1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and over 90% of these cases are type 2 diabetes, which often starts in adulthood. With these statistics, in all likelihood, you or someone you know has diabetes--maybe even a member of your family has recently been diagnosed. As a registered dietitian and nutritionist, I often deal with clients who fear that a close family member having diabetes is an automatic diagnosis for them as well. This is simply not the case.
You can eat to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Individuals with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that signals to your body to absorb glucose (or sugar). Weight, diet, physical activity level, age, family history, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and ethnicity are some of the contributing risk factors.
The American Diabetes Association sponsors “Diabetes Alert Day” in March to spread awareness about this prevalent disease and encourage adults to take a risk test. Even if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, it’s 100% manageable and preventable.
Even if you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, a prodrome for full-blown type 2 diabetes, you can reverse this, and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Approximately one in three Americans have pre-diabetes. This early stage indicates higher-than-normal blood sugar readings that are still not elevated enough to meet the diagnosable criteria for type 2 diabetes. Identifying pre-diabetes is essential because it is reversible through diet, exercise, stress management, and more.
There are both preventable and non-preventable risk factors for diabetes. You cannot change your family history, your ethnicity, or your age, but you can augment many other determinants that increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
You have the power to improve your diet to prevent type 2 diabetes. There’s no need to take drastic measures, eliminate all carbohydrates, or follow a quick fix diet plan. Instead, make sustainable changes to improve your health.
Half of your plate should be vegetables at most meals. Vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants to help reduce inflammation and improve health markers like cholesterol levels. One way to make it easier to eat more vegetables is to stock up on frozen packs, which last longer and are often cheaper than fresh.
More often than not, choose meals that help you curate a picture-perfect balanced meal. Fill half of your plate with vegetables, one-quarter with lean protein, and one-quarter with high-fiber carbohydrates or starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, corn) for optimal balance.
By making this simple swap, you’ll add more fiber to your diet. Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate that’s filling and slows the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. Numerous studies show that consuming whole grains can help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Choose whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, or other grains like freekeh, sorghum, bulgur, and farro.
Instead of fried foods and highly processed oils, consume more unsaturated fats, like avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, and their oils.
A plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. You don’t even have to follow a 100% plant-based, vegan diet to reap the benefits. Reach for recipes that feature beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds instead of meat several times each week.
Juicing fruit and vegetables removes the fiber, so you’re left with pure sugar (plus vitamins and minerals). Try trading in your morning cup of OJ for a whole orange to add 3 grams of fiber to your diet.
Regularly eating fish increases your consumption of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These anti-inflammatory fats are associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Grill, bake, or broil fish for the healthiest options. I share quick and nutritious seafood recipes in my ebook, Thrive in 5.
It’s easy to reach for a second helping of mashed potatoes or steak, but next time, add an equal amount of non-starchy vegetables to your plate as well. These will keep you full, thanks to their high water and fiber content.
Instead of relying on a mundane cookie that doesn’t really satisfy your craving anyways, save sweets for when it’s truly worth it.
The best way to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes is to work with a registered dietitian who can customize a healthy eating plan that works with your lifestyle. Some simple tweaks to your diet here and there can make immense strides towards improving your health and how you feel, and can even prevent a need for medication.