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Explained: How plant-based diet reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes

Here we tell you why doctors and research find plant-based diet to be so crucial for the management of type 2 diabetes. © Shutterstock

While a new study suggests that eating plant-based foods can decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, we explain how exactly this diet helps people living with this condition.

Written by Juhi Kumari |Published : June 10, 2019 2:39 PM IST

It is needless to say that your food choices determine your health conditions to a large extent. What you eat reflects in your body weight, your medical diagnoses, fitness levels and what not! So it is no surprise that your diet can increase or decrease the risk of a disease, particularly type 2 diabetes. Recently, a study presented at the 'Nutrition 2019' meeting in Baltimore stated that shifting your focus on a plant-based diet can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 60 per cent. For this research, the scientists enrolled 2717 young adults of United States and followed them over a period of 20 years. The study result showed that those who included more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, vegetable oils, etc. in their diet had a 60 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where your blood sugar levels are abnormally high. This occurs due to the insufficient production or inefficient usage of the insulin hormone. This hormone regulates your blood glucose levels. Apart from the regular blood sugar medicines, diabetologists pay a lot of importance to your diet in the management of type 2 diabetes. They recommend the inclusion of fruits and vegetable in your diet. Let's see why doctors and research find plant-based diet to be so crucial for the management of type 2 diabetes.

How fruits help in keeping type 2 diabetes at bay

[caption id="attachment_671294" align="alignnone" width="655"]Apples Apples have low glycaemic index, which helps in controlling the sugar levels in the body. Shutterstock[/caption]

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Usually, people believe that fruits, being rich in sugar, are not good for diabetics. However, this is not the case. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), any fruit is safe for a diabetes patient if he is not allergic to it. In fact, another study published in the British Medical Journal also states that higher fruit intake is significantly linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. However, you should choose your fruits wisely. Not all of them are good for type 2 diabetes. Opt for foods rich in soluble fibre.

Fiber helps in the absorption of sugar and controlling its levels in the blood. Some of the fruits rich in soluble fibre include bananas, blackberry, blueberry, grapefruit, pomegranate, etc. Also, keep in mind that you shouldn't go for canned fruits as they are processed with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Processed fruits also remove or reduce levels of certain important nutrients like vitamins and fibre. Buy fresh ones from the market.

Fruits with low glycaemic index (GI) are best for diabetic patients. GI is the rating system of carb-containing foods including fruits. It tells you the speed at which they affect your blood sugar levels after eaten. GI is measured on a scale of 1 to 100. Low GI foods do not shoot up the levels of sugar in your blood after you eat them because your body digests them slowly. A food scoring 55 or less is low in GI. Fruits like apples, avocadoes, bananas, berries, cherries, grapefruits and strawberries have a GI under 55. Therefore, it is safe to include them in your diet.

The role of vegetables in safeguarding you against type 2 diabetes

[caption id="attachment_671296" align="alignnone" width="655"]spinach Being low in calories, spinach can help you keep blood sugar levels in control. Shutterstock[/caption]

People with diabetes are recommended to eat vegetables, especially the green ones. This is because they are rich in fibre, low in glycaemic index, and high in nitrates. Nitrates reduce blood pressure levels. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli etc. are extremely nutritious and low in calories. Also, they do not contain too much of easily-digestible carbs. That's how they can keep your blood sugar levels in control.

These vegetables are also rich in vitamin C. A study published in the journal Drug Design, Development and Therapy, has revealed that increasing vitamin C intake can reduce the inflammatory markers and blood sugar levels during fasting in people with type 2 diabetes. Also, green veggies come with antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin. They protect diabetics from other complication of this disease, macular degeneration and cataract.

Whole grains: How they lower your risk of high blood sugar

[caption id="attachment_671297" align="alignnone" width="655"]oats Oats can help your body utilize insulin efficiently and slow increase of blood sugar levels. Shutterstock[/caption]

According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, all commonly consumed whole grains, like wheat, rye, oats, etc. can make you less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Though the exact reason behind this is yet not yet clear, scientists believe in few theories associated with it. According to them whole grains can help your body utilize insulin efficiently. This is necessary for keeping your blood sugar levels in control. Also, they are slow to digest. This results in slower increase of blood sugar levels after eating whole grain foods. Additionally, the nutrients and fibres present in whole grains can reduce your body's inflammation level which is linked to type 2 diabetes.

The healthy fats of nuts do the trick

[caption id="attachment_671298" align="alignnone" width="655"]walnuts Being rich in folate, fiber, and antioxidants, nuts can keep your blood sugar levels in check. Shutterstock[/caption]

Eating nuts is linked to a decrease in prevalence of type 2 diabetes, says a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Nuts are rich in healthy fats, fibre, antioxidants, folate, magnesium, and potassium. Fibre slows down your body's sugar absorption capacity. This keeps your blood sugar levels in check. Folate (a type of B vitamin), on the other hand, improves glucose metabolism in your body. Low levels of magnesium and potassium are also associated with insulin resistance (your body's incapability to use insulin efficiently for blood glucose metabolism) and the onset of diabetes. Diabetologists and nutritionists recommend almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios and peanuts for people with type 2 diabetes.

Omega-3 fatty acids of vegetable oils may work wonders

[caption id="attachment_671299" align="alignnone" width="655"]olive oil Canola oil contains omega-3 fatty acid, which decreases insulin resistance and lowers triglyceride levels in the body. Shutterstock[/caption]

Vegetable oils including canola oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, rice bran oil, walnut oil, and sesame oil are considered good for diabetics. Canola oil contains omega-3 fatty acid, which decreases insulin resistance and lowers triglyceride levels in the body. Also, it helps in lowering blood sugar levels and bad cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.

Olive oil contains an antioxidant named tyrosol, which also improves insulin resistance. Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, contains a fibre known as mucilage. It slows down the digestion of glucose preventing a sudden rise in blood sugar levels after you eat.

Rice bran oil, being rich in antioxidants and mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids, is considered best for people with diabetes. Consumption of rice bran oil led to a 30 per cent reduction in blood glucose levels, found a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

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