Choose carbs wisely: The glycemic index (GI) is a value assigned to foods based on how quickly or slowly they spike your blood sugar levels. For someone with diabetes, high GI foods (like refined sugar or other simple carbohydrates like white rice and bread) can cause blood glucose levels to shoot up rapidly. Make sure that your carbs are high-fiber, whole grains – like legumes, brown rice, or quinoa – as these foods are high in nutrients and break down slowly into the bloodstream.
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Eating right and exercising more often is good for everyone. But it's especially important for people with type 2 diabetes. When people put on too much body fat, it's because they're eating more calories than they use each day. The body stores that extra energy in fat cells. Over time, gaining pounds of extra fat can lead to obesity and diseases related to obesity, like type 2 diabetes.
There is convincing evidence that diets rich in whole grains protect against diabetes, whereas diets rich in refined carbohydrates lead to increased risk (53). In the Nurses’ Health Studies I and II, for example, researchers looked at the whole grain consumption of more than 160,000 women whose health and dietary habits were followed for up to 18 years. Women who averaged two to three servings of whole grains a day were 30 percent less likely to have developed type 2 diabetes than those who rarely ate whole grains. (21) When the researchers combined these results with those of several other large studies, they found that eating an extra 2 servings of whole grains a day decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 21 percent.
Absolutely. We can beat diabetes. The disease process associated with diabetes (which leads to heart attacks, strokes, and other crippling illnesses) can be slowed and even partially reversed by controlling blood glucose and other cardiovascular disease risk factors. For maximum effectiveness, blood glucose must be controlled at near normal levels throughout most of the day via loss of excess weight, particularly belly fat, as well as daily physical activity, and, if necessary, medications and insulin injections.
In addition to the millions of adults with diabetes, another 57 million adults have “pre-diabetes.” (7) This early warning sign is characterized by high blood sugar levels on a glucose tolerance test or a fasting glucose test. Whether pre-diabetes expands into full-blown type 2 diabetes is largely up to the individual. Making changes in weight, exercise, and diet can not only prevent pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes, but can also return blood glucose levels to the normal range.
Losing weight and keeping it off. Weight control is an important part of diabetes prevention. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 10 percent of your current weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose between 10 to 20 pounds. And once you lose the weight, it is important that you don't gain it back.
Even if you have not been told that you have prediabetes, you could be worried about it, since 90% of the people with prediabetes are unaware that they have it. You are at higher risk if you are over 45 years old, do not get much exercise, have a family history of diabetes, or are African American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander.