If you’re following a vegan paleo diet, look for meat from grass fed animals and wild seafood to get a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Use the CareClinic app to track your nutrition guides and calories.
This plan offers a balance of protein, fiber and carbs to support weight loss and curb hunger. It may also help you manage blood sugar levels.
- New research shows that following the Mediterranean diet can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.
- The findings show that even a small improvement in adherence to the diet can effectively reduce your risk.
- An endocrinologist and nutritionists explain the findings.
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that highlights fruits, vegetables, seafood, whole grains, and healthy fats. This diet has been well-studied for promoting heart health as well as preventing cognitive decline. Now, new research shows how the Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
As opposed to past similar studies that used self-reporting questionnaires, this study, published in PLOS Medicine, used a blood test to measure how closely participants followed the Mediterranean diet.
The study included 22,000 participants, looking at the blood test of each. Researchers considered 23 nutritional biomarkers, which were combined into an overall score that measured a person’s level of adherence to the diet. Through this new unbiased method, researchers found that people whose biomarker score indicated that they closely followed a Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Researchers found that 20% of participants with the highest biomarker score had a 62% lower risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes relative to the 20% of participants with the lowest biomarker score values. This means that taking even small steps to follow the Mediterranean diet may lead to a significantly lowered risk of type 2 diabetes.
Wait, what is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body has difficulty using the insulin produced by the pancreas, explains Melissa Prest, D.C.N., R.D.N., national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board. “This causes blood sugar to rise and stay elevated which, if not treated, can lead to a host of issues like heart disease, kidney disease, and vision problems.”
Often medical professionals will recommend patients with type 2 diabetes make dietary changes. These alterations may include limiting sugar, limiting refined carbohydrates, and increasing consumption of whole foods over processed foods, says Jessica Zinn, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., registered dietitian.
It’s important to note, however, that food is only one component of type 2 diabetes management, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook.. “Lifestyle factors play a significant role including physical activity, stress management, and sleep quality.” And, of course, genetics play a role too.
What is the Mediterranean diet and how does it benefit those with type 2 diabetes?
The Mediterranean diet is a plant-forward diet pattern that includes non-starchy vegetables, fiber-rich grains, moderate amounts of eggs, poultry, and dairy, and small amounts of red meat, sweets, and wine, says Prest.
This diet pattern has been of interest for many years because of its positive effect on inflammation, Prest explains. “People living with type 2 diabetes may also have chronic inflammation and eating an anti-inflammatory diet pattern can help with minimizing the damage that can occur with long-term inflammation.”
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes consuming fewer foods that are high in sugar and drinking fewer sugary beverages—these changes can benefit those with type 2 diabetes, says Dr. Adimoolam. “It is important; however, to remember that the Mediterranean diet is not necessarily a ‘low carb’ or ‘low sugar’ diet—lentils and legumes are a staple in this diet plan and consist of complex carbohydrates.”
The Mediterranean diet is also high in fiber, which can help to slow a post-meal rise in blood sugar, notes Harris-Pincus. “It’s also low in saturated fat and higher in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which can decrease the risk for heart disease and stroke—something people with diabetes are at increased risk of developing.”
And since the Mediterranean diet is based on whole foods which are much more nutrient dense and satisfying than ultra-processed foods, it may be easier to lose weight which can help to improve insulin resistance in some people, adds Harris-Pincus.
The bottom line
Type 2 diabetes rates are increasing and while we are able to treat diabetes very well, it is not easily managed and requires the patient to be highly involved in their care and management, says Zinn.
This new research confirms that following a Mediterranean diet can not only be a good way to help prevent type 2 diabetes but it can also be used in dietary management of type 2 diabetes, Zinn adds. “A Mediterranean diet encourages eating lots of vegetables, high fiber carbohydrate sources, and omega-3 fatty acids which are all important in a healthy diet for diabetes.”
If you have type 2 diabetes, know that type 2 diabetes can be well managed by many people, says Prest. “Work with your healthcare team and a registered dietitian to help you best manage your health condition.”
To start working closer towards this healthful way of eating, check out these Mediterranean diet cookbooks that are sure to inspire you ahead of your next mealtime.
Madeleine, Prevention’s assistant editor, has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD, and from her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience—and she helps strategize for success across Prevention’s social media platforms.