worth it for the fiber and nutrients.

      The research does point to long-term damage in the rapid rise and fall of blood sugars. I’ve had to work to avoid the rise and fall, but it’s probably more difficult on a plant-based diet. For now, I feel it’s worth the work, for the proven benefits of fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients in fruits, legumes, and vegetables, and the associated disease prevention and lowering of insulin resistance. My current a1c is 7.1, down from 7.9 a year ago. My carb ratio is roughly 30:1. I have many long-time daily habits left to reevaluate, alongside the way I currently eat.

      We’ll see where the journey takes us! Best of luck to us all.

  25. You have an interest take on veganism for type 1. I’ve had type 1 45 years.the first 25 years I was mostly vegetarian, but then I started getting really sick. This was the time when we took only one shot per day. Then I found Dr. Bernstein and low carb. So after adding 5 shots a day a aging low carb, I got better and was taking 22 units total per day. After 7 years of low carb I did 7 years as a raw vegan, lowering my insulin needs through fasting sometimes down to 6 units a day. But on a regular day it was more like 12. But I started feeling malnourished and my joints hurt a lot. So I decided to start eating locally sourced meat from local farms, eating very low carb, like Bernstein, but also adding high fat to keep me in ketosis, the healthy kind. I’ve been doing this low carb high fat diet and active lifestyle for 7 years and my insulin needs are stil low at 12 units a day. We all are our own experiment, what works for one person may not work for another. Happiness is the most important thing.

    • Aimee–Well done, you’ve explored the path. Learning to listen to your body is a subtle art that you’re in tune with. I like your point at the end, happiness is the most important thing. I too will continue to seek balance in diet, body, insulin needs, and a1c, without clinging to any past beliefs (including blog posts) and being ready to change if the body feels it is time! Good luck on the journey and thanks for the comment.

  26. I am 21 years old and have only known that I was diabetic for the last 2 years.
    When I was diagnosed at 19 the doctors said my sugar was so high they didn’t know how I was standing and kept asking if I “felt alright within myself”. spent a week in hospital on an insulin drip and then they sent me off, telling me to take 30units of mixed insulin a day.

    I hypo’d all the time. The kept reducing my insulin and then moved me on to 10 units of slow release and 3 units per meal of quick release and none if I’m eating a solely veg based meal! I was already vegan but I honestly have always felt it was the reason I needed so much less insulin than initially assumed.

    Also, thank you for the bit just before the mention of the proverbial cows! So many vegans have given me stories of how I can completely cure my diabetes with this that and the other, often not even t1 themselves..

  27. HI i have been reading and going through all these comments and have read and been really inspired by your story Ryan I have been educated on the whole plant based diet and type one diabetes for a little while but I was trying to get more information from others who have been on this diet with diabetes and have had and experienced the change… I was just curious if any of you would be willing to email me with tip trick and info on the best ways to convert and had lists of ok foods not ok some recipes for the different meals and drinks…. so i guess i just need some help in stating and getting on the right track my email is [email protected] thank you so much in advance!!

  28. I am 33 and have been a diabetic since I was 3. I’ve always struggled with living with daily injections and always found it hard to accept that this was my life. I was recently diagnosed with severe diabetic retinopathy an I just learned of the benefits of going vegan. I am not sure how to start though with being a diabetic… Advice?

    • Hi Nahesha, Big thanks for reaching out. Sorry to hear about signs of retinopathy and wish you the best on the path to healing! Every person is different in how they deal with change: some jump right in feet first and some dip a toe. My experience was a “jump right in” experience where I began to see lower sugars and less insulin needs quickly. Others have a different experience! For me, practice makes perfect, and you have to trust your innate diabetes wisdom. Best of luck on the journey!

  29. I’m a 36 yr old mom of two and have been T12 since 5yrs. I’ve been doing some researching on kidney issues , because at my last appt they noticed I my leves ate ten times higher than they should be. So now I get to see a kidney specialist but while looking into ways to help my kidneys I kept noticing vegetarian and vegan diet to be very helpful. Any thing you found that is not good with your sugars. I have a vegan family member willing to help with meal options but has no clue about diabetes lol

    • Hi Megan,

      Sorry to hear about the recent kidney issues. Looks like you’re trying to take health into your own hands! Thank you for reaching out. For the most part, the same principles apply! I count carbs, be active, and take insulin. From my own experience, after switching to this diet, I began taking LESS insulin overall. Oh, and rice, rice is a little tough on the blood sugars (highs), but with practice I incorporated it too. Good luck on the journey!

  30. Did you notice an insulin difference right away or did it take a while? I’ve been a type 2 for about 3 years, just above the pre diabetes levels. I was able to decrease metformin to 500mg last spring but had higher Bg levels this summer. I’m 2 weeks into vegan diet to try what I can to stay off more meds. I feel much better, no sluggishness and no longer even want caffeinne. my BG levels have not decreased as much as I thought they would. Am I just being impatient?

    • What wonderful early changes! Big congrats on making the switch and sticking with it long enough to feel the difference. Every person is different in how they adjust, but like you mentioned, patience is key. For me, the blood sugars started to come down as I acclimated to lower insulin needs and fine-tuned my own diabetes management practices (taking insulin before eating, correcting lows with 15 carbs, etc.) Best of luck on the rest of the journey. — Ryan

  31. Due to neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer, I literally became a TD1 overnight. That was 7 years ago. I just stumbled on the concept of a vegan diet and have begun. I am looking for more recipes and ideas. I don’t exercise at all though because I find I can’t control my sugars. It’s been a roller coaster with huge spikes up or down. I keep playing with my insulin intake which I doubt my endocrinologist will be too happy about the next time I see him.

  32. Hello Ryan! Im starting a plant based diet. 22 years o type1. But for me its being hard to keep a good control. Can you give advice o a “day menu” in your life. Im on insulin pump.
    Cheers from Mexico!

    • Awesome! It takes courage to start something new. Here’s a rundown of a typical menu:

      Breakfast–>Oatmeal (raisins, bananas, almonds (or almond butter))
      Snack –> Apple
      Lunch –> Salad (Romaine/Spinach/Arugula, cup of quinoa, radishes, carrots, beans, tempeh, and balsamic dressing)
      Snack –> PB and Banana Sandwich
      Dinner –>Burrito (Whole grain or gluten-free tortilla, with brown rice, black beans, tofu, and steamed broccoli)

      Disclaimer (The less fat consumed in the diet, or at least strategically consumed fat, the better numbers!)

  33. Hi, I am a type 1 diabetic also….diagnosed at age 9 28 years ago..blood sugars have always been a struggle for me…the counting and balancing… the pump 10 years ago and it has helped, bit still a1c lingers around 7, sometimes as high as 8. (I want it more like 5.5- 6)
    Recently diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, I’ve found myself to put on almost 20 lbs in 4 months. My diet has not changed one bit over this time, and, if anything it’s gotten “healthier” choosing more whole grains instead of simple carbs.
    I am glad to hear about your success, but am a little skeptical on your changed way if life and if or how it would work for me. My entire life has revolved around counting carbs and medicating according to the carb count, how is it possible that eating more carbs with taking MORE insulin will help my diabetes? And further, eating plant based could help me lose weight?
    Please provide me some recommendation s on reading material or maybe somewhere to research meal plans or something….
    Thank you for your article and sparking my curiosity…

    • Hi Krista,
      Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s a bit counter-intuitive. You can eat more carbs, and take LESS insulin. Eating plant-based lowers insulin resistance. If you’re eating mostly plants, the body experiences less inflammation. Especially, in my own experience, if you separate high-carb meals away from fats. That’s resulted in a significant decrease in post-prandial blood sugars. You might check out the guys from Mastering Diabetes for more information and resources. They host an entirely online program for understanding the plant-based and diabetes connection. To the highs and lows, Ryan.

  34. I’ve had t1d since 2011 when I was 9
    I recently got told that if I didn’t loose weight my insulin resistance would go up it’s already at a 1:4 carb ratio so I was basically told I’d die
    I went vegetarian about a month ago and already improving

    You gave me the motivation I needed thank you

  35. I have recently chose a vegan life style. I have been experiencing alot of lows..I was baffled because I have been eating all kinds of fruits and rice so I decided to research a vegan diet with diabetes and I ran into this article..thank you so much for sharing your personal experience

  36. I’m 37 years old and on 7th July 2017 I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and I thought my life was over. The funny thing was that i had been telling people all day that apparently it was the luckiest day of the century. Maybe it was actually looking back but it didn’t feel like it when I was rushed into hospital and diagnosed that awful Friday evening. It seems a little dramatic now but up until that point, apart from my love of wine, I thought I had it nailed in the health department. Fork over knife was probably my saviour. Hooray for Netflix! Then I watched cowspiracy and so it went on.
    Becoming vegan has given me so much control in my life and though I haven’t started this road for ethical reasons, it does give me a sense peace that I’m not just saving my own life. I became vegan 6 weeks after I was diagnosed. When I was first diagnosed I was on a total of 24 units of slow acting insulin and for meals in total 12-18 units of fast acting. I’m now on a total of 18 units of slow acting and that is it!!! I will probably have to continue reducing.
    my doctors have been amazing but I think this has got them stumped!! Anyway, I just wanted to let you know my story and though there is a lot more to tell I’ve got to get up, get ready and run my business??

  37. Hi! I really wana try to go vegan. Right now I’m paleo-ish and eat really healthy but if I can decrease my insulin requirement even more that would be awesome. I’m an integrative medicine nurse practitioner and work a lot with people with Diabetes! Do you have an example of a meal plan to help me jump start? I’m so worried about eating a bunch of fruit at a time. Also see you’re in med school. The genetic link between gluten and autoimmune disease is huge! I think type one can actually be completely prevented by doing genetic testing on babies and avoiding gluten if they’re genetics don’t lend for it. Something interesting to research. Thank you!

  38. Well written and touching self-testimony. I am myself a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educators who practices vegetarianism. I certainly respect differences in health goals, motivational level, and rationales for specific choices in diet patterns – but just as a breath of fresh air for you, I do regularly explain these food connections to insulin resistance and the resulting blood sugar responses. I always provide opportunities for individuals with diabetes to learn the science behind this information and let them decide their chosen path given the knowledge.

    • Mari–Thank you for the words and education. It remains an underrated asset for anyone looking to lower insulin levels and resistance! All we can do is offer informed choices, and patients can find any number of routes to wellbeing (or adequate a1c’s).

  39. I’m a type 1 diabetic and have been a vegetarian for most of my life, but I honestly don’t understand how being vegan as a T1D makes managing your diabetes any less complicated. I say this only because if you are vegan, the majority of your protein options contain significant carbohydrates (unlike meat, eggs, and most dairy products, which are more or less low carb or no carb). Of course the protein balances that out to some extent, but you are still going to risk far greater BG spikes from things like beans or quinoa than you are from eggs or cheese. Obviously if you eat a diet that is primarily vegetable-based, then you aren’t going to need large quantities of insulin and won’t have to worry about potential BG spikes—but the key is “primarily.” Rices and grains are off the table in that scenario. I suppose my point is that being vegan is only going to be beneficial to to diabetics if they are also limiting/cutting out carbohydrates, which has nothing to do with eating vegan. The number of vegan foods that could wreck a diabetic’s blood sugar are myriad.

    • Scott,
      Many solid points here. Especially pointing out that a majority of proteins contain carbs. That offers a challenge. After a few more years of eating this way, I now avoid the heavy carb grains (mainly rice/wheat) in the evenings due to the blood sugar spikes overnight. I do veggie stir-frys with tempeh now. The guys over at Mastering Diabetes talk about the importance of limiting fat intake, citing total fat intake alongside carb intake as a significant cause of the blood sugar spikes (especially 3-4 hours post meal). This has also been my experience. Does going plant-based supplant diabetes fundamentals? Absolutely not. Is it easy? No. Will you have less insulin resistance? Yes, especially if consuming primarily whole foods. Does it offer long-term advantages in disease prevention (heart disease)? Yes. Appreciate the comments, helps shed a more accurate light on the diet! — Ryan

  40. Hi,

    At the moment I am 28 years old and have diabetes type 1 since I was 13 years old.

    I am willing to follow this diet, altought I am little afraid of the weight loss…

    At the moment, I take 1 unit of insulin per portion so normally I get 24 units of fast insulin a day +16 of the 24 hour one.

    I have a quiet active life and love to do sports, so if I go vegan is there anyhow to keep on going to the gym and gain body muscles?

    I would love to speak with a person that is vegan with type 1 diabetes to initiate myself correctly in becoming a vegan, as I am very scared of losing my strength.

    Please feel free to contact me to my email.



    • Hi Liam, Thanks for commenting. Sounds like you live a conscious, healthy life. You ask important questions about being able to build muscle. And the answer is, yes! Physical activity is possible, and you can even get gains. For specific coaching and to speak with people who are athletes eating a plant-based lifestyle, is a great resource along with the Rich Roll Podcast. Good luck on the journey!

  41. Do you take dietary fiber into consideration while adding your carbs for a bolus? Is that where the potential decrease in insulin intake might come from?

    • Hi Chase, Good question. Dietary fiber is something that I’ve kept in mind. The fiber could potentially slow down absorption certainly. But, the carbs are still there, and will eventually make it into my system, whether 30 minutes later or an hour later. The decrease in insulin needs seems to be due to less insulin resistance. This is a question that the team over at have looked at extensively, and they may be able to shed more light! — Ryan

  42. Hi Ryan,

    I am a Type 1 Diabetic Runner and have been Vegan for about 2 years. Wondering if you experience diarrhea or weakness with a Vegan diet? This feeling is new to me and I’m wondering if it’s diabetes verses nutrition. Do you take any supplements outside of B12?

    • Hi Ashley,
      Thanks for reaching out and asking an important question(s). Those are experiences that I have not had, but each of us is different. Weakness and diarrhea have many root causes, including what you eat! Specific conclusions may only be found in a physician’s office. I do take B12 daily, but that has been my only consistent supplement over the years. Best of luck on the journey!

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