Does diabetes run in your family? Are you worried that your lifestyle is setting you on a path that you may develop it too? If so, the chances are that you are on the lookout for something that can help you prevent diabetes. With all the information and misinformation, it can get confusing to find out what to do to prevent this from happening.
Simple steps to naturally reduce the risk of diabetes include controlling your weight, exercising regularly, and eating healthy. People also turn towards integrative medicine to keep the side effects of drugs minimal or completely getting off diabetic medicine all together. Nonetheless, changing your diet plays a crucial role in preventing diabetes.
When aiming to treat a medical condition by food, deciding what to eat more and what to eat less can become quite a challenge. Generally, most people aim to consume less sugar however, it is also essential to add certain foods to your diet that can help prevent type 2 diabetes or complications associated with diabetes, such as cardiac disorders.
To help you on your journey we’ve put together a list of foods that you can add to your diet to help prevent and manage diabetes.
Can I Prevent Diabetes Naturally?
The nutritional requirements of a person with diabetes and a healthy individual potentially susceptible to it are very similar. It’s important to pay close attention to what you eat, particularly when considering foods containing high carbohydrates. Following a controlled diet plan can help you shed some pounds, which can help lower your blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.
Preventing type 2 diabetes is possible using an Integrative Medicine approach that includes using food as medicine and implementing lifestyle changes where needed. Even for people who have developed diabetes and want to reverse it, making positive lifestyle changes and dietary modifications will do wonders.
Diet To Lower The Risk Of Diabetes
The primary factor in reducing the risk of diabetes and keeping your blood sugar in check is eating a balanced diet rather than having a diet completely devoid of sugar. The concept of eating more protein and reduced the risk of developing diabetes is a myth. Research has found that consuming a lot of protein can actually lead to insulin resistance. The truth is that your body needs a natural diet consisting of a balanced amount of carbs, protein, and fat to stay healthy.
The Best Foods To Include In Your Diet To Prevent Diabetes:
1. Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil contains oleic acid that controls the glucose levels in the blood and has immense antioxidant potential. In a study, olive oil has also been found to decrease the risk of heart disease.
Polyphenols present in olive oil help decrease inflammation, have antioxidant properties, reduce blood pressure, and keep bad cholesterol levels low.
Make sure to use extra-virgin olive oil as it is a pure and unrefined form, which retains most of its antioxidant and other beneficial properties.
2. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (FA) and fiber. It can help reduce the risk of cardiac disease and enhance blood sugar management. Studies suggest that flaxseeds are great for heart health, gut activity, insulin sensitivity, and feelings of fullness.
Store flaxseeds in an airtight jar in the refrigerator and grind them before eating for adequate absorption in your body.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Even though apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apples, it’s one tablespoon consists of only 1g carbs, as the sugar in the apple is converted into acetic acid.
A study showed that apple cider vinegar has beneficial effects on fasting blood sugar levels. Apple cider vinegar is strongly acidic. You can drink it with a glass of water with only 1 – 2 tbsp of the vinegar added or make your own homemade salad dressing with EVOO and some salt to taste.
Numerous fish varieties, including sardines, salmon, herring, and mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered to offer tremendous benefits for cardiovascular health.
It is essential for both diabetic patients and non-diabetic susceptible individuals to consume enough omega-3 FA regularly. This will help keep their heart healthy and protected from cardiac complications. It has also been highlighted by research that eating fish laden with omega-3 FA can enhance your body’s glycemic control even after meals.
5. Leafy Green Vegetables
Eating vegetables can help your body protect itself from numerous health conditions, including diabetes. Green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of minerals, vitamins, and calcium. These include spinach, lettuce, kale, cucumber, and arugula.
While vegetables offer a high nutritional value, they are low in calories and can help you in reducing weight. You can eat green leafy vegetables in their raw form or cooked in a meal.
When it comes to natural health benefits, fruits are always considered the go-to option. All fruits, including strawberries, bananas, apples, etc., are nutritious and help combat various conditions, including diabetes. Fruits are an essential component of a healthy diet and are highly recommended by healthcare providers and professional nutritionists.
The key here is to eat the whole fruit, not juice. As the fiber helps to keep your blood sugar low and also has other health benefits as well.
Most fruits are full of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. For example, one 2017 study reported that polyphenols present in strawberries and cranberries, when consumed for six weeks, enhanced insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic overweight and obese individuals.
7. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an excellent example of using food as medicine. They are beneficial for both non-diabetics and diabetics. Chia seeds have high fiber content and are low in carbs. Including chia seeds in your daily diet has the following health benefits:
- No elevation in blood glucose levels
- Help control blood sugar levels in diabetics
- Slows down sugar absorption from food
- Help in losing weight
Yogurt is a milk-derivative and a part of dairy products that are known to modulate excess sugars. It is abundant in protein, calcium, and natural sugars. What’s more? Fresh yogurt consists of probiotics, which are incredibly beneficial for your gut health.
Greek yogurt has less lactose and is especially beneficial for people with lactose intolerance. You should consume plain and fresh yogurt instead of flavored one to avoid consuming artificial sugars.
Some food items that need to be avoided when planning to take on diabetes are:
- Fast foods, particularly those containing added sweeteners, baked items, chips, and desserts
- White bread and refined pasta
- Sugary beverages or even diet drinks
- Low-fat foods that contain added sugar
When following a customized diet plan to prevent diabetes, you don’t need to restrict sugars entirely. You can consume natural sugars and treat your taste buds with your favorite delights, provided that you don’t go overboard. What makes all the difference is the serving size and the type of carbohydrates you take.
Wise eating will not only help you stay protected from diabetes; it will also keep other ailments at bay. Moreover, even if you are already diabetic, sensible dietary choices can save you from severe diabetic complications.
Dr. Shad (Farshad Fani Marvasti, MD, MPH) is a Stanford-trained medical doctor, associate professor in academic medicine, speaker, and author with expertise in nutrition and culinary medicine, wellness, public health and prevention.
Follow Dr. Shad on Social Media
- Horrigan B, Lewis S, Abrams DI, Pechura C. Integrative Medicine in America—How Integrative Medicine Is Being Practiced in Clinical Centers Across the United States. Glob Adv Health Med. 2012;1(3):18-94. doi:10.7453/gahmj.2012.1.3.006
- Segal J et al. The Diabetes Diet. The help guide. Oct, 2020. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/the-diabetes-diet.htm
- Kubala J. The 16 Best Foods to Control Diabetes. Healthline. Sept, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-best-foods-for-diabetics
- Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes. Harvard T.H. Chan. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/disease-prevention/diabetes-prevention/preventing-diabetes-full-story/
- Stein N. Which Foods Should I Eat to Prevent Diabetes? March, 2019. https://www.lark.com/blog/foods-to-prevent-diabetes/