More than 10% of Americans have diabetes and roughly half of us are at risk for the disease, but most don’t know how to eat to prevent the worst outcomes.
To some degree, the advice is the same nutritionists give everybody: eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and avoid heavily processed, packaged foods.
Most people know some features of a healthy diet: eating fruits and vegetables and avoiding soda and fast foods.
But it’s more complicated than that. Understanding how diabetes develops can help add to those recommendations and bust some myths.
The first is about weight.
While excess weight increases the risk for diabetes, proper nutrition is likely just as important, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and professor of nutrition at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
“Regardless of your weight, diet has a major impact,” he said.
What is diabetes? What to know about one of the deadliest diseases.
Here is advice from Mozaffarian to help avoid diabetes or keep it under control:
It’s not just the glucose
Foods that lead to a spike in blood glucose drive up the amount of insulin released into the bloodstream, which over the long term, increases the risk for diabetes and makes the disease harder to control.
So what is glucose?
►Refined starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, are chains of glucose molecules and have long been known to trigger this rapid spike in blood glucose. These include white rice, white bread and potatoes.
►Added sugar, a simple carbohydrate, is also well known to trigger diabetes because it’s 50% glucose.
Fructose, which makes up the other 50%, has almost no effect on blood glucose