Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common types of chronic disease in the United States today and it’s one many people deal with for over half their entire lifetime.
In fact, the American Diabetes Association states that out of the 29.1 million people that have diabetes, only 1.25 million of those people have type 1 diabetes, the type that’s developed due to genetics and affects people beginning at the early stages of their childhood.
These facts mean that the majority of the individuals who have diabetes are people who suffer from type 2 diabetes, the type of diabetes that’s developed due to lifestyle factors and some genetic components.
The good news is, Type 2 diabetes is completely preventable and manageable unlike type 1 diabetes.
First, let’s look at what diabetes actually is so you can get a full understanding of how the ways to prevent it actually work.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is developed due to the body’s response to the inability to process and use insulin. This is commonly referred to as insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance means that although the body is producing insulin to drive glucose into the cells, the body is for some reason not able to allow that insulin to enter into the cells. Insulin resistance leaves excess glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream.
This condition affects the pancreas, liver, and kidneys leading to type 2 diabetic symptoms and complications.
Short and long-term complications of type 2 diabetes include:
- Low blood sugar
- High blood sugar
- Weight gain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Anxiety, sweating
- Heart complications that lead to heart disease
- Kidney malfunction
- Loss of vision
- Nerve damage
- High cholesterol
- Weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Slow wound healing
- Blurry vision
Risk Factors for Developing Type 2 diabetes include:
- Being Overweight with a BMI greater than 25
- Eating a diet high in processed foods
- Eating a diet high in sugar and fat
- Having someone in your family who has diabetes of either Type 1 or Type 2
- Not exercising or staying active
- Excessive drinking
- High blood pressure
- Impaired glucose intolerance
As bad as all of the risk factors and complications of type 2 diabetes sounds, there are many science-backed ways you can prevent it from affecting you.
Here are 10 of the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes and even reverse many of the symptoms and complications of the disease even if you already have it.
10 Effective Prevention Tips for Diabetes:
1. Quit Smoking or Don’t Start
Smoking is one of the major contributing risks of most types of disease including type 2 diabetes.
Don’t start smoking if you don’t already and if you already start smoking, work with a doctor or naturopath you trust to help you quit. This one change won’t only prevent type 2 diabetes, but it can also reduce your risk of other major types of disease such as heart disease and cancer.
2. Exercise Daily
Even if you just move for 30 minutes each day, do some form of exercise daily.
Exercise and staying active help your body use insulin more efficiently and it can dramatically lower your blood sugar levels.
If daily exercise isn’t possible, walk more to work or when you’re out doing errands, use a standing desk at work, fit in a fitness class during your lunch break least 5 days per week, or be sure to take an hour walk at least 4-5 days a week.
3. Eat Well
One of the best ways to treat, reverse, and prevent type 2 diabetes is obviously through what you feed yourself each day.
Your body needs healthy, plant-based foods that are rich in nutrients to be its healthiest self. In fact, a plant-based, naturally low-fat vegan diet rich in whole foods has been shown to not only prevent type 2 diabetes and treat it too.
Type 2 diabetes and individuals looking to avoid and prevent type 2 diabetes will want to choose the following foods to base their diet off of:
- Low-glycemic grains (such as steel cut or rolled oats) in replacement to bread and crackers
- Calcium-rich and magnesium-rich foods like greens, almonds, seeds, and non-dairy milk products
- If animal products are eaten, only lean (low-fat or fat-free) choices should be eaten.
- Healthy fats like those found in raw nuts and seeds should be consumed before fats found in butter, cheese, red meat, and pork products
- Lean proteins and foods that are high in fiber such as legumes (lentils, beans, peas) which also help lower blood sugar levels and provide protein the body needs
- Very little processed foods, if any (all foods with refined sugar and refined oils should be avoided)
- Eat smaller portions instead of eating most of your calories at one time
- Eating regular meals (instead of skipping meals)
- Skip the white foods (white bread, white rice, white sugar, etc.)
4. Consume Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
While there are several suspects of this theory, science does support this daily health practice as a way to prevent type 2 diabetes and treat blood sugar problems. A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar has been shown to lower blood sugar and regulate the use of insulin during a meal.
Check out more benefits of apple cider vinegar here, and be sure to buy the raw and organic version if you decide to try it (versus the more processed vinegar options).
5. Learn to Love Your Veggies
Although veggies are a part of eating well, many people tend to forget about them on a day to day basis.
Make veggies a daily part of every single meal you eat if you really want to prevent Type 2 diabetes through your diet. They’re not only great sources of fiber but they’re also rich in nutrients like magnesium and other trace minerals that help manage your blood sugar levels.
6. Use Herbs Instead of Salt
High blood pressure is often associated with diabetes and a diet high in salt can cause complications for the kidneys.
It can also make you eat more because your body is actually thirsty, so skip the salt when you’re cooking and use herbs or salt-free seasonings instead. Many herbs have also been shown to have a positive response on blood sugar levels as another benefit.
7. Rethink Your Beverages
In place of juices and milk which are high in sugar, drink more water, herbal tea, green juice, and coffee (either regular or decaf). Drinking sugar is even worse than eating foods high in sugar because the sugar impacts your body more quickly leading to an imbalance in insulin levels.
Whatever you do, skip the soda and all drinks that use added sugars such as commercial orange juice, alcoholic beverages, and others like chocolate milk and sports/energy drinks.
If you’re craving orange juice, have an orange, or make a vegetable juice with fresh greens and use ½ an orange in your veggie juice. If you’re craving chocolate milk, blend unsweetened almond milk with cocoa and stevia.
In regards to coffee, black coffee has actually been shown to reduce insulin levels; it may even help boost your brain power! But be sure you’re not adding cream and sugar to your coffee. Try using these healthy ingredients in your coffee instead.
8. Eat Dark Chocolate in Place of Milk Chocolate
Dark chocolate can actually help lower your blood sugar levels and it may even help extend your longevity and help you lose weight. The key, however, is to make sure you’re consuming raw and/or dark chocolate—not chocolate with dairy milk or varieties that are high in sugar.
Choose a raw chocolate cacao powder, raw cacao nibs, or eat unsweetened baking chocolate bars which are pure dark chocolate. Or, if you can’t handle the bitterness of those options, choose a dark chocolate bar with at least 85% – 90% cacao content.
9. Focus on Fiber
Fiber is essential when it comes to managing your blood sugar levels. It not only slows down the release of sugar in the bloodstream, but it also helps keep you full and eliminates high cholesterol levels in the body.
Be sure to get your fiber from whole foods versus supplements and fiber-enriched products. Fruits, vegetables, oats, quinoa, wild rice, barley, rye, greens, nuts, seeds, avocados, and legumes are all great options.
10. Make Fruit Your Choice Dessert
When you’re craving sweets, eat fruit instead of sugar-free candies or other processed options. Fruit is something many people fear due to its natural sugars, but studies have shown fruit can actually lower your blood sugar levels.
To get the benefits fruit has to offer, eat it alone on an empty stomach to be sure the fruits’ sugars actually enter your cells. This means eating in away from fatty foods and protein-rich foods.
A cup of berries, an apple, a cup of pineapple, an orange, and various other fruits all make delicious desserts!
More Tips to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes:
For more tips on preventing type 2 diabetes, be sure to live an overall healthy lifestyle and manage your stress levels efficiently. This means getting enough sleep, daily movement, and eating as high-quality foods as much as possible.
If you need some help getting started, check out this free grocery list!