Here's another reason to eat more beans: They help regulate blood sugar to prevent diabetes.No doubt, you've heard the news about Paula Deen revealing her type 2 diabetes diagnosis -- and her multimillion-dollar drug endorsement deal. Of course, Deen's signature indulgent Southern cooking likely played a big role in her condition. But whether you're a celeb like Deen or one of the rest of us, finding out you have borderline diabetes or prediabetes can be a shocker.
But here's the more important news: Smart lifestyle changes can help you prevent diabetes or, if you already have it, slow its progression to avoid devastating complications, including heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, blindness, kidney failure, and even limb amputation. Listen up, Paula!
1. Be a Regular at the Farmers' Market
Making fresh produce the main focus of your meals can cut your diabetes risk by 24% or more, thanks in part to all the fiber, which steadies blood sugar. In fact, just adding to your diet some greens, such as arugula or baby spinach, could lower your odds by 14%. The magnesium and polyphenols in leafy greens help you stay sensitive to insulin -- essential for blood sugar absorption. Enjoy citrus year-round, too. Tangerines and grapefruit contain helpful compounds called naringenin and nobiletin.
2. Meat in Its Place
If you're like most people, a meat-based main course takes up half of your dinner plate. To side-step diabetes, adjust that approach. As we said in step 1, at least half your plate should be produce. The other half can be divided between protein, such as lean chicken, and high-fiber starches, such as whole-wheat pasta or potatoes with the skin.
3. Keep the Fiber Coming
As you revisit your meals, focus on foods your body digests slowly so blood sugar is released into your bloodstream gradually. Here are some good examples: Legumes, such as pinto beans and lentils, are a low-fat, nutritious source of protein, plus they're also high in fiber. Whole grains are nutrient-rich, high in fiber, and low on the glycemic index so they don't rush into your bloodstream at warp speed. Fruits and veggies are also high in fiber and typically low-cal, so eat up.
4. Skip Processed Meats
The nitrites and saturated fats in processed meats (hot dogs, knockwurst, bacon, sausage) boost diabetes risk by 19% (and fuel cancer and heart troubles, too). Great alternatives: skinless white-meat turkey, juicy portobello "steaks," marinated salmon or chicken breasts, veggie burgers, or -- if you've gotta -- burgers made with extra-lean, grass-fed beef.
5. Move Your Body
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to cut your risk of diabetes. You don't have to join a gym (unless you want to!), just get your body moving -- and your heart pumping -- for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Exercise ramps up fat burning and improves insulin sensitivity, which helps your body use glucose efficiently. So, make time in your schedule to run, bike or even dance. Just be sure you get a mix of strength, stamina, and flexibility into your exercise routine.
6. Snack on Nuts
When you're looking for something to nosh on, refuel with a handful of nuts. The healthful fats in nuts can slash diabetes risk 21%. A little lean protein or some healthful fats helps your body absorb and use blood sugar more effectively. Since nuts have lots of calories (14 walnut halves have 185), either stick with a small handful.
7. Reduce Stress
Don't wait for vacations to tame tension. Both high anxiety and lack of sleep mess up your body's absorption of blood sugar. Getting less than 6 hours of ZZZs a night doubles your diabetes risk, as does a high-stress job. Ease your angst by turning in earlier, exercising to blow off steam, and finding a stress-reduction technique you love. Meditation and yoga work well for lots of people. Either will put the ahhhhh back in your life.
8. Cut Down on Sugar
Switch your fancy coffee drink for sugarless chai latte (nonfat, of course). Chugging just one sugar-loaded drink a day boosts diabetes risk 26% and metabolic syndrome -- a precursor of diabetes -- 20%. Substituting an ice-cold glass of fat-free milk does the opposite: It cuts your risk 12%. Fat-free yogurt (plain, of course) and cheese count, too. The calcium, vitamin D, and minerals in dairy help your body process blood sugar.
9. Know Your Risk Factors
Although healthy lifestyle changes can go a long way toward preventing diabetes, it's important to be aware risk factors you can't change, such as family history, age, and ethnic background. (People of Latino and African-American heritage have a higher-than-average diabetes risk.)
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