The three best foods for fighting diabetes

It’s easy to get confused about exactly what you should eat to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Should you go low-carb? Vegan? Low-cal? There’s so much conflicting information out there. And that’s partly because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to preventing diabetes with diet…

A lot of different diets have been shown to improve blood sugar, reduce insulin resistance and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Many of these diets are on the extreme end of the dieting spectrum, however. They involve cutting carbs severely, giving up all animal products or slashing your calorie intake down to the bare minimum. And not all of us are ready to go that far.

If you fall into the category of people who want to reduce their diabetes risk without going on an extreme diet, I have good news…

There’s a simple, moderate approach you can take to slash your diabetes risk by an impressive 30 to 50 percent, or possibly even more. And all you have to do is focus on upping your intake of three food groups.

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For lower diabetes risk, focus on fruits, veggies and whole grains

Two new studies published in the British Medical Journal found that eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains can significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, the studies showed the even a slight increase in these foods can make a decent dent in your diabetes risk.

The first study included data from 9,754 people who developed new-onset type 2 diabetes and 13,662 people who didn’t have diabetes. Researchers decided to use blood levels of vitamin C and carotenoids (pigments found in colorful fruits and vegetables) to gauge the amount of fruit and vegetables in people’s diets because those levels tend to be more reliable than what people report themselves. Here’s what they found…

Having higher blood levels of vitamin C and carotenoids was tied to lower diabetes risk.

In fact, people’s whose levels were in the top 20 percent had a whopping 50 percent lower risk of diabetes. Researchers determined that each extra 66 grams of fruit and vegetables eaten per day led to a 25 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The second study looked at the connection between type 2 diabetes and whole grains. In this study, researchers examined data from 158,259 women and 36,525 men who were free from diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

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They found that people who ate the most whole grains had a 29 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who ate the least whole grains.

Researchers even broke down diabetes risk in relation to individual whole-grain foods and found:

  • Eating one or more servings per day of whole-grain cold breakfast cereal or dark bread lowered diabetes risk by 19 percent and 21 percent respectively compared to eating less than one serving of these foods per month.
  • Eating two or more servings a week of oatmeal lowered diabetes risk 21 percent compared to less than one serving a month.
  • Eating two or more servings a week of added bran lowered diabetes risk 15 percent compared to less than one serving a month.
  • And eating two or more servings a week of brown rice or wheat germ lowered diabetes risk 12 percent compared to less than one serving a month.

The simplest dietary approach to diabetes prevention

So, if restrictive diets that cut out food groups or cut calories severely don’t feel doable to you, consider simply increasing your fruit, vegetable and whole-grain intake. Obviously, based on these studies, fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of vitamin C and carotenoids would be the best choice, since high blood levels of those two nutrients reduced diabetes risk by an impressive 50 percent. Here are some of those to add to your shopping list:

  • Yams
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Mangoes
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Tangerines
  • Papaya

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  1. Higher fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake linked to lower risk of diabetes — MedicalXpress.
  2. Association of plasma biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake with incident type 2 diabetes: EPIC-InterAct case-cohort study in eight European countries — The BMJ.
  3. Intake of whole grain foods and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective cohort studies — The BMJ.
  4. 20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin C — Healthline.
  5. Carotenoids: Everything You Need to Know — Healthline.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and