Stop The Sugar Spikes: Dietary Changes To Reduce The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
By Jayde Lens
Roughly 90% of cases of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes in the US could be avoided by lifestyle changes, according to Harvard School of Public Health. While there are people who are genetically predisposed to developing the condition, many others could avoid it, and can reverse symptoms by making changes to their diet. Maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise are important factors in avoiding the condition, but the quality of your diet also plays an integral role. The standard American diet has evolved to become low in nutrients and high in refined carbohydrates, contributing to the rise in type 2 diabetes. So what should your diet look like if you want to avoid developing the condition?
4 Healthy Changes To Make To Your Diet
CHOOSE WHOLE GRAINS
Refined white carbohydrates, such as white breads, pastas and cakes, are high on the glycemic index, which means that they cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin, increasing the risk of diabetes. Whole grain alternatives, however, haven’t had important components removed in processing. Because they contain more fiber and bran, the digestive system processes them more slowly, resulting in slower increases in blood sugar and insulin, and decreasing the risk of diabetes. Refined carbohydrates have had so much removed from them that they are also lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. A healthy, balanced lifestyle should allow for the occasional treat, so adapting your diet to focus on whole grains doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a slice of cake or a bagel every now and then. However, if the majority of your everyday meals incorporate whole grain alternatives like brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholegrain pasta, you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes significantly.
PRIORITIZE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Only 10% of American adults manage to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, according to the CDC, increasing their chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Eating three servings of fresh fruit a day is associated with a decreased risk of developing the condition. Replacing processed snacks with fresh fruit is a simple way to ensure that you’re regularly consuming enough fruit, and making homemade juices and smoothies to replace high-sugar, nutrient-poor sodas is an easy alternative. Fresh vegetables, meanwhile, should be incorporated with every meal, and should make up half your plate. Include leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, which are nutrient-rich and have strong associations with diabetes prevention. To get the most nutritional value, variety is key, so aim to vary your choices and incorporate as many vegetables as you can in your diet.
FOCUS ON HEALTHY FATS
For a long time, fat was hailed as bad for us. We now know better, but choosing the right kinds of fats is key to keeping us in good health, including in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Healthy, polyunsaturated fats like those found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils can help protect against diabetes. Trans fats, on the other hand, increase the risk. Trans fats are found in prepackaged bakery products, fried foods and margarine, and can be spotted by the words ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’. Hydrogenation turns unsaturated liquid fats into solids using hydrogen, creating trans fats, which are associated with an increase in bad cholesterol and vulnerability to type 2 diabetes. Simply avoiding processed foods helps you to eliminate this kind of fat from your diet, but actively seeking good fats is also helpful. Nuts and seeds have anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent insulin resistance from developing, protecting you from type 2 diabetes.
LOOK FOR HEALTHY PROTEINS
Plant-based diets have been associated with diabetes prevention. High quality proteins are found in legumes like beans and lentils, which are low on the glycemic index, and therefore don’t lead to spikes in blood sugar. These are good for everyone to include in their diets, but if you also choose to consume moderate amounts of meat, look towards lean protein sources like chicken and fish. There are health benefits to be found in red meat, so occasional consumption is safe, but eating too much of it can increase our risk of developing diabetes. Far worse, however, is processed meat like bacon and deli meats, which can increase the risk of developing diabetes by 51%, according to Harvard School of Public Health. This is thought to be due to the high levels of sodium and preservatives added during processing.
The basic framework of a diet to protect against diabetes involves a focus on whole foods and an approach that is largely plant-based. The standard American diet has moved away from natural foods in favor of highly processed substitutes that are high in sugar and low in nutritional value, and this is a large contributing factor to the increase in type 2 diabetes. Focusing on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and healthy sources of fat and protein, combined with avoiding heavily processed convenience foods is a natural way to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Exercise & Type 2 Diabetes
In addition to what you eat, exercise can be a critical component to managing type 2 diabetes. Staying fit and active can help control blood glucose levels and keep them in an optimal range. According to Endocrineweb.com, “Exercise can reduce the glucose in your blood. Muscles can use glucose without insulin when you’re exercising. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re insulin resistant or if you don’t have enough insulin: when you exercise, your muscles get the glucose they need, and in turn, your blood glucose level goes down.” Exercise has many benefits like improved mood and energy levels, strength, posture and more. It can also help people with type 2 diabetes fend off long term complications like cardiovascular issues.
We see a range of guests each week at our fitness retreat and health issues such as diabetes are at the forefront of our conversations. It’s important to stay informed and be proactive about your condition. Developing a sound nutrition and fitness plan is key to managing type 2 diabetes and living a healthy lifestyle.
If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below. More information can be found on Diabetes.org.
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