Excluding foods like unprocessed red meat and sugary drinks are important steps to reducing the risk of diabetes, but looking at your diet as a whole can be just as important.
“Studies have shown that three different types of diets can have a positive impact on your risk for diabetes: the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and a diet based on the Healthy Eating Index. Keep reading to find out more:”
The Mediterranean Diet is, unsurprisingly, based on the eating habits of countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It largely consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish/seafood, and moderate alcohol consumption (mainly red wine). Red meat is occasionally added to meals, but isn’t as much of a staple as it is in American diets. Olive oil is also an important component, replacing generally unhealthier processed oils like corn oil or canola oil.
This diet not only spans a wide variety of flavorful foods, it also has been linked with a reduction in the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. A review of eight different studies showed strong evidence that the risk of developing diabetes decreased by 9%-25% through eating the foods found in the Mediterranean diet.
Originally developed to lower high blood pressure, the full name of the DASH Diet is Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Sometimes called an “Americanized version of the Mediterranean Diet,” the DASH Diet is big on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and lean meats, nuts, and legumes. Unlike the Mediterranean Diet, however, the DASH Diet has guidelines to limit sodium intake.
Studies show that this diet follows through on its original goal of lower blood pressure, but it also helps reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Over the years, the DASH Diet has gotten several updates as well, making it more effective at other aspects of general health like losing weight.
USDA Dietary Guidelines
Less of a “diet” and more general eating recommendations for people, the US Department of Agriculture has put together a list of foods that constitute healthy eating habits. These foods include lots of different types of vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, protein from a range of sources (seafood, poultry, eggs, soy, beans, nuts, and seeds), and plant-based oils like canola and olive oil. Much like other diets, USDA guidelines restrict sodium and sugar.
Diets that stick closely to the USDA guidelines have been proven to reduce the risk of diabetes. Researchers did find an interesting twist, however. Studies done in America showed a decreased risk of diabetes in people adhering to USDA guidelines, but a study done in Europe did not yield the same results. It’s unclear whether this difference was because of how the studies were carried out or because people eat different foods in the two locations. Either way, if you live in the US it’s a good bet that following the USDA guidelines will increase your overall health and possibly your risk of getting diabetes.
Molly Maloof, MD
Physician, technologist, and entrepreneur
Head of Medical Science at Sano Intelligence
Medical advisor/strategy consultant to over 20 companies in biotechnology, digital health, nutrition, and food industries