National Healthy Lunch Day: 8 Ways to Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

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lentil-saladToday is National Healthy Lunch Day, organized by the American Diabetes Association to raise awareness about the need to make healthy choices at lunchtime.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to metabolize the amount of sugar that you are ingesting. Diet, excess body weight, lack of exercise, and heredity  often play significant roles in developing type 2 diabetes. At least 92% of type 2 diabetes cases can be attributed to lifestyle choices, with 8% attributable to genetics.

Basically, type 2 diabetes is often extremely preventable. Here are eight ways in which you can reduce your risk.

1. Get moving, lose weight: The association between abdominal fat, or the apple-shaped body, and type 2 diabetes is well established. Fat cells, particularly abdominal adipocytes, secrete a number of biological products that slow the effects of insulin, impair the body’s ability to use sugar, and interfere with insulin production from the pancreas.

A 2005 study assessing twice-weekly progressive resistance training in older men with type 2 diabetes found a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity and fasting glucose as well as decreased abdominal fat. Even walking 30 minutes a day can help keep type 2 diabetes at bay.

2. Spice it up:  A clinical trial in 2003 where patients were given different amounts of cinnamon found that all groups showed reduced levels of fasting glucose, triglyceride, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels.

Cinnamon appears to work due to maximizing insulin receptor function. These herbs do not stimulate pancreatic insulin synthesis that can potentially worsen insulin resistance. Combined with lifestyle modifications, the effects were even better.

3. Increase fiber intake: Americans should be getting at least 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day, yet many of us typically eat only half of that. People with a low fiber intake are at increased risk of developing diabetes, as fiber helps to lower glucose levels, decrease appetite, and increase satiety.  Simple ways to get fiber are:

Whole grain breads
Brown rice
Oatmeal or bran-based cereals
“P” fruits (peaches, pears and prunes)
Green leafy vegetables
Legumes such as kidney, garbanzo, lentil, and black beans, which carry 5 to 8 grams of fiber per half cup serving

If you still are having a hard time getting enough fiber, adding a supplement like Clear Fiber, can help.

4. Eliminate bad carbohydrates: Foods that contain refined white sugar and white flour that has been stripped of its nutritional value have been responsible for a dramatic increase in obesity over the past few decades.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is another carbohydrate to avoid. It can be found in just about everything from baked goods and frozen foods to sugary drinks that are low in nutritive value and high in calories. A 2004 meta-analysis concluded that HFCS, along with declining intake of fiber, has been the leading factor in the development of obesity in the United States during the last 30 years.

To avoid HFCS, read the labels on everything you buy (even whole grain breads) and purchase those without HFCS; stick with food items that have been sweetened naturally with fruit juices or raw cane sugar.

5. Ditch the diet soda:  Studies illustrate that people using “diet” foods (those with artificial sweeteners) actually have a higher risk of developing obesity – thus a higher risk of diabetes. People consuming diet beverages actually ate more food than those drinking non-diet ones.

6. Correct nutritional deficiencies: A variety of nutrients are required for proper glucose regulation, insulin sensitivity, adequate metabolism, and to keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. Two of the most important are magnesium and chromium.

Magnesium:  Reported to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and to improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetic patients, magnesium-rich foods include whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.

Chromium: An important cofactor of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF), chromium is required for the binding of insulin to cell membranes. In 2006, researchers at Yale University studied 43 type 2 diabetics who were on hypoglycemic agents with poorly controlled blood sugar levels and found that chromium (600 mcg/day) combined with the B vitamin, biotin (2 mg/day), enhanced glucose uptake and disposal.

7. Do the Mediterranean diet:The Mediterranean diet is rich in heart-healthy fiber, fish, fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated (good) fats, particularly olive oil, and is low in meats, dairy products and saturated fats.

A 2009 study included 215 overweight adults with type 2 diabetes who were not receiving medication. The participants were randomly assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet for 4 years. By the end of the study, 44% of patients in the Mediterranean diet group required treatment compared to 70% in the low-fat group.

Additionally, people who followed the Mediterranean diet lost more weight and experienced greater improvements in heart disease risk factors.

8. Reduce your toxicity level: There are numerous studies identifying how low levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and cadmium increase the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. Heavy metals have been shown to promote oxidation, disturb healthy functioning of the pancreas, and interfere with insulin secretion.

In addition, the pancreas is affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as bisphenol A and phthalates that leach from plastics and resin-lined cans. It’s advisable to avoid plastic containers, such as food storage containers and water bottles, and use glass or stainless steel containers whenever possible.

Installing a good quality water filter in your home – one that removes heavy metals from your water source – is another good strategy in preventing this sadly ubiquitous disease.

Before taking any supplements, talk to a nutritional adviser or your primary care practitioner.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023