According to the Centers for Disease Control, one of every three U.S. adults has borderline diabetes, also known as prediabetes. Prediabetes refers to blood sugars that are not high enough to qualify as diabetes but higher than normal because of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance prevents the body from using insulin, which is a hormone that helps the body use glucose or sugar for energy. Prediabetes increases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other associated diseases, such as heart disease. By changing your diet and lifestyle, you can prevent or delay the development of diabetes.
Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar in the body, which causes blood sugars to rise. While they provide energy and important nutrients, carbohydrate portion size is key to lowering blood sugars and reducing risk for diabetes. Carbohydrates are found in bread, cereal, rice, pasta, beans, fruit, milk, yogurt, certain condiments, table sugar, sugary beverages and snack foods. Some vegetables are higher in carbohydrates, such as potatoes, squash, peas, parsnips and corn, but most others contain a minimal amount of carbohydrates. A good rule of thumb is to fill up one quarter of your plate with carbohydrate-containing foods, half your plate with low-carbohydrate vegetables, and one quarter of your plate with lean protein.
Avoiding certain carbohydrates may be helpful for diabetes prevention. Limiting refined grains, such as white bread, and foods high in added sugars, such as desserts and sugary beverages is crucial because they contain easily digested carbohydrates that increase risk for diabetes. Sugary beverages, such as juice and regular soda, should always be avoided because they contain concentrated amounts of sugar that quickly spike up your blood sugar.
The Fiber Connection
The Mayo Clinic suggests that dietary fiber reduces your risk for type 2 diabetes. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Try choosing whole grains, such as bulgur and barley that are high in fiber, instead of white rice or white bread. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends skipping the potatoes and piling up the beans. While potatoes have been associated with weight gain, beans contain protein and are more slowly digested.
Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how a carbohydrate-containing food increases blood sugar levels. Fat and fiber tend to lower the GI index, while processing and ripeness usually increases it. High GI foods include white bread, bagels, corn flakes, rice pasta, short grain white rice, pumpkin, russet potatoes, pretzels, melons and pineapple. Low GI foods include beans, legumes, low-carbohydrate vegetables, most fruits, and whole grains. After focusing on portion control, taking GI index into consideration and choosing more low GI foods and combining high GI foods with low GI foods may be helpful for further improving blood sugar control.
Sodium and Fat
According to the American Heart Association, studies show a positive association between diabetes and heart disease. High blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and high triglycerides is a risk factor for heart disease. Avoiding high sodium foods can help prevent rises in blood pressure. Canned foods, deli meats, salted snacks, fast foods, condiments, pickled and marinated foods are typically high in sodium. Avoiding saturated and trans fat helps improve cholesterol levels. These unhealthy fats are found in red meat, butter, ice cream and processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oils. Instead, choose foods high in unsaturated, healthy fats, such as vegetable oils, fish, nuts and seeds, which help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for both diabetes and heart disease.
Weight Loss and Physical Activity
According to the CDC, research shows that type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented with a 5 to 7 percent weight loss, which is equivalent to a 10 to 14 pound weight loss for a person who weighs 200 pounds. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding high calorie foods, increasing fiber intake to promote satiety and increasing physical activity to one hundred and fifty minutes each week can promote weight loss and reduce your risk for diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, blood glucose levels should be checked every six months to one year.
- CDC: Prediabetes: Am I at risk?
- CDC: Carbohydrates
- Harvard School of Public Health: Type 2 Diabetes
- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates
- Cleveland Clinic: Carbohydrates and blood sugar control for people with diabetes
- American Diabetes Association: Glycemic index and diabetes
- American Heart Association: Cardiovascular disease and diabetes
- Cleveland Clinic: High blood pressure and nutrition
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and cholesterol: out with the bad, in with the good
- Harvard School of Public Health: Healthy Eating Plate