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Are the ADA (American Diabetic Association) Guidelines a One-Size-Fits-All Approach Right for Every Diabetic?

Are the ADA (American Diabetic Association) Guidelines a One-Size-Fits-All Approach Right for Every Diabetic?

I will often have clients join my program who tell me that their doctor has aske them to follow the ADA diet for diabetes management. They would have tried to do so themselves and even decipher the eating pattern based on web research, but with little success. 

The ADA (American Diabetes Association) is a leading non-profit in the US dedicated to everything related to diabetes.

You probably already know about it. 

One way ADA help's is by providing guidelines for diabetes management. Think of them as a cheat sheet that covers all the bases (but way more reliable!). These include:

  • nutritional interventions,
  • exercise modification,
  • medication suggestion, and,
  • even blood sugar tracking tips.

Having this information at your fingertips could be all you need, especially when starting.

But here's the thing: the information can be confusing and puts everyone into one mold. The ADA guidelines are fantastic, but diabetes affects everyone differently. What works wonders for one person might not be the best fit for another.

Besides, with diabetes, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It is a very dynamic, chronic, and multi-faceted condition. Diabetes treats different age groups, ethnicities, gender, and genes differently.

ADA diet for diabetes

Imagine you and your friend are both training for a race. You might prefer running outside, while your friend loves hitting the gym. Both must have very different weaknesses that they need to work harder on. Both will have different ages, weights, heights, requirements, and family histories.

Just like that training plan, a diabetes management plan should be tailored to you. 

That's where a registered nutrition coach or healthcare professional comes in. They can assess your individual needs and preferences and create a personalized plan that fits your unique situation.

So, the ADA guidelines are a brilliant starting point, but remember, you've got the power to create a plan that works for you and your diabetes journey!

Book A Free Consultation With Our Disease Reversal Expert

Strengths & Limitations of ADA Guidelines.

ADA is a very comprehensive resource. But personally, as you read through this article, you will realize that some of the advice presented can be biased and even misguiding. Let's take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of the ADA protocol. 


One of the main things the ADA focuses on is keeping your blood sugar in range. Uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to serious complications, so they want to help you avoid that altogether. Given that carbs rise blood sugars, one can eat as much fat as they want and will still see their sugars stable. Should butter and cheese then be a solution to diabetes management? Watch this to understand more:

Let's explore a few ways the ADA guidelines suggests to keep your blood sugar levels in check:

  • Nutrition: Diet is one of the foundational blocks for the approach to diabetes. ADA provides guidelines to help you crack the code of healthy eating for diabetes. This means understanding portion sizes, choosing the right foods, and learning how different foods affect your blood sugar.

  • Exercise Energizer: They recommend getting your body moving! Regular exercise helps with balancing blood sugar levels and overall health. The ADA can help you find an exercise routine you actually enjoy. It could be hitting the gym, dancing in your living room, or taking brisk walks with a friend.

  • Medication Management: ADA can provide resources and information to help you understand and use your medication effectively. It will guide you on when to increase the dose and when to taper it. 

These are just the building blocks, though! The ADA understands that diabetes is different for everyone. Here are some lines along which ADA has been guiding patients all over the world:

  1. Free Live Cooking Classes
  2. How to Read Food Labels
  3. How Food Affects Blood Glucose
  4. Healthy Eating Tips
  5. A guide to gestational diabetes
  6. Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test.

While their guidelines can be a starting point, the ADA recommends working with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional.

So, you can take their foundational approach and build on it to create a diabetes management strategy that empowers you to live a healthy and fulfilling life!


While counting calories and tracking macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) can be valuable tools for diabetes management, it's important to remember that food goes beyond calories. Here's why:

  1. Quality over Quantity: Calorie counting only tells part of the story. One hundred calories of refined sugar will have a much different impact on your blood sugar than 100 calories of almonds. Both have the exact calorie count, but the almonds have a bonus of healthy fats, fiber, and protein, which can help regulate blood sugar.
  2. Individual Needs: We all have different needs. Especially when it comes to diabetes, a blood sugar spike for one food group for one person can be very different than the spike caused for someone else. Some preliminary research is showing that the response is as unique as your fingerprint! Thus, blindly following standard recommendations might not help. 

  3. Obsessive Focus: Counting calories can sometimes become an obsession, leading to unhealthy restrictions and anxiety around food. Remember, a balanced and sustainable approach is key to long-term success. We instead help clients make lifestyle changes like starting your meal with raw foods first, which are dense in volume and will fill you up but low in calories. Thus, our clients naturally do not overeat. We never ever ask clients to measure the food before eating. 

  4. Blood Sugar Beyond Calories: Stress, sleep, non exercise activities and medications can also significantly impact blood sugar levels. The right approach is a holistic one that considers all these factors.
Let's now discuss a few food groups that the ADA permits but can actully be making your diabetes worse.


A study by Harvard investigated the relationship between red meat consumption and type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that consumption of red meat, including processed and unprocessed red meat, was strongly associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Participants who ate the most red meat had a 62% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate the least.

The ADA does not hold a strong stance when it comes to meat consumption, but rather just asks patients to limit eating the same. 


Eggs can be a devastating food choice for patients with obesity, metabolic disease, prediabetes, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and cardiovascular diseases. Watch this to understand more:

Higher prepregnancy intake of cholesterol and saturated fats results in an increased risk of developing gestational Diabetes. Read this to understand more:

Despite of many studies pointing otherwise, the ADA permit's eating eggs for diabetics. 


Dairy products like ghee, yoghurt, and paneer are very common in Indian cuisine. Traditionally, dairy consumption was less than 10% of one's total calorie consumption, but overtime, dairy consumption and the risk of diabetes have both drastically increased. 

More than 60% of the fatty acids in cow's milk and, consequently, in dairy products are saturated. Consumption of higher calories disrupts the hypothalamus's insulin and leptin signaling of satiety. Watch this for clarity:

We have seen very promising results with our clients by just dropping dairy from the diet and switching to non- dairy alternatives. However, despite so much research on dairy, the ADA does not take a strong stance. 

Fried Foods


I do not think we need anyone telling us that fried foods must be avoided completely. Not only are they dense in calories, but carcinogenic too. 

The ADA is not very strict while telling patients to stop eating fried foods. Working with clients, I have realized that complete avoidance works much better than trying to eat foods in moderation. We are often not the best when it comes to stopping after the third French Fry or half a bag of potato chips. 

Realistically, lifestyle modification means breaking way from your older lifestyle patterns and forming better habits. This might mean learning to cook at home more often or introducing healthy recipes to the whole family. 

The ADA guidelines focus on establishing an effective medication regimen to manage blood sugar. Depending on individual circumstances, there might be the need to adjust or even taper medication over time. 

Factors like weight loss, improved diet, and increased physical activity can all contribute to better blood sugar control. When that happens, you must taper your medicine. Otherwise, there is a huge risk of hypoglycemia.




The Power of Plant-Based Nutrition for Diabetes Management.

The approach we take with clients, instead of the ADA guidelines is to switch to a plant- based diet. The motto is eat less, not too processed, mostly plants. 

You do not have to worry about portion control, calorie counting or even carb control. Simply choose to eat as many plants as you can. This includes legumes, pulses, whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Nuts, seeds and healthy fat sources from avocadoes and olives can additionally form a part of your diet. 

ADA guidelines for diabetes management

A plant-based diet is a powerhouse of essential nutrients. It offers all vital nutrients, vitamins, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in perfect ratios.

For example, one cup of chickpeas provides over 14 grams of protein and 71% of the daily value for folate. Chickpea's are also high in iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Research indicates that individuals following plant-based eating patterns tend to have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) and reduced risks of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

In the very beginning, when diabetes was still an enigma to scientists, the idea of a plant-based diet as a solution seemed almost funny.

When research methods improved, and more findings came along, doctors began to recommend plant-based diets. Even then, they cautioned patients not to overdo it.

But now, after we have collected enough data, endocrinologists and nutritionists emphasize that patients prefer a plant-based diet over any other regimen. 

One reason is the lower calorie density of many plant-based foods, which allows for satisfying meals while promoting weight loss. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are typically lower in calories compared to processed and animal-derived foods, making them effective choices for diabetes management.

Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, beans, and apples, can help;

  • lower cholesterol levels, and,
  • improve blood sugar,

giving you long-term control over heart health and diabetes management.

Here are a few mechanisms that plant-based foods employ to make your journey against diabetes management smooth:

Improved insulin sensitivity:

According to various studies, plant-based diets, particularly those rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes, are associated with improved sensitivity. This means that your body can use insulin more effectively to regulate blood sugar levels.

Here is one of our clients talking about her journey to Type 1 Diabetes Management:

Lower Blood Sugar Levels 

Many plant-based foods have a low glycemic index, meaning they cause a slower and more gradual increase in blood sugar levels after consumption. The body does not have to manage sugar spikes when you ingest these foods.

Weight Management

Plant-based diets are often lower in calories and saturated fats than diets high in animal products. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for managing diabetes, as excess body weight can contribute to insulin resistance.

Rich in Fiber

Plant-based diets tend to be high in fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Fiber also promotes satiety; you stay full for longer hours and are less prone to overeating.

Reduced Risk of Complications

Some research suggests that a plant-based balanced diet may reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. These are cardiovascular and kidney diseases, which are common in individuals with a diet. 

Insoluble fiber, found in whole grains, vegetables, and nuts, adds bulk to stool. It promotes regular bowel movements, prevents constipation, and supports digestive health. 

Soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic, nourishing beneficial gut bacteria and contributing to a balanced gut microbiome.

Does ADA promote a plant- based diet?


"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."- Dr. Kim Williams, former president of the American College of Cardiology, 

This sentiment rings especially true when considering the evolution of attitudes towards plant-based diets for diabetes management.

indian diet for diabetes

Back in 2013, plant-based diets were labeled under the "Fad Diets" section in the official endocrinology practice guidelines. While experts acknowledged that plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes better than the American Diabetes Association recommendations, the research papers paradoxically stated that the evidence "does not support the use of one type of diet over another."

Instead, merely the "amelioration of unhealthy choices" was the best approach for a healthy lifestyle, a rather vague directive.

However, by 2015, the clinical practice guidelines had shifted. Professional associations began explicitly endorsing plant-based diets as a general recommendation for diabetic patients.

The American Diabetes Association soon followed, listing plant-based diets as one of the acceptable dietary patterns for managing diabetes. The Canadian Diabetes Association took a strong stance, highlighting the rapid growth of type 2 diabetes as a serious public health concern and recommending plant-based diets for their potential to improve body weight, blood sugar control, and heart disease risk, while also reducing the need for diabetes medications.

The Canadian Diabetes Association also urged diabetes education centers to develop educational materials and provide personalized counseling to overcome barriers to adopting plant-based diets.

ADA recipes for diabetes

A significant barrier was ignorance, with nearly 90% of patients interviewed unaware of plant-based diets as a treatment for diabetes. This lack of awareness was partly due to the perceptions of diabetes educators and clinicians, most of whom were aware of plant-based diets but only one-third of whom recommended them.

Ironically, this hesitation often stemmed from a belief that patients wouldn't adhere to such diets, a notion contradicted by patient surveys indicating a willingness to try. Imagine withholding information from the clients simply because a health care professional believes that they will not follow it anyways. 

In reality, when this was put to the test, The PCRM Geico studies demonstrated a 95% adherence rate to plant-based diets, with participants reporting:

  • increased energy,
  • better digestion,
  • improved sleep, and,
  • overall satisfaction.

Some educators were also unsure about the supportive scientific evidence, despite research showing plant-based diets to be more effective than the ADA-recommended diet at reducing medication use, improving long-term blood sugar control, and lowering cholesterol levels.

However, Dr. Williams emphasized that the evidence supporting plant-based nutrition is growing, linking it to lower rates of stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, cardiac deaths, and even non-cardiac issues like cancer and inflammatory conditions. The real challenge lies in overcoming the "inertia, culture, habit, and widespread marketing of unhealthy foods."

He concludes that plant-based nutrition is the most significant yet underutilized opportunity to counteract the impending epidemic of obesity and diabetes-induced diseases and deaths.

Book A Free Consultation With Our Disease Reversal Expert


The American Diabetes Association (ADA) offers dietary recommendations, which may not be a one-size-fits-all solution.

There's growing evidence that plant-based diets can effectively prevent and manage diabetes. These diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber, both beneficial for blood sugar control.

While the ADA offers tips for incorporating plant-based proteins, a registered dietitian can help create a personalized plan that ensures you get all the nutrients you need.

Looking for help with diabetes management? Sign up for a free exploratory call with my team and let us be your partners in your health journey. 

Let's Just Talk. No Obligations.

I do free consultations every Tuesday's and Thursday's. Either way you will get some actionable tips to reach your fitness goals faster.

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About Roshni Sanghvi

Roshni Sanghvi is an Indian plant-based sports nutritionist and body transformation specialist. She is the first Indian to represent on a national bodybuilding stage being on a 100% plant-based diet. Roshni is a holistic nutritionist, graduated from the prestigious NutraPhoria college of nutrition in Canada.

She is also an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified PlantFed gut coach, certified Bodyshred, and Animal flow instructor with a specialisation in disease reversal through food and lifestyle modification.

Her approach is more focused on helping you in adopting a healthy lifestyle. With her result-oriented holistic methods, she has managed to transform and reverse lifestyle diseases such as PCOS, Thyroid, Diabetes etc for 12k+ clients worldwide.