February 27, 2016

Currently, 13 million U.S. men over age 20 have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of these men have what’s known as type 2 diabetes, a devastating disease where the body can’t regulate blood sugar. The result: Every organ in your body is strained because they all have to work harder to eliminate the extra sugar and/or to get the energy they need.

As if this weren’t scary enough, an estimated 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes.

If you’re carrying extra weight around your middle, you’re at a higher risk for developing pre-diabetes and diabetes. So do yourself a favor and calculate your body mass index to see what range you fall in. Exercise can go a long way to reversing and preventing this disease.

Keeping your blood sugar levels within a normal range by making smart food choices will keep you healthy, too. Certain foods, when eaten more often, can actually help keep your bood sugar in a normal range, which reduces your risk of developing diabetes and can prevent complications if you’re already diagnosed.

Here are my top five food picks to help keep blood sugar levels in check:

Steel-Cut Oats

Try eating a warm breakfast consisting of a cup of steel up oats. Since these oats have a lower glycemic index than instant oatmeal, they have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels. Their high fiber content has also been found to help decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Spinach

Popeye may have been on to something! This leafy green is a great source of vitamin K, which may help cut your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, research has shown that vitamin K may help to decrease the risk of diabetes by as much as 20 percent. Adding a high-fiber food such as spinach to meals can also help decrease the meal’s glycemic load, meaning it will have less overall impact on blood sugar levels.

Salmon

Fish, including salmon, is an excellent source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help decrease inflammation in the body— a risk factor for diabetes. Healthy-fat fish like salmon are also a terrific source of vitamin D, which may play an important role in decreasing the risk for type 2 diabetes. In fact, studies have found that individuals with the highest levels of vitamin D lowered their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 55 percent when compared to those with low levels of the vitamin.

Blueberries

It may sound strange to hear that fruit can actually decrease diabetes risk. Sure, fruit contain natural sugars, but that is no reason to avoid them.  A study found that when rats were fed a diet containing blueberries consistently over a three month period, they showed a significant increase in insulin sensitivity, which in turn helps decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a terrific source of monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to reduce belly fat, a fat that is directly linked to type 2 diabetes. One study found that individuals who followed a diet rich in olive oil reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 50 percent when compared individuals following a diet low in fat.

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Erin Palinski, RD, CDE, LDN

Erin Palinski, RD, CDE, LDN, CPT promotes nutrition and wellness as an author, media spokesperson, motivational speaker, and corporate consultant. Erin is the author of the newly released “Belly Fat Diet for Dummies” (Wiley 2012) as well as the creator and author of the Healthy 'n Fit Weight Management Program and the Healthy Resolutions Weight Management Program. She also serves as the featured expert in the #1 best selling diabetes Ipad App “Diabetes: What Now” by Everydayhealth and is the featured nutrition expert on the weekly syndicated health show KnowMoreTV.