Diabetes mellitus is a complex disease characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Most people with diabetes have the type 2 form, which is linked to either a resistance to insulin (the hormone responsible for removing glucose from the blood) or inadequate production of this hormone in the pancreas. While the development of type 2 diabetes is closely linked to genetic factors, regular physical activity and sensible nutrition have been shown to reduce the likelihood of its occurrence by as much as 60 percent.
That being said, to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, or to effectively manage the disease if you already have it, exercise regularly and implement the following dietary strategies for better health.
Avoid Overly Processed, Refined Carbohydrates
Regular consumption of refined carbohydrates (carbs) has repeatedly been shown to contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Refined carbohydrates include highly processed foods like flour, pasta, white bread, pastries, chips, candy, cookies, soft drinks, and many cereals. These foods are especially problematic because they tend to digest and absorb rapidly causing pronounced rises in blood glucose and insulin levels.
Refined carbohydrates are also generally low in health-promoting micronutrients so it’s best to consume them in extreme moderation or not at all.
Opt for Foods Rich in “Good” Carbohydrates
Healthier (“good”) carbohydrate-rich foods like vegetables and fruit, whole grains (oatmeal, quinoa, and wild rice), and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) are less likely to cause significant spikes in blood glucose after consumption. They also house lots of dietary fiber. Fiber inhibits sudden spikes in blood glucose by slowing its digestion and absorption in the small intestines. Good carbs are also packed full of essential vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants that promote overall good health.
For maximum protection, consume five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruit every day along with a combined 3-5 daily servings of whole grains and legumes.
Enjoy Moderate Amounts of Healthy Fat
Healthy fats (monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids) help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by stabilizing blood glucose levels and keeping insulin at bay. These fats are naturally housed in a variety of foods that can effortlessly be included in your everyday diet. To spice up a salad, add a serving of avocado, nuts, flaxseeds or lightly seasoned olive oil. You can also enjoy 1-2 tablespoons of hummus or your favorite nut butter (peanut, walnut or almond butter) as a tasty sandwich spread or dip.
Now, although these fats are considered “healthy”, moderation is key, as they tend to be relatively high in calories.
Consume High-Quality Protein-Rich Foods
Protein is the absolute best macronutrient for keeping your blood sugar and insulin levels under control, thereby reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. High-quality food sources like lean meats, poultry, seafood and fish, eggs, cheese, and whole soy products are generally devoid of sugars so there’s never a need for the body to metabolize it. In addition, when consumed in combination with carbohydrates, protein tends to slow the digestion and absorption of glucose, reducing the likelihood of unhealthy spikes.
In addition to animal-based foods and soy products, you can obtain substantial amounts of protein from a combination of nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
All and all, there’s ample evidence to show that adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors is the best way to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes or successfully manage the disease. By implementing these four dietary strategies, you can successfully control your blood glucose levels and body weight over the long-term. This is especially important since 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
In conjunction with sensible eating, incorporating exercise and daily physical activity greatly supports effective blood glucose management, weight control, and overall good health.
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Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.
Before starting an exercise training program you should first make sure that exercise is safe for you. If you are under the age of 55 years and generally in good health, it is probably safe for you to exercise. However, if you are over 55 years of age and/or have any health problems, be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise training program.