Diabetes prevention: Eat healthier

Examining your diet and eating habits is a great first step to reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes. That's because what you eat – or don't eat – directly affects your risk. You might be wondering how. Here's the path from the foods you eat to type 2 diabetes:

  • Your body turns the carbohydrates you eat, such as those from starches or fruits, into glucose.
  • As glucose levels increase, your pancreas pumps out insulin, which helps your cells absorb that glucose.
  • If you eat too much of the wrong kinds (and not enough of the right kinds) of foods, it can lead to your body's cells becoming resistant to insulin.
  • This resistance makes your pancreas pump out even more insulin.
  • Your insulin production eventually wears down and decreases, at which point you have developed type 2 diabetes.

Here are some key steps you can take to improve your eating habits and prevent type 2 diabetes:

  • Choose foods rich in fibre: Fibre can be found in certain green vegetables, fruits, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), oat bran, rice bran, psyllium, and barley. Fibre, specifically soluble fibre, helps to reduce cholesterol and slow digestion, which helps improve blood glucose control.
  • Consume more whole grains: Evidence has shown that diets rich in whole grains help prevent diabetes, while those high in refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, and other carbs that cause a sharp increase in blood glucose) increase your risk.
  • Focus on "good" fats: Avoid foods high in saturated fats, and stay away from trans fats altogether. Instead, eat foods that contain "good" fats – mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which can help to lower your diabetes risk. These fats can be found in nuts and seeds, avocado, tofu, and healthy vegetable oils like olive oil. 4
  • Cut back on sugary drinks: The sugar in pop and juices can cause increased blood glucose, but the weight gain from drinking too many sugary drinks may also be to blame. Opt instead to drink water, tea, or coffee.
  • Pick the most nutritious sources of protein: Limit your intake of red meat and processed meats. Even if consumed in small amounts, these foods have been found to increase the risk of diabetes. Switch to leaner, more nutritious protein sources, like poultry, fish, low-fat dairy, and nuts.
  • Ask for help: Should the pursuit of nutrition prove too much to handle, reach out for help. Ask your health care provider to recommend a registered dietitian, who can work with you to create a diet plan that suits your health needs and your lifestyle.

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