More than 25.8 million children and adults in the United States live with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and experts say as many as 79 million more have prediabetes—a condition where elevated blood glucose levels raise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
So how can you avoid or reverse prediabetes? Start by asking your doctor for fasting plasma glucose (FPG), A1C, and oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT); then follow these expert recommendations for staying diabetes-free.
Diabetes lifestyle educator
If you are overweight, have high cholesterol, or have a family history of diabetes, you’re at risk. You can lower that risk by up to 58 percent by losing 7 percent of your body weight, which means exercise is essential. Start with 30 minutes of brisk walking five to six times per week; then try low-impact workouts like biking or swimming.
Reduce sugar intake to less than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) daily for women and less than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) per day for men. People at risk for prediabetes should follow a reduced-calorie and reduced-fat diet. Avoid trans fats and regulate high-caloric healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocado.
Make measureable changes.
Wear a pedometer to calculate daily movement, start a food journal, and download online applications that track your weight-loss successes with graphs.
–Jennifer Pells, PhD, Wellspring at Structure House, Durham, North Carolina
Chronic stress taxes the pancreas (the insulin-producing organ) and increases prediabetes risk. Honokiol, a magnolia bark extract, reduces stress and supports the pancreas by taming inflammation and oxidative stress. Take 250 mg twice per day with meals, for long-term use.
Choose the right fiber.
Fiber slows sugar’s release into the bloodstream, allowing your body to use less insulin. Modified citrus pectin is a high-fiber, easily absorbed carbohydrate. Studies show it blocks the inflammatory compound galectin-3, which people predisposed to diabetes release when they eat sugar. Take 5 grams modified citrus pectin once daily.
Support immunity with mushrooms.
People at risk for prediabetes have low immune function; plus, diabetes risk can increase with certain infections and diseases like pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Medicinal mushrooms safely support immunity; look for a supplement blend of maitake, cordyceps and reishi. Take 2,000 to 3,000 mg daily for two months, and then reduce your intake to 1,000 mg per day for the long term.
–Isaac Eliaz, PhD, Amitabha Medical Clinic, Sebastopol, California
Preserve vegetables’ nutrients.
Overcooking vegetables can deplete theiressential vitamins, minerals, and fiber—nutrients that help slow sugar’s release into the bloodstream. Preserve nutrients by cooking them rapidly. Cut vegetables into small pieces, boil a pot of water, and blanch for three to five minutes, until slightly tender. Drain; then submerge in ice water to stop cooking. Or use a high-powered electric wok with 1 tablespoon safflower oil; the high heat sears the vegetables in minutes.
Use sugar alternatives.
When baking, reduce the amount of sugar by half and replace the other half with natural, rich-texture alternatives like frozen fruit concentrates, date paste, or fruit purées. These contain fructose, which doesn’t stimulate insulin production, as glucose does. Avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda).
Arrange your plate.
For prediabetes prevention and even reversal, fill half your plate at every meal with low-sugar, high-fiber fruit like berries or with nutrient-dense vegetables such as kale, carrots, or broccoli. Divide the other half between a complex carbohydrate like brown rice and lean protein such as chicken, tofu, or fish. Additionally, include one fruit or vegetable with every snack. If you fill up on healthful foods, you won’t be as likely to snack on carbohydrates and sweets.
–Jackie Keller, board certified wellness coach, founding director, NutriFit, Los Angeles