By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Is type 2 diabetes preventable? Yes, it is! Follow this pre diabetic diet by eating these foods to prevent diabetes.
Whether you have prediabetes or are simply wanting to prevent type 2 diabetes, take these healthy diet tips to heart. The good news is this advice is good for anyone who wants to eat a nutritious, balanced diet.
If you've been diagnosed with prediabetes, don't worry. There's a lot you can do to prevent the onset of diabetes! This is very important, as having diabetes puts you at risk for other health problems including kidney disease.
Eat Berries to Prevent Diabetes
I love adding berries to smoothies, overnight oats, and other healthy meals. And research in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research shows that the anthocyanins in strawberries could help improve insulin resistance, which may mean good things for improving the insulin sensitivity of people with diabetes or prediabetes.
In the small study, subjects received a meal with either no strawberries—or 10 grams (about 1/3 of an ounce), 20 grams, or 40 grams of freeze-dried strawberry powder.
Volunteers consuming the greatest amount of strawberry powder saw the biggest drop in post-meal insulin levels at the 6-hour post-meal mark. That's pretty cool, right?
Eat Less Added Sugar to Prevent Diabetes
The current dietary guidelines recommend limiting added sugar–including honey, high-fructose corn syrup, and molasses–to no more than 10% of total daily calories. For a 1,500 calorie daily diet, that’s 150 calories from sugar.
Currently, added sugars make up more than 13% of daily calories for Americans. Decreasing added-sugar calories could result in reduced risk of not only type 2 diabetes but also heart disease, obesity, and certain types of cancer.
Limiting added sugar means cutting back on sugary sodas, too. As for foods to avoid, you don't have to completely say goodbye to them–but do limit them.
A study in The Journal of Nutrition followed middle-aged adults for 14 years, finding that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, but not diet soda, was associated with an increased risk of developing prediabetes.
In the study, adults drinking sugar-sweetened beverages more than three times a week–equal to about one can of regular soda per day–had a 46% heightened risk of developing prediabetes, versus people consuming these drinks infrequently or not at all.
Having prediabetes means you have a higher-than-normal blood sugar level and a greater likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
Losing greater than 7% of your body weight–more than 14 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds–as well as taking part in 150 minutes of weekly moderate exercise may help slow the progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes, according to a research review in Lancet.
Eat Eggs to Prevent Diabetes
Eggs are one of my favorite foods—they’re a good source of protein. When I need an easy go-to dinner, I’ll whip up an egg-white veggie omelet or scrambled eggs.
And many weekend mornings, I’ll make a hearty French toast with a batter of an egg, two egg whites, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a dash of nutmeg, topped with chopped pecans and pan-fried bananas or apples.
Now, a study of 2,332 middle-aged and older Finnish men in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people eating more eggs–including ones in recipes–had a significantly decreased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
In the study, low intake was about 1 medium egg per week, while high intake was about 3 ½ medium eggs weekly.
A possible explanation for these findings is that in the United States and many other countries, eggs are often eaten alongside other fatty foods. This includes processed red meat like bacon and sausage, which are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
In this study, egg eaters were less likely to smoke and ate a healthier diet, including unprocessed red meat and foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and fruits and vegetables. As well, eggs offer many nutrients that could benefit health.
Eggs are known to be a high-cholesterol food, with about 200 milligrams (mg) cholesterol per egg. When the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines came out, we heard that dietary cholesterol is no longer the concern we once thought it was.
The report, which was submitted to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services in preparation for the development of the new U.S. Dietary Guidelines, notes that there is no conclusive link between intake of dietary cholesterol–like the cholesterol found in eggs– and blood cholesterol levels.
The previous recommended daily cap for dietary cholesterol was 300 mg, and cholesterol has often been linked with high blood sugar levels and increased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
In fact, other research shows that more important for lowering blood LDL cholesterol levels is increasing intake of monounsaturated fat–found in avocados, olives, and nuts–and polyunsaturated fats–found in canola oil and flaxseeds.
Also important is keeping intake of saturated fat less than 10% of calories, so about 17 grams of saturated fat per a 1,500-calorie daily diet.
These findings show we shouldn’t be afraid of moderate egg intake–and that this egg intake should be alongside foods that are either low in fat or rich in healthy fats, as well as nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. Other studies still link very high egg intake with increased risk for heart disease.
People who have heart disease or diabetes should speak with their doctor about egg intake.
Eat Healthy Fats to Prevent Diabetes
What do flaxseeds, grapeseed oil, and sunflower seeds all have in common? They’re all sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and are ingredients I regularly include in my snacks and meals.
Foods rich in PUFAs have many health benefits. For one, they may help you lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol, which might help decrease your risk of heart disease.
And other research, including a study in Nutrition found an association between higher intakes of omega-3 ALA and omega 6 PUFAs and a lower risk of metabolic syndrome risk factors. The study authors asked a random sample of adults about their usual eating habits and food choices to highlight these connections.
If you didn’t know, metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three specific conditions occurring at the same time—including high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, low HDL “good” cholesterol, high triglycerides, and a larger waistline—that may put you at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and possibly type 2 diabetes.
Here are a few PUFA-rich foods to try that offer both ALA and omega-6 fatty acids:
- Grapeseed oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds
When it comes to fats, you might be wondering if you should eat butter in moderation. Per Tablespoon, butter contains almost 12 grams of fat and 7 grams saturated fat. The same amount of olive oil has a little more fat (about 14 grams) but much less saturated fat, about 2 grams.
A meta-analysis and systematic review study in PLOS One analyzed nine prospective studies of butter consumption, finding no association with heart disease and diabetes—and a very small one for all-cause mortality.
What this suggests: Butter has a neutral association with health, neither increasing nor decreasing risk for some diseases.
While it’s not a healthful choice, in moderation it may not be harmful to your health. However, more research is needed to confirm this, including randomized trials.
This is in contrast to foods associated with an increased risk of disease, such as processed meats impacting and cancer risk, and added sugars–especially sugar-sweetened beverages–heightening risk of obesity and diabetes.
And of course, there are the foods that have a clear benefit to health, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains (such as brown rice), nuts, legumes, and oils like olive, canola, soybean, and sunflower oil.
The study authors state that margarine, spreads, and cooking oils containing heart-healthy oils like olive, canola, or soybean are healthier choices than butter.
Your best bet? If you like it, continue to eat butter in moderation—but sub in heart-healthy oils and other creamy spreads, such as roasted garlic on bread or plain Greek yogurt as a baked potato topping, when possible. You don't want to eat a high-fat diet, but incorporating healthy fats into your daily diet is a good idea.
Cook Your Own Meals to Prevent Diabetes
Turns out that cooking meals at home may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. In a study in PLOS Medicine, researchers looked at almost 100,000 adults–who were all healthcare professionals–and followed them over 24 to 26 years.
The study authors found that people eating between five and seven midday meals at home had a 9% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Dinner had an even bigger impact: Adults eating the same number of meals at home had a 15% lower risk of developing diabetes.
The study didn’t look at particular foods eaten at home, just whether they were prepared at home. These volunteers also gained less weight and were less likely to become obese.
These findings are in line with previous studies showing an association between fast food intake and increased risk of diabetes—and frequently eating restaurant food (including fast food) is linked with weight gain.
A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- A Dose–Response Evaluation of Freeze‐Dried Strawberries Independent of Fiber Content on Metabolic Indices in Abdominally Obese Individuals with Insulin Resistance in a Randomized, Single‐Blinded, Diet‐Controlled Crossover Trial, Molecular Nutrition & Food Research
- Sugar-Sweetened Beverage but Not Diet Soda Consumption Is Positively Associated with Progression of Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes, The Journal of Nutrition
- Prediabetes: A High-Risk State for Developing Diabetes, Lancet
- Egg Consumption and Risk of Incident Type 2 Diabetes in Men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines
- Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in the U.S. Population
- Facts About Polyunsaturated Fats,
- Association Between Interaction and Ratio of ω-3 and ω-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid and the Metabolic Syndrome in Adults, Nutrition
- Metabolic Syndrome,
- Is Butter Back? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Butter Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Total Mortality, PLOS One
- Consumption of Meals Prepared at Home and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: An Analysis of Two Prospective Cohort Studies, PLOS Medicine
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I'd love to hear from you! What other advice do you have for following a pre diabetic diet? What other healthy eating tips do you have for people with prediabetes? How do you incorporate physical activity into your day?
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