If you knew that the food you eat could help prevent one of the leading causes of death in the United States, would you pick up some new items at the grocery store? Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death, with more than 30 million Americans living with diabetes in 2015 and another 84 million living with prediabetes.
“You can’t do anything about some risk factors for type 2 diabetes, like your family history, age or race,” says Jill Fujimoto, registered dietician at Newport Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation. “Whether or not these factors apply to you, it is important to have a healthy lifestyle to lower your risk as much as possible.”
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease, and it can often be controlled with diet and exercise. Not only can a healthy diet control type 2 diabetes, but it may also even help prevent it from developing at all.
Here are a few foods that may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes:
Legumes could be a powerful weapon to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that people who eat three and a half servings of legumes each week have a 35% lower risk of developing diabetes. This benefit could be due to the high fiber content and low glycemic index of legumes, which include peas, lentils, peanuts and some beans.
Spinach and other green leafy vegetables may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that one and a half servings a day can reduce the risk by 14%. Green leafy vegetables contain polyphenols, vitamin C and magnesium, all of which can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Whole grains are high in fiber, and eating whole grains can help prevent blood sugar spikes. Fiber is hard to break down, so it helps people feel full longer and eat less. These factors can help prevent type 2 diabetes. In one study, men who ate the most whole grains had a 34% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, while women had a 22% lower risk.
Eating yogurt for breakfast every day could be an additional tool to help prevent diabetes. Researchers found that a daily serving of yogurt — but not other dairy products — was associated with an 18% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Scientists theorize that the probiotics in yogurt might help improve insulin sensitivity.
Nuts are a good part of a healthy diet, containing good fat, protein and fiber. They can be especially helpful for people trying to keep blood sugar levels low. People with diabetes are at risk of heart disease, but research has shown a lower risk for people who eat several servings of tree nuts each week.
Eating well and exercising regularly are the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes. As you work toward a healthy diet, consider incorporating these foods.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.