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4 healthy nutrition tips for diabetes prevention

Nearly one in ten Americans has type 2 diabetes and the rates are on the rise. While some diabetes risk factors are unavoidable, such as aging and genetics, others are related to nutrition and lifestyle. You can arm yourself with the right information to help reduce the risk of diabetes for yourself and your loved ones.

Early warning signs of diabetes include insulin resistance, which is the lack of a normal response of cells to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas. It acts like a key opening the cells in the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When glucose is unable to enter the cells, the pancreas makes more insulin trying to keep up with rising blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is unhealthy and comes with health consequences such as heart disease, kidney disease and vision problems.

Symptoms of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes can occur over several years and can even go unnoticed. This makes it important to be aware of one’s own risk of developing diabetes. Risk factors for diabetes include a family history of diabetes, a personal history of gestational diabetes, age, inactivity and high blood pressure, among others.

When it comes to lifestyle, the best nutritional approaches to take to help prevent diabetes can be a bit confusing. In addition, there are myths that can further blur our understanding of how to make the best food choices to reduce diabetes risk.

Here are some science-backed nutrition tips for diabetes prevention:Nearly one in ten Americans has type 2 diabetes and the rates are on the rise. (Getty Images)

Consume Two Servings of Fruit Per Day

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that those who eat two servings of fruit per day have a 36 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes over five years compared to those who eat less than half a serving of fruit per day. This relationship was associated with whole fruit consumption, but not fruit juice. These findings can help debunk the myth that eating fruit leads to diabetes.

Swap Out Animal Protein for Plant Protein

A growing body of evidence shows the relationship between reducing animal protein and decreasing diabetes risk. For example, University of Eastern Finland researchers found that men with the highest intake of plant protein were 35 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to men with the lowest intake of plant protein. Keep in mind that plant protein comes from foods like beans, grain, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

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Limit or Avoid Alcohol

Drinking alcohol, especially in excess, is a factor to consider when weighing diabetes risk. Alcohol is a source of calories that do not provide any nutritional benefit. Alcohol as a source of extra calories consumed over time can unintentionally lead to weight gain that raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Plus, heavy drinking can cause insulin resistance. Moderate alcohol intake, defined as one alcoholic beverage per drinking occasion, is generally associated with reduced diabetes risk for those who choose to drink alcohol.

Choose Whole Grains Instead of Refined Grains

Foods high in carbohydrates, such as grains, often get a bad reputation when it comes to blood sugar and diabetes risk. However, not all grain products should be lumped together. What matters is the quality of the carbohydrate food. Refined and processed grains lack beneficial fiber and nutrients, impacting how they are processed in the body. A large-scale study published last year in BMJ found that a higher intake of whole grains like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, wheat germ, and brown rice was associated with a significant reduction in type 2 diabetes risk.

LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian, providing nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and organizations. She can be reached by email at RD@halfacup.com.

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