Home/ News / Business Of Life/  An A-Z guide to diabetes prevention


Is there a way to control the rising cases of diabetes? Prevention is better than learning how to tackle this lifestyle disease, say experts. “Although the genes you inherit can influence the development of type-2 diabetes, you can make sure these take a back seat if you manage your lifestyle," says Delhi-based consultant nutritionist Geetu Amarnani. “Yes, prevention, even something as basic as eating carefully and exercising regularly, is our best possible bet to put the brakes on this disorder," says Ritika Mehta, a Delhi-based consultant nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Fortis C-Doc, Delhi. Here is a guide we have put together that can help you stop diabetes in its tracks.

Apples and Avocado

We’ve always known how good apples are for us, now doctors say the fruit helps keep diabetes away too. According to a research published in the ‘British Medical Journal’ (‘BMJ’) in August, eating apples is significantly associated with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes. “Avocado helps too, as it is a good source of good fat Mufa (mono-unsaturated fatty acids), which is instrumental in effective carbohydrate metabolism (improves insulin sensitivity)," says Karuna Chaturvedi, consultant, dietetics and clinical nutrition, Saket City Hospital, Delhi.

Beans and Barley

“Beans (haricot, lima, kidney and pinto) are a brilliant combination of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and soluble fibre, all of which help stabilize the body’s blood sugar levels," says Jyothi Setlur, a Bangalore-based consultant nutritionist. So go ahead and add some beans in every salad and soup you have. “Barley too is rich in soluble fibre, so helps in blood glucose control," she adds. Try having barley ‘khichdi’ for lunch twice a week.


A small quantity of cinnamon can go a long way in keeping your blood sugar in control. “Studies (like ‘Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes’, published in the journal ‘Diabetes Care’) have already demonstrated that cinnamon can be of big help for those suffering from type-2 diabetes," says Mehta. “Accordingly, it can be a great preventive tool," she adds. Sprinkle some cinnamon powder over apple slices, add a few walnuts and you get a delicious snack that prevents diabetes. You can also add some cinnamon powder to your morning cuppa to fight off the disease.

Downsize your meal portions

“Too much of good food can be bad, so eat smaller meals regularly," says V.K. Gujral, diabetologist, National Heart Institute, Delhi.

Egg whites

“It is important to stick to lean protein. While whole eggs can and must be included in the diet, it is the humble egg white that is a true diabetes-prevention star. It is high in lean protein and has negligible amounts of carbohydrate and total fat, including cholesterol, so helps keep blood sugar levels in check effectively," says Mehta.


“Fenugreek (‘methi’) works on multiple levels to prevent diabetes: it is rich in soluble dietary fibre so delays the absorption of sugar in the intestines (prevents sugar spikes); has a role in lowering cellular insulin resistance; and the amino acid 4-hydroxyisoleucine in it helps increase insulin production by stimulating the pancreas to secrete insulin," says Setlur.

Green tea and Grapes

According to a study published in ‘Molecular Nutrition & Food Research’ in November 2012, an ingredient in green tea—epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG—can significantly help reduce blood sugar spikes (about 50% less) after eating a carbohydrate-rich meal. So it may be a good idea to have green tea with your bagel (or ‘parantha’) for breakfast.

Also, the study published in August in ‘BMJ’ says that besides apples, grapes too can help reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.

Hop and run

“Regular exercise can help you lose weight by increasing your BMR (basal metabolic rate)," states Gujral. “Exercising improves the ability of the muscles to use insulin and absorb glucose. Try to combine resistance training with your cardio sessions for best results," adds Mehta.

Increase insulin sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity describes how sensitive the body is to the effects of insulin. You have high insulin sensitivity if you require smaller amounts of insulin to lower blood glucose levels than someone who has low sensitivity. Having a good sensitivity to insulin is a sign of good health. One way to do this is to have an antioxidant-rich diet full of green vegetables and fruits.


“The seed of the ‘jamun’ fruit (the powder of the sundried seeds) is rich in combolian glucoside, which prevents the breakdown of starch and carbohydrates into sugar, thereby aiding in blood sugar control. So try to have it regularly," says Chaturvedi. “And ‘jamun’ too has officially been named a diabetes-fighter in studies (‘Indian Journal of Pharmacology’, biochemistry division of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, and Central Drug Research Institute) for its hypoglycaemic properties (lowers blood sugar)," she adds


“Kiwi is a perfect fruit to help keep diabetes at bay," says Amarnani. “The glycaemic index for kiwi fruit is 53, which means it does not raise the blood sugar level rapidly. The fructose and fibre found in the fruit are largely responsible for the low glycaemic ranking," she explains. “It also contains a compound called Inositol, which can enhance the sensitivity of insulin in human body."

Limit alcohol

There are too many empty calories in alcohol and way too much sugar in cocktails mixed with soda and juice. It is best that women limit their alcohol (not wine) intake to one drink a day and men to two.

Measure your girth

Your risk is higher if you carry more weight around your abdomen as opposed to your hips and thighs (that is you are apple-shaped). The risk of developing diabetes increases if the waist circumference is more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.

No trans fats

“Make sure you read the labels properly (of processed foods, frozen dinners and chips, etc.) and avoid fried foods to keep trans fats away. Also, keep the consumption of saturated fat sources (butter, red meat, cream, cheese and hydrogenated fats like palm and coconut oil) low since they are extremely damaging," says Gujral, adding that these fats increase the risk of diabetes substantially.


Sticking to the right kind of fats can go a long way in the fight against diabetes. And monounsaturated fatty acids, or Mufa (found in avocado, nuts and seeds, olives, walnut and canola oils, and dark chocolate) is right up there in the list. “Olives are a great way of snapping up the benefits of this superhero fat as it is a good source of Mufa. Benefits include controlling blood sugar, reducing insulin resistance, and fighting belly fat (the dangerous kind that is strongly associated with prediabetes and diabetes)," says Chaturvedi. Keep some handy and add to your dishes liberally.

Pumpkin seeds

“These are loaded with magnesium, which has been proven to provide protection against diabetes by raising insulin sensitivity in the body," says Mehta. Sprinkle on your cereal or just roast and have as an in-between lunch and tea snack at work.

Quit excess sugar

Calories obtained from fructose (found in sugary beverages such as soda, energy and sports drinks, and processed foods like muffins, cereal, candy and granola bars) are more likely to turn you into an “apple" by adding weight around your abdomen, which puts you in the high-risk zone.

Reduce animal protein

Eating too much protein, especially animal proteins, may actually cause insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes. A balanced diet and lots of fibre is the key.


“Consuming higher levels of omega 3 puts a person at a lower risk of developing diabetes as these help enhance body cells’ sensitivity to insulin (the hormone which regulates blood sugar), thereby reducing the risk of the disorder. And salmon is a great source of omega 3. It acts both as a heart-saving food as well as diabetes-preventive," says Setlur. Try to have it twice a week. Vegetarians can incorporate flaxseed in their diet.

Take in more vitamin C

“People who consume good amount of vitamin C have the lowest incidence of diabetes. So zero in on fruits and vegetables like oranges, strawberries, ‘amla’, lime and broccoli," says Mehta. A study done by researchers in England and published in 2008 in the journal ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’ (now ‘JAMA Internal Medicine’) provided persuasive evidence of a beneficial effect of vitamin C and fruit- and vegetable-intake on diabetes risk.

Unplug regularly

“Meditation helps in stress control and stress is a known risk factor for diabetes," says Dr Gujral.


“It is believed that acetic acid, which is the biologically active component in vinegar, is able to inactivate some of the digestive enzymes that break the carbohydrates from food into sugar. This helps some sugars and starches to temporarily pass through without being digested, so they have less of an impact on blood sugar," says Mehta. A 2007 study, co-authored by Andrea M. White and published in ‘Diabetes Care’, conducted on 11 people with type-2 diabetes found that taking 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before going to bed lowered glucose levels in the morning by 4-6%.


A meta-analysis report published online in February by Harvard researchers in ‘The Journal of Nutrition’ found an inverse relationship between walnut consumption and risk of diabetes. They found that two or more servings of walnuts (1 serving is 28g) per week was associated with a 15-21% decrease in the risk of diabetes in the women studied. “Compared to other nuts, walnuts are uniquely high in the good fat alpha-linolenic acid and this makes them an effective diabetes-protective food," adds Chaturvedi.

Xerox habits

“Identify the healthy habits of healthy people around you and translate them into your life," suggests Mehta.


Yoga not just helps control weight but is also a great tool to keep stress in check. “Excess weight and high stress are both known risk factors for developing diabetes," says Dr Gujral. Research, published in the journal ‘Diabetic Medicine’, done by researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, showed an association between reporting permanent stress—as opposed to reporting no stress, or only periodic stress—and an increased risk of diabetes.

Zero in on your weight

“The biggest risk factor for developing diabetes is being overweight. So make sure you stay within your prescribed body-mass index (BMI)," says Dr Gujral. Ideal BMI should be between 18.5–24.9 (BMI = Weight (kg) / [Height (m) x Height (m)].

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Updated: 11 Nov 2013, 07:50 PM IST
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