The Vegan Diet How-To Guide for Diabetes

The Physicians Committee

The Vegan Diet How-To Guide for Diabetes

Step 1: A Vegan Diet: Avoiding Animal Products

Animal products contain fat, especially saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, and certain forms of cancer. These products also contain cholesterol, something never found in foods from plants. And, of course, animal products contain animal protein. It may surprise you to learn that diets high in animal protein can aggravate kidney problems and calcium losses. Animal products never provide fiber or healthful complex carbohydrate. 

A vegan diet is one that contains no animal products at all. So, to be specific, here are the foods you’ll want to avoid: 

Avoid Red Meat
You already know that red meats are a source of unnecessary and unhealthy fats and cholesterol. And they are also devoid of fiber, which is found only in vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains.

red meat

Avoid Poultry and Fish
Many people imagine that chicken is low in fat. However, the actual numbers might surprise you. The leanest beef is about 29 percent fat as a percentage of calories. The leanest chicken—white meat with the skin removed—is not much lower—about 23 percent—and much of its fat is in the saturated form.


While fish vary in their fat content, they all have fat and cholesterol. And while many fish varieties contain omega-3 (“good”) fats, they also contain saturated fat. Fifteen to 30 percent of the fat in fish is saturated (“bad”) fat. Plus, fish protein is very much like other animal proteins. You are better off getting your protein from plant sources.

In contrast to animal products, beans derive only about 4 percent of their calories from fat. In fact, nearly all vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains are less than 10 percent fat. And plants never contain cholesterol.

It is important to avoid meats completely. Having even small amounts now and then will reduce your benefit. Avoid all red meat, poultry, and fish.

Avoid Dairy Products
A vegan diet omits dairy products. This means milk, cream, cheese, yogurt, butter, etc. Most dairy products are high in fat, particularly saturated fat. Nonfat versions are typically high in sugar (lactose). Nonfat milk, for example, is about 55 percent sugar, as a percentage of calories.

You’ll want to avoid dairy products completely, even nonfat versions.


Avoid Eggs
Like all animal products, eggs have no fiber at all. Egg yolks are high in fat and cholesterol. Egg whites are high in animal protein, the type of protein that, when eaten in a large quantity, can be harmful to the kidneys and can contribute to calcium losses.


There are many good nondairy milk products and egg substitutes available.

dairy alternatives