As much as we all love chocolate, cookies, cake, and countless other sweet treats, these foods really don’t do our bodies any favors. They contribute to a whole host of health problems, ones that are becoming more common every day. This is pretty evident when you think about just how many people have diabetes, which now affects 8.5% of all adults, according to the World Health Organization.
The bad news doesn’t end there, either, because these statistics don’t include the vast number of people who have prediabetes. Clearly, we need to make some changes if we want to stop the trend.
Now for the good news: The medical community largely agrees diabetes is a preventable disease. In fact, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains it mostly comes down to losing weight. A few other lifestyle changes can help as well, and it’s all a lot more doable than you think. In that spirit, check out these seven easy things you can do right now to help prevent diabetes.
1. Maintain a regular fitness routine
Staying active is one of the best ways to stay healthy in general, so it shouldn’t be too surprising it’s also an effective way to prevent diabetes. What is surprising is just how much of a difference it can make. A recent review found individuals who completed 150 minutes per week of physical activity were 26% less likely to develop diabetes than those who were inactive, and those who reached 300 minutes each week reduced their risk by 36%. If you know you’re falling short, try getting back into the swing of exercise by walking. It’s surprisingly effective and you don’t need any special equipment to do it.
2. Practice portion control
We already mentioned dropping unwanted pounds is the real key to preventing diabetes, so it’s time to focus a bit more on how to make it happen. When it comes to weight loss, diet matters most. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as eating healthy foods, because many of us still wind up eating far more than we need. The solution? Portion control.
Research certainly supports this idea. In one recent study, dieters were divided into three groups: one where participants were allowed to freely select their meals, one where participants were given pre-portioned meals, and another pre-portioned meal group that emphasized a high-protein diet. At the end of the 12-week period, those given both types of portion-controlled meals lost more weight. The authors also noted short-term weight loss often predicts success in the long term, suggesting this really is an effective strategy.
3. Eat plenty of fiber
Talking about eating less isn’t practical if you don’t opt for foods that keep you satisfied, so consider fiber your new best friend. It’s the nutritional equivalent of a triple threat because, according to Mayo Clinic, it can help you lose weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, and improve your blood sugar level. This equates to a lower risk of diabetes and a generally happier body. Make sure to fill your plate with veggies and whole grains.
4. Pick the right fats
Another key way to ensure you feel satisfied throughout the day is to incorporate fat into your diet. Just know not all fats are a good choice. One 2009 review highlighted the important role unsaturated fats play in helping to reduce the risk of diabetes, saying they should replace saturated and trans fats in our diets. What this means on a simpler level is to eat plant-based sources of fat like avocado, olive oil, and nuts while cutting back on animal fats.
5. Limit added sugar
It’s far too simplistic to say eating sugar leads to diabetes, but there’s some truth to the idea. We know being overweight increases your odds of developing type-2 diabetes and we also know eating too much sugar is a big part of the problem. While we might not be able to say consuming too much of the white, granular stuff has been linked directly to diabetes, there is research linking sugary beverages with the disease. According to a meta-anaysis including nearly 311,000 participants, drinking one or more sugar-sweetened beverages each day increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by 26%.
One key thing to note is we’re talking about added sugar. Fruits are naturally high in sugar, but they’re also among the best food choices you can make. Some research has even shown regularly eating whole fruits is associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes.
6. Manage stress
Aside from the toll it takes on your mind, chronic stress can really hurt your body. You probably see where this is going, so we’ll get right to it. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden performed a study with a 35-year follow-up that linked high levels of chronic stress to a significantly greater risk of diabetes. The exact mechanisms at play might be tough to sort out, but the message to manage stress is clear. Many people find physical activity to be a huge help, and meditation is also a great choice. As long as you find something to help you unwind, you’ll be doing your health a big favor.
7. Get enough sleep every night
We’ve touched on how chronic sleep deprivation can harm your health, and you can add an increased risk of diabetes to the list. An article published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine highlighted numerous studies demonstrating this link. The authors admit there are shortcomings to the research, but they also say physicians should consider sleep recommendations a potential method to delay or even prevent diabetes.
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