The first step is to eliminate all sugar and refined starches from your diet. Sugar has no nutritional value and can therefore be eliminated. Starches are simply long chains of sugars. Highly refined starches such as flour or white rice are quickly broken down by digestion into glucose. This is quickly absorbed into the blood and raises blood sugar. For example, eating white bread increases blood sugars very quickly.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the body cannot use insulin properly or make enough insulin, so the body cannot properly use or store glucose (a form of sugar) and sugar backs up into the bloodstream, raising blood sugar levels. In the United States, some 8.9 percent of adults 20 and older have been found to have diabetes, and health officials estimate that another 3.5 percent have undiagnosed diabetes.
“People need to understand the continuum of diabetes,” she says. “If they’re on an upward trajectory of insulin resistance and a downward trajectory of insulin production weight loss, healthful eating and physical activity will slow down the insulin-loss trajectory and improve insulin sensitivity.” But, she says, “If they gain weight back, the diabetes comes back.”
The bottom line is that diabetes can be bad news—but this doesn’t have to be the case. Interventions can prevent or delay the disease in people with prediabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a large study of people at high risk of diabetes, has established a prevention plan that’s both feasible and cost-effective. The DPP showed that weight loss and increased physical activity reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58% during a three-year period.
Start by trying these first three days of the plan, and then use a combination of these foods going forward. Review the list of foods that you should be eating from Step 2, and bring those healthy, diabetes-fighting foods into your diet as well. It may seem like a major change to your diet at first, but after some time you will begin to notice the positive effects these foods are having on your body.
Keeping close tabs on your diet is a major way to help manage type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet for people with type 2 diabetes includes fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. Focus on eating fruit and non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, and lettuce, and having smaller portions of starchy foods, meats, and dairy products. Be especially careful about loading up on foods that are high on the glycemic index (GI) and especially the glycemic load (GL), systems that rank foods according to how they affect glucose levels.
Try to keep carbohydrate amounts stable across the day (some choose lower carbohydrate targets), stand more and sit less and include activities that increase the heart rate and also strength based activities most days across the week. Think about the amount of stress you experience to see how it is increasing your blood glucose levels. If you smoke – stop because it is speeding up the damage to your blood vessels. If you drink alcohol, limit how much you drink.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.