Eating habits can have a major effect on your risk for type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet may be especially good at reducing your chances of developing the disease.
People at a high risk for diabetes can delay or even prevent the disease by losing just 5 to 7 percent of their total body weight. Eating Mediterranean-style can contribute to weight loss — and may even help reduce diabetes risk in people who don't lose weight.
A Mediterranean diet features:
- Lots of plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains.
- Monounsaturated fats, especially olive or canola oil.
- Low or moderate amounts of fish, poultry and dairy products.
- Very little red meat.
- Low amounts of saturated fats and trans fat, which are often present in processed foods.
- Low or moderate amounts of red wine.
How does it work?
People with diabetes don't make enough of the hormone insulin in their bodies or are not able to effectively use the insulin, or both. Obesity makes the body more resistant to insulin. So losing weight through a Mediterranean diet may help you guard against the disease.
In addition, the monounsaturated fats common in the Mediterranean diet don't raise blood cholesterol levels the way saturated fats do. High cholesterol is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Get healthy, stay healthy
Other ways of preventing or staving off diabetes include generally eating well, watching your weight and getting plenty of exercise.
Cut down on the extra sugars, fat and sodium in your diet. Limit fatty cuts of meat, fried foods and full-fat dairy products. For grains, eat only the whole-grain varieties, such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole-wheat breads. Choose colorful vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli and spinach.
Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, spread over at least three days. Brisk walking is an example. And if you have type 2 diabetes and don't have contraindications, try to strength train at least twice a week.
Check with your doctor before beginning or changing an exercise program. He or she will be able to tell you the types and amounts of activities that are suitable for you.
Are you at risk for diabetes?
You have a higher risk for diabetes if you:
- Have a family history of diabetes, especially in a parent or sibling.
- Are overweight.
- Have high blood pressure.
- Have high cholesterol.
- Are age 45 or older.
- Have a history of cardiovascular disease.
- Have A1C equal to or greater than 5.7 percent.
- Had impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance in previous tests.
- Had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant or had one or more babies weighing more than 9 pounds at birth.
- Are African-American, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander or Hispanic American.
- Have a sedentary lifestyle — exercising fewer than three times a week.
Prediabetes, a condition in which your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diabetes, usually has no symptoms. So talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your risk factors.
Created on 02/22/2011
Updated on 04/10/2013
- Estruch, R, Ros, E, Salas-Salvado, J, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. New England Journal of Medicine. Published online Feb. 25, 2013.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010.
- American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes: 2013. Diabetes Care. 2013;36:S11-S66.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevent diabetes.