How to prevent diabetes naturally: What you need to know about plant-based eating and diabetes
2 Minutes Read
Statistics show that 15-30% of 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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 88 million American adults, more than 1 out of 3, 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, 15-30% of 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) and 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How can you use this information on plant-based eating to treat or prevent diabetes naturally?
Honor your unique eating style and preferences when deciding what type of plant-based diet works for you.
If you eat a plant-based diet, you are on the right track!
Not ready to go vegetarian? Just add more plant foods on your plate and fewer animal foods.
Perhaps try a meatless Monday or include some vegetarian dinners in your week.
If you currently eat a meat-based diet, aim to limit meat to 1/4 of the plate, allowing more room for plant-based foods.
No matter what style of plant-based diet you choose, focus wisely on whole, less-processed foods. Aim for a well-planned, nutrient-rich, plant-based diet.
If you have diabetes, experiment to see if vegetarian meals result in lower post-meal glucose levels.
On a vegan diet, it is crucial to incorporate nutrient-rich foods, like dried beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dark leafy greens, and calcium and vitamin D-fortified foods. This helps you obtain adequate protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, and iodine. You may also need to add a few supplements to meet your nutritional needs on a vegan diet.
To learn more about vegetarian eating, check out these articles: