Globally, 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014, according to the World Health Organization. This is up nearly fourfold from 1980. More concerning, is that many people don't even know they're at risk with a condition called prediabetes.
Pictured recipe: Ratatouille with White Beans & Polenta
Prediabetes is a condition where your body struggles to produce enough insulin and/or your cells become insulin-resistant. Up to 30 percent of prediabetics will develop type 2 diabetes within five years, according to the CDC. But there are often no symptoms: 9 out of 10 prediabetics don't know they have this condition. The exact cause is unknown, but research implicates genetics, plus being overweight and sedentary. If you are prediabetic, shedding 5 percent of your body weight and logging 150 minutes of brisk walking weekly (that's a 30-minute walk, 5 days a week) can cut your risk in half.
Fortunately, your diet is a promising diabetes prevention strategy. Whether you have prediabetes or are just concerned about your risk, start these habits today.
1. Eat Less Meat
Going meatless may help drop type 2 diabetes risk by nearly one-fourth, according to Harvard researchers. They found that even a tiny move—just 5 percent of your total calories—toward plant-based proteins is beneficial. Swap 100 calories of meat for plant-based proteins daily or transform one meal a week into a vegetarian plate. Get started with this 7-day vegetarian meal plan.
2. Make Half Your Plate Veggies
"Nonstarchy vegetables are filling, low in calories and very low in carbohydrates," says Jill Weisenberger, R.D.N., a certified diabetes educator and the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week. "They're a dieter's best friend." And weight loss is a powerful tool for preventing diabetes.
3. Sprinkle on Nuts and Dried Fruit
Unsweetened dried fruits, provide complex carbohydrates and fiber. And nuts are packed with healthy fats and protein, slowing digestion to blunt the blood sugar response. Together, this duo is linked to lower BMI and better blood glucose control, per a 2016 research review published in Nutrition Journal. If you have diabetes, cap dried fruit at 2 tablespoons daily.
4. Sip Responsibly
Drinking a glass of wine a day slashed odds of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 26 percent compared to people who don't drink at all, per an analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. "A little alcohol helps lower risk of insulin resistance," explains Weisenberger. If you take insulin or sulfonylureas for diabetes, check your blood sugar before bed after drinking alcohol.