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:

  • Your body turns the carbohydrates you eat 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 regularly over long periods of time, it can gradually lead to your body's cells becoming resistant to insulin.
  • This resistance makes your pancreas work harder to pump out more insulin.
  • Eventually, your pancreas may not be able to keep up with your body's growing demand for more insulin and will wear down, at which point you will develop 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 helps to reduce cholesterol and slow digestion, which helps improve blood glucose control.
  • Consume more whole grains: Diets rich in whole grains can 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 salmon, nuts and seeds, avocado, tofu, and omega-3-enriched products, such as eggs.
  • 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 more 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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