What are the most important healthy habits for the prevention of type 2 diabetes?
We have some wonderful research showing that even people at high risk for diabetes can prevent the diagnosis or at least delay it. In the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) – a study of more than 3,000 people at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes – researchers found that weight loss and increased physical activity prevented or delayed the onset of the disease. The goals for DPP participants were to lose seven percent of their body weight (14 pounds for someone starting at 200 pounds) and to exercise for 150 minutes weekly. In this three-year study, participants reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Even 10 years after the start of the study, the lifestyle interventions lowered the risk of diabetes by 34 percent.
I counsel my patients at risk for developing type 2 diabetes to do the following:
· Reduce portions/calorie intake to facilitate weight loss of 5-10% of starting weight
· Keep a food record to maintain commitment and to look for patterns
· Be physically active every day even if for only 5 to 10 minutes
· Eat a variety of foods within a variety of food groups
· Eat fruits and/or vegetables with every meal and snack
· Get to be on time because sleep deprivation increases insulin resistance,
which is the underlying cause of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes
What are your recommendations of healthy food choices to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes?
I find that most people don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables and beans, so I’m constantly pushing these three food groups. They contain thousands of health-boosting phytochemicals, so we really can’t afford to skimp on them. Some of these health boosters help to shield the body against diabetes, reduce inflammation, protect against heart disease and have myriad other functions. Additionally, we have research suggesting that other foods or dietary factors may influence insulin resistance. These are just a few.
· Sprinkle cinnamon: Cinnamon might help lower blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. I add it to it oatmeal, cottage cheese, yogurt and coffee.
· Enjoy oats and barley: Beta-glucan, a fiber in these two whole grains, appears to lower both glucose and insulin levels. I really enjoy muesli (made of raw oats, raisins and nuts) sprinkled over cottage cheese or yogurt.
· Drizzle vinegar: Research suggests that both blood glucose and insulin levels decrease when vinegar is consumed with a high-carbohydrate meal.
Why is yogurt a good choice for people trying to prevent diabetes or for people who already have type 2 diabetes?
Some research suggests that consuming several servings of yogurt weekly may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Aside from that though, yogurt is terrific because it’s a source of protein, calcium and several vitamins and minerals. If my patients are cutting calories to lose weight, they are also at risk for losing lean body mass. I want them to have adequate protein at each meal to minimize muscle loss and maximize fat loss.
Yogurt is a perfect backdrop for other missing food groups. I enjoy plain yogurt mixed with fruit or vegetables. A simple and delicious salad or condiment is plain yogurt mixed with finely chopped cucumber and either fresh dill or mint. I also mix yogurt with fresh fruit, muesli and cinnamon. And when I eat soups, stews and beans, I enjoy a dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt on top to add texture, coolness and a boost of protein. You can try it with this Curried Chicken and Chickpea Stew or this Turkey Taco Soup. Cheers to good health and great flavor!
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND, CHWC is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert with more than two decades experience. Through writing, speaking, one-on-one coaching and working with the media, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. She has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is also a Wellcoach® certified health and wellness coach.
She is the author of the best-selling book Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week, as well as two other well-received nutrition and health books: The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. Jill is a consultant and spokesperson to the food industry and a freelance writer for a variety of magazines and websites, including Diabetic Living, Kids Eat Right and Food & Nutrition magazine. Jill is a two-time graduate of the University of Florida. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the American Diabetes Association.