November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and we’d like to share some steps you can take to lower your risk and help educate others on how they can do the same.
Diabetes is a widespread health problem throughout the country, affecting 10.5% of Americans.  While diabetes can sometimes be hereditary, lifestyle and dietary choices are important factors that can contribute to risk or reduce it. By incorporating these few simple diet habits, you can help deter your chances of developing diabetes and get countless other health benefits too!
Incorporate Plant-Based Foods into Your Everyday Diet
Studies have shown that eating a plant-based diet can lessen your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 34%.  Plant-based and fiber-rich foods can help your body reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, as well as improve glycemic control. According to research, those who eat even just a small amount of meat each week might be significantly increasing their odds of developing diabetes. 
Don’t worry if you don’t want to go fully vegan! Simply by adding more fresh fruits and vegetables and high-fiber whole grains and legumes to your daily diet (which helps displace other foods, such as large portions of meat) is a step in the right direction. Centering your diet around these foods — legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables — can also help to reduce body mass, which plays a role in protecting against diabetes.
If you have decided to make the shift toward a plant-based diet, it’s essential to be aware that not all plant-based foods are the same. Even though a packaged food may be labeled “plant-based,” it’s best to avoid refined sugars and grains, processed foods, frozen meals, and sugary desserts. Go with fresh produce and unprocessed whole grains, instead. 
Add More Vegetables to Your Plate
It’s no secret that vegetables are good for your overall health and longevity, and we know they’re also highly effective in regulating blood sugar levels. Health guidelines suggest those on a 2,000- calorie daily diet should be eating at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day.  You can easily meet this goal by filling up about half your plate with vegetables at every meal.
Certain types of vegetables have been shown to be more effective in helping to reduce risk. Leafy greens, vegetables rich with fiber, such as non-starchy and cruciferous vegetables, are most beneficial in helping to prevent blood sugar spikes. These can include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages, asparagus, artichokes, lettuce, spinach, and eggplant. 
Whole, fresh and frozen vegetables are better choices for optimal health benefits. As much as possible, stick with fresh produce rather than canned or frozen vegetables with added salt or preservatives and other additives.
Swap Out Sweets for Healthier Options
Making dietary changes to prevent diabetes doesn’t mean you need to give up snacks! By swapping out sweets or high-carb chips for healthier choices like fruits and nuts, you can still satisfy your snack cravings.
Opt for fruits in their natural state. Fresh fruits that are high in fiber, such as apples, bananas, oranges, berries and avocados all have major health benefits in diabetes management and prevention.  Snacking on fruits instead of cookies or candy can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is linked to a lower risk as well.
Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanuts and pumpkin or sunflower seeds are also easy to incorporate into your diet. They make for a convenient snack when you’re on the go! These kinds of nuts are good sources of minerals such as zinc and magnesium, as well as vitamins and healthy fats that are heart-healthy too!  You know that saying, “Keep It Simple, Silly!” – Simple and doable diet changes make a big difference on blood sugar! In general, by focusing on the “basics” of health, meaning making healthy daily diet choices, drinking plenty of water, maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough exercise are all key factors that can help dramatically reduce your risk of diabetes.