Nearly 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, but new research suggests we may be able to reduce that number simply by changing the way we eat. In a joint review conducted by Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that diet and nutrition play a critical role in the prevention and control of type 2 diabetes. (Type 2 is the most common form of the disease, in which the body doesn’t use insulin properly and blood sugar levels are higher than normal.)
In particular, patients who followed a Mediterranean-style diet rich in healthy fats from fish, olive oil and avocado (along with leafy green vegetables, low-sugar fruits, plain Greek yogurt and nuts) had a lower risk of developing diabetes, even when they didn’t restrict caloric intake or lose any weight. This was in contrast to participants who followed a strictly low-fat diet, which typically includes more refined carbohydrates known to stimulate insulin secretion.
Indeed, new research confirms that diet quality—especially the type of fats and carbohydrates consumed—is intrinsically connected to healthy blood sugar, metabolism and fat storage. Evidence of this was seen in overweight patients who had been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; when they switched to a Mediterranean diet they had less need for blood sugar-lowering medication compared with those following a low-fat diet.
According to study author and Harvard professor Dr. Osama Hamdy, “We undertook this review because we believe that most of the current dietary guidelines for patients with diabetes do not reflect recent evidence. Nutrition can be used as a medicine to prevent and control diabetes in a very effective way.” Whether you have type 2 diabetes or simply want to maintain optimal health, here are 5 simple tips for improving your diet quality:
- Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits.
- Eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates and grains.
- Eat healthy fats such as Omega-3 (fish oil), Omega-9 (olive oil), and medium-chain triglyceride saturated fat (coconut oil); reduce your intake of unhealthy Omega-6 fats (mostly vegetable oil).
- Eat at least 12 portions of lean protein daily.
- Eat fermented foods, which contain beneficial bacteria.