The Best Foods to Prevent Diabetes: A Comprehensive Guide

Diabetes is a serious health condition that can have a major impact on your life. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Eating the right foods is one of the most important steps you can take to reduce your risk. Lean proteins, whole grains, legumes, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, citrus fruits, and yogurt are all excellent choices for preventing diabetes.

Lean proteins such as fish, chicken, turkey, tofu, eggs and yogurt are all great sources of protein that can help keep you full and prevent snacking. Eating four grams of fiber in a one-cup serving of oatmeal at breakfast can help keep you full for a long time and may even prevent you from snacking before lunch. A recent study found that people who ate the most fiber (more than 26 grams a day) reduced their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 18 percent compared to those who ate the least (less than 19 grams a day). Fiber helps keep blood sugar stable, which can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

When it comes to preventing diabetes, it's important to focus on green, non-starchy vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts provide vitamins and minerals to keep your body running smoothly and they also provide fiber. In addition to their fiber content, cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, an anti-inflammatory compound that may protect against blood vessel damage associated with diabetes and help control blood sugar. Spinach is also a great source of magnesium which helps the body use insulin to control blood sugar levels.

Legumes such as chickpeas and lentils are very versatile and great for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Not only are they packed with fiber that helps stabilize your blood sugar level, but they're also packed with protein that will keep you full and prevent you from snacking to help maintain your weight, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Whole grains may be high in carbohydrates but research has found that high consumption of whole grains is related to a lower risk of developing diabetes. Its benefits may be related to its fiber and antioxidants.

You don't need to add a ton of carbohydrates to your diet to add whole grains; in most cases you can replace the refined carbohydrates you're already eating with whole grains. Harvard Medical School has lots of suggestions for swapping whole grains for refined ones. Eating more vegetables of any type can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and broccoli is one of the healthiest. This and other cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower have fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium according to the Linus Pauling Institute.

Leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula and lettuce are also great choices as they are sources of fiber, calcium and vitamin A while being low enough in calories to help you lose weight. You can eat raw or cooked kale and spinach and still expect a lot of benefits. Blueberries regularly appear on several “superfood” lists and research has found a lower risk of diabetes in people who eat more blueberries. Grapes, apples, pears, peaches, plums and apricots were also linked to a lower risk in research published in the British Medical Journal. The nutrients in these fruits include fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium and countless antioxidants that together may protect against heart disease and Alzheimer's as well as diabetes.

Choose fresh or frozen fruit without sugar as high consumption of fruit juice can actually increase the risk of diabetes. Both grapefruits and oranges are linked to a lower risk of diabetes as are citrus fruits as a group including tangerines, tangerines, clementines lemons and limes. They are known for their vitamin C content but they also have flavonoids and soluble fiber which is the type that lowers cholesterol. Citrus fruits have a lower glycemic index than many types of fruit so they do not cause such a rise in blood sugar levels. Yogurt is rich in calcium and high-quality protein and although it contains sugar the only type of sugar in natural yogurt is natural yogurt. Yogurt with active cultures also contains probiotics which help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

If you've been avoiding dairy products because of lactose intolerance you might be surprised to find that some people can tolerate some yogurt; try Greek yogurt to start with as it has less lactose. Nearly every decision you make day and night can affect your blood sugar levels so it's important to learn more about which foods can increase your blood sugar levels or glycemic index. The Lark Diabetes Prevention Program is an excellent resource for personalized counseling that uses proven methods to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.