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The basics of healthy eating

The basics of healthy eating

There is a lot of buzz and confusion about healthy eating and which diet works or not. However, the basics of healthy eating in diabetes prevention involve the following key elements:

  • Eating lots of fresh vegetables
  • Eating less processed foods
  • Minimizing sugar, fat/oil, and sodium intake.
  • Drinking lots of water

Healthy eating entails combining different food groups in a manner that enables the body to get the nutrients it needs in a way that gives a pleasurable experience. These depend on several factors:

  • Individual preference.
  • Cultural and traditional preference.  
  • Time constraints.
  • Knowledge and attitudes towards food.  
  • Socio-economic status.
  • Availability of food.  

Therefore, it is difficult to prescribe what constitutes a healthy meal. It means different things for different people depending on the place, time, and cost.

Despite these factors, focusing on the basics mentioned above and understanding the benefits of these basics may help to keep you motivated to choose healthy food options.

Benefits of eating fresh vegetables in diabetes prevention

There is evidence that eating at least 4 servings of vegetables reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  This is because vegetables are rich in fiber, a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down and absorbed into the blood. Therefore, it does not cause an increase in blood sugar levels. In addition to this, fiber adds bulk to food, digests slowly, and makes you full quickly without eating too much food. Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that protect the body from harmful substances.

Harm associated with eating lots of processed food.

Eating processed foods is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Food can be processed either industrially or at home. Processed foods have undergone significant changes that alter them in a way that they look different from their natural source. For example, white flour. In preparing white flour, most of the fiber in the grain has been removed. Another common example of processed foods are fruits and vegetable juices. Similarly, the fiber in the fruits and vegetables have been removed.

The reduced fiber content in processed foods, makes it easy for the body to break and absorb them quickly and they raise blood sugar levels. 

Processed foods may also contain other food additives to enhance their taste and preserve them. These food additives may be high in sugar, fat/oils and/or sodium.

Foods that are high in sugar and/or fat increase the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

Foods that are high in sugar contain a lot of calories and have very little nutrients. If you eat them, you are more likely to gain weight.  Similarly, foods that are high in fats also contain a lot of calories.

The high calories contribute to weight gain. While increased weight decreases insulin sensitivity and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Source

  1. Halvorsen, R. E., Elvestad, M., Molin, M., & Aune, D. (2021). Fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ nutrition, prevention & health4(2), 519–531. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjnph-2020-000218
  2. Kosti, R. I., Tsiampalis, T., Kouvari, M., Chrysohoou, C., Georgousopoulou, E., Pitsavos, C. S., & Panagiotakos, D. B. (2023). The association of specific types of vegetables consumption with 10-year type II diabetes risk: Findings from the ATTICA cohort study. Journal of human nutrition and dietetics : the official journal of the British Dietetic Association, 36(1), 226–240. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.13056
  3. Duan, M. J., Vinke, P. C., Navis, G., Corpeleijn, E., & Dekker, L. H. (2022). Ultra-processed food and incident type 2 diabetes: studying the underlying consumption patterns to unravel the health effects of this heterogeneous food category in the prospective Lifelines cohort. BMC medicine, 20(1), 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-021-02200-4
  4. Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: A prospective, observational analysis. Lancet. 2001;357:505–8. [PubMed] [Google Scholar] [Ref list]

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