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Eating To Prevent Diabetes: A Conversation With Dr. Nelya Pavlenko

Nearly 10 percent of people in the United States have type 2 diabetes, and many more are at risk of developing it. We sat down with Dr. Pavlenko to discuss the illness and what you can do to manage and prevent it.

What is Type 2 diabetes and how is it caused?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body can’t produce enough insulin to keep your blood sugars level. It’s usually the result of many years of eating poorly and not exercising. The disease is a problem because it puts you at risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strokes, and heart attacks.

Who is most at risk?

Ethnicity plays a big part. Native Americans and Hispanics have the biggest risk. Those who are overweight or obese, who have a sedentary lifestyle, or who consume a diet high in processed foods, carbohydrates, and sugars are also at risk.

How do you prevent this disease?

You use a lot of the same techniques to prevent the disease as you do to manage it: Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.

What mistakes do people make with their food choices?

A lot of people think they’re eating well, but they’re having a sugary yogurt with a granola bar for breakfast. They’re having a sandwich with white bread for lunch. And pasta for dinner. It’s homemade food, but when you look at the grams of sugar and amount of processed white flour, it’s not healthy.

What other foods should people be careful of?

Canned foods can contain hidden sugars as a preservative. Fast foods such as fries and tacos are high in fat and in sugar. Soda is bad, but so is fruit juice, because all of that sugar just gets absorbed into your system. Milk contains protein and calcium, which are good for you, but the glucose in it can also spike your blood sugar.

What should people actually eat?

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains like brown rice and barley, whole-wheat bread, nuts, and beans. These are all complex carbohydrates that have lots of fiber, which helps keep your body from absorbing too much sugar too quickly. If you’re craving something sweet, eat fruit before choosing things like cookies and candy.

How do you successfully adopt a diabetes-resistant diet?

A lot of it comes to being educated on what kind of foods are good for you. Shopping smart and cooking at home are also important. If you want to learn more, let your doctor know. We can help you discover what you need to know and even refer you for one-on-one nutrition consultations when necessary.

A diabetes-resistant diet can be delicious and flavorful. This healthy summer lunch is full of good protein and fiber, and low in sugar, but doesn’t skimp on taste.