Did you know that currently in the United States, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes? Type 2 diabetes, which comprises nearly 95 percent of cases, was originally known as adult-onset diabetes, but children are now being widely diagnosed, due in large part to the rise in childhood obesity.1
Diabetes affects the way you metabolize sugar, causing your body either to resist the effects of the hormone insulin, or to stop producing enough to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Once entrenched, type 2 diabetes increases your risk of other serious issues, including kidney failure, nerve damage, Alzheimer’s disease, and blindness ─ and it can also potentially quadruple your risk of cardiovascular disease.2
Since there is no “cure” for diabetes, the best scenario is preventing it from occurring in the first place. Is that possible? Happily, for most people, the answer is yes! Just imagine if we could change a future in which the number of diabetes sufferers worldwide is projected to double by 2030 and reach 693 million by 2045. Those statistics are not inevitable!
One advantage we have is that, if we pay attention, we can see diabetes coming before it fully hits. This is prediabetes, a state in which blood sugar levels are elevated, but not yet high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Since up to 70 percent of those with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes, it seems only logical to address this early warning. We certainly have our work cut out for us, given that an estimated 84.1 million adults have prediabetes.3
Plant Foods to Reduce Diabetes Risk
So, how can you reduce your risk for diabetes? One of the easiest and most effective ways is simply to build your menu around plant foods. As one study found, plant-based diets―which emphasize legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and include few if any animal products―are especially potent in preventing type 2 diabetes and have been associated with much lower rates of obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer.4
Unlike diets high in saturated fat that promote weight gain (leading to insulin resistance), a plant-based diet contains little saturated and no trans fats.5 Bottom line, this way of eating helps us to reach and maintain a healthy weight and protects against insulin resistance, all of which lowers diabetes risk.6 These tips can help get you started:
Ease into your new menu
If plant-based eating is new to you, start small, adding a daily piece of fruit and/or a salad. Also, check out these four strategies for an easy plant-based menu transition. You are in excellent company eating this way. According to research firm GlobalData, there has been a 600 percent increase of people identifying as vegans within the United States in just the last few years!7
Emphasize plant-based protein
We now know that diets rich in plant-based protein are linked to a 12 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and an 8 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality.8 Other studies confirm that while animal protein increases diabetes risk, high-quality vegetable foods help prevent the disease.9 Get familiar with the best plant-based protein sources by reading articles or consulting with a dietitian.
Experiment with cool vegan products
Most stores and online sites have, in recent years, wisely expanded their selections of plant-based foods in response to massive consumer demand, ensuring that you have a growing array of options nationwide. Check out these 11 tasty Vegan Products for some inspiration.
Love plant-based staples
The key to a smooth transition is getting equipped with basics that allow you to easily create family-friendly, plant-based meals and snacks. The best staples will be nutritious, tasty, and highly versatile. They should also be easy to access and affordable. Take a peek at these 5 awesome plant-based staple foods—and how to use them.
With this information in hand, you will find it easier than ever to be proactive in protecting your own health, and that of your loved ones too!
6Nutr Rev 67:255–263, 2009