How to prevent diabetes naturally: What you need to know about plant-based eating and diabetes

  • 2 Minutes Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Statistics show that many people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years without a healthy lifestyle. Learn how to prevent type 2 diabetes naturally by incorporating a plant-based diet.

How to prevent diabetes naturally

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 97.6 million American adults (38% of US adults) have prediabetes. Prediabetes occurs when an individual’s blood glucose (sugar) is higher than normal but not high enough to diagnose type 2 diabetes. Statistics show that without a healthy lifestyle, many people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. As part of a healthy lifestyle, eating a plant-based diet can help prevent diabetes naturally.

Plant-based eating and diabetes

Why grab an apple instead of the beef jerky?

If you are looking for a practical approach to help prevent type 2 diabetes, consider a plant-based diet. Straightforward and simple, a plant-based diet emphasizes foods derived from plants (vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits) with few or no animal products.

You may wonder how such a diet possibly lowers diabetes risk when most plant foods are rich in carbohydrates. Yes, carbs do have the greatest impact on raising blood sugar if eaten in abundance in one sitting. However, a vegetarian diet that includes minimally processed, nutrient-rich, high-fiber foods shows promising results for diabetes-risk reduction.

Five ways a plant-based diet can help prevent diabetes naturally

1. A lower saturated fat intake improves insulin function in the liver and muscle cells.

Lower in saturated fat, which is found primarily in animal sources, a plant-based diet works to improve insulin function and sensitivity. The body's insulin carries sugar out of the blood and into the body cells. Saturated fat decreases insulin sensitivity, a component of type 2 diabetes.

2. A plant-based diet is also lower in total fat.

Less dietary fat often means fewer calories, which can lead to weight loss. A healthy weight with less central body fat is critical for diabetes prevention. Scientists also think the lower fat intake may activate genes that help protect against cellular changes that increase diabetes risk.

3. The higher fiber content of a plant-based diet improves satiety at meals, so you consume fewer calories.

A high-fiber diet also slows blood sugar absorption. Less blood sugar absorption means less insulin stimulation–both positives for diabetes prevention.

4. Individuals with plant-based diets have lower iron stores.

High-iron stores correlate with insulin resistance and diabetes. Known to increase cellular stress and damage, higher iron levels can, subsequently, lead to chronic inflammation, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

5. Plant-based diets tend to be lower in calories which leads to weight control.

Eating fewer calories may help conserve the pancreatic insulin response at meals. On the other hand, overeating may just “poop out your pancreas” sooner than later.

Plant-based diets include a broad spectrum of eating patterns from vegan (no animal products) to semi-vegetarian.

Need Evidence? Here is a sampling of research in favor of plant-based eating for diabetes prevention and management

The Adventist Health Study 2

The Nurses' Health Studies

A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes

How can you use this information on plant-based eating to treat or prevent diabetes naturally?

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Diabetes->Health Diabetes->Preventing Diabetes Meal Planning & Diets->Vegetarian
Mar 15, 2024

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