Choose dairy daily
Dairy haters, listen up: Women who ate the most low-fat dairy products had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study of more than 82,000 women published in the Journal of Nutrition. Researchers think that certain milk proteins increase insulin secretion. Interaction among nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium may also lower the risk of diabetes. Another factor: If you're filling up on dairy, you may be less likely to eat other foods, such as sweetened beverages or snacks, which can raise diabetes risk. (Could you have diabetes? Don't miss these surprising diabetes symptoms.)
Use the news: Swap your usual bagel or muffin breakfast for yogurt (mix in berries and nuts for a filling, nutritious parfait), enjoy a glass of skim milk with fruit for dessert, and snack on a low-fat string cheese with a couple of whole-grain crackers to quench pre-dinner cravings.
Eat the rainbow
New research confirms that a produce-rich diet can reduce your diabetes risk, according to a British study from the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge. After researchers studied the eating habits of more than 3,700 adults ages 40 through 79, then followed them for 11 years, they discovered that adults with the highest fruit and vegetable intake (about six servings daily) had a 21 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who ate the least (about two servings a day). Variety mattered: People who consumed 16 different kinds of produce a week were 40 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who ate just eight different types. Here's how eating a high-fiber diet helps diabetes.
Use the news: Have at least one fruit or veggie at every meal or snack, and change things up from day to day and week to week. Challenge yourself to buy one new item a week at the supermarket and learn a new recipe to prepare it.
Guidelines from the American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes say blood sugar goals should be based on individual risk factors, such as age, health status, and diabetes complications. Doctors may recommend hitting a lower A1c level in people who are younger and have no risk factors for heart disease or serious bouts with low blood sugar. People 65 and older with some of these issues may have less rigid numbers to hit, in part because of concerns about low blood sugar levels and side effects from too many medications. The guidelines also recommend metformin as a first-line type 2 diabetes treatment (unless a patient has near-normal A1C numbers and is highly motivated to make lifestyle changes). Other drugs can be added if after three months blood sugar levels aren’t controlled on metformin alone.
Use the news: Ask your physician what he or she thinks about the changes and how they may apply to you—especially if you have been recently diagnosed, have changed or added medications, or have made significant lifestyle changes (like a big weight loss).
Skip this side dish
A recent Harvard study found the greater a person’s white rice intake, the higher his or her risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers examined the data from more than 350,000 participants over the course of four to 22 years. Compared with its brown counterpart, white rice has lower levels of fiber, magnesium, and vitamins. In addition, white rice is considered a high glycemic food, which means it’s digested quickly and can lead to blood sugar spikes.
Use the news: Hate the taste of brown rice? Mix it with white to help your taste buds adjust, gradually upping the proportion of brown to white. Or consider one of these good carbs for diabetics.
Protect yourself from plastics
High blood levels of common chemicals called phthalates are associated with about double the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a Swedish study of more than 1,000 older men and women published in the journal Diabetes Care. They’re found in such wide-ranging products as building materials, clothing, cosmetics, and personal-care products, food packaging, toys, perfumes, and vinyl products. While the study can’t prove that pththalate exposure causes diabetes, researchers suspect the chemicals may affect risk by disrupting insulin production.
Use the news: Because phthalates are found in so many products, it’s hard to avoid them entirely. But this can can help reduce your exposure: Avoid plastic containers with the recycling symbol #3 on the bottom (it designates products that contain PVC, a type of plastic that contains the additives). Buy phthalate-free beauty products and skip those that contain “fragrance” as an ingredient. Ventilate your home: Indoor air tends to have higher phthalate levels than outdoor air.
Take a stand
Australian researchers studied overweight and obese middle-aged adults and found that when they broke up a long bout (five hours) of sitting with two minutes of walking, their bodies had better control of post-meal glucose and insulin levels throughout the day compared to when they didn’t take such breaks. Researchers say that over time, preventing post-meal spikes in glucose and insulin can protect the arteries and heart from damage.
Use the news: Get up from your desk every 20 minutes or so. Stretch, fill up a glass of water, speak to a colleague in person, or stand up during meetings.
Could downward-facing dog or a cat stretch translate to better blood-sugar numbers and a slimmer waist? In a study from India, 123 people with diabetes who took yoga classes lost a few pounds and kept their glucose levels steady. In contrast, a control group that didn’t do yoga saw their levels rise. Levels of cell-damaging free radicals—which play a role in diabetes complications like vision loss and kidney damage—fell 20 percent.
Use the news: You don’t have to be flexible as a pool noodle to try yoga. Give a gentle yoga DVD a try at home, or find a great beginner’s class at a gym, yoga studio, or adult-education program in your town.
Up your omega-3s
Heart disease kills eight in 10 people who have diabetes, and one of the causes is off-rhythm heartbeats that can trigger heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest. Dutch researchers report that people with diabetes who take rhythm-protecting drugs plus a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids cut their odds for fatal heart trouble by 84 percent.
Use the news: For best protection, say yes to all three kinds of good-for-you omega-3s. Get EPA and DHA from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout—and from fish oil or algal capsules. You’ll find plenty of the third type of omega-3, ALA, in ground flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and canola oil, and small amounts in kale, spinach, and salad greens.
Beat a mid-afternoon slump
You may crave sugary treats when your energy levels dip, but scientists from England’s University of Cambridge say protein is a better choice for sustained energy. Amino acids like those found in foods like egg whites and grilled chicken stimulated “wake-you-up” brain cells called orexin cells, a study showed. In contrast, sugar blocked them.
Use the news: Reach for a protein-packed pick-me-up next time you’re feeling sluggish. A hard-boiled egg or half of a chicken or tuna sandwich on whole-grain bread are easy, healthy ways to energize. Here are other superfoods for diabetes to eat more of.
Love it, lose it
Overweight women who took classes about body image and emotional eating lost 3½ times more weight in a year than those who got typical diet advice in a study from the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal. The “biggest losers” dropped more than body fat: They shed worries about body shape and size. By doing so, they gained emotional freedom that made sticking with a healthy eating and activity easier.
Use the news: Don’t wait for the pounds to come off. Look at yourself with more compassion in the mirror, noting your most attractive features and appreciating everything that all parts of your body do for you.