3 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

As you probably know, type two diabetes is the kind you get, while type one is the kind you're born with. But how you get it is a little more complicated. The mechanism is simple: As the Mayo Clinic puts it, type two diabetes “develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin.” But why or how this happens isn’t totally clear. We do know that genetics and lifestyle factors—such as being overweight—seem to play a role. And once a person develops diabetes there's no cure (though the disease can be managed with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise).

But three new studies being presented to the American Society of Nutrition suggest there are some simple ways that those who are prediabetic can reduce their risk, by simply switching up what—and, more curiously, how—they eat. Here are three ways to reduce your risk of developing diabetes, and the studies that support them:

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Eat More Plants

Plant-based diets have already been linked to lower risks of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and cognitive disease. Now, new research says it can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well. The study followed 2,717 young adults in the U.S. for over 20 years and found that those who consumed more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and vegetable oils had a 60% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than their counterparts who consumed less plant-based foods.

That list of foods may seem familiar. That's because the participants essentially followed a Mediterranean-style diet—though they ate a plant-forward diet, many still consumed meat and dairy. This is noteworthy, because it suggests you don’t have to be a full-on vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits—you just have to eat more whole plant foods (#MeatlessMonday, anyone?)

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Aim for More B2 and B6

B12 may get the health halo, but B2 and B6 may actually be more important for preventing type 2 diabetes. In fact, one study found that eating more B12 was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes!

Though total B12 intake wasn’t linked to a higher risk, odds rose 11% when researchers looked at just food-related B12, which they believe stems from eating more animal foods. On the other hand, researchers found those who ate more B2 and B6 had a 10% reduced type 2 diabetes risk.

So how do you get B2 and B6? B2, also called riboflavin, can be found in foods such as eggs, green veggies, low-fat dairy, and fortified grain products. Vitamin B6 can be found in foods such as chickpeas, fish, potatoes, fortified grains, and bananas.

Fill Up on Veggies First

You probably already know that what you eat matters, but a new study says when you eat it matters, too! Those who ate their vegetables before meat or rice had lower blood sugar levels and more positive changes in their hunger hormones. It may be a tiny change, but the study suggests preventing post-meal blood sugar spikes could actually help reduce your risk of transitioning from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes over time.

The Bottom Line

Eating a healthy diet full of plants and making simple tweaks at mealtime can help seriously reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. As always, talk to your doctor first before making any changes to your diet.

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