Enjoy Produce More Often and (Maybe) Reduce Diabetes Risk
As we move further into summertime, we can all enjoy the seasonal fresh produce that is ripening in our gardens, found at our local Farmer’s Markets or available by joining a local farm cooperative. This uptick in produce availability helps, hopefully, to improve and increase our intake of fruits and vegetables. A recent Harvard study reported in the journal Diabetologia reaffirms that an excellent intake of healthful foods, including produce, may offer protection from developing type 2 diabetes,
a chronic disease that over 30 million people have in this country.
The study included data from 10,684 adults. Blood samples were taken and their diets assessed. The dietary intake of the participants was categorized into three areas:
- Healthy plant-based diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, vegetable oils, tea and coffee.
- Unhealthy plant-based diet with less meat but with refined grains, fruit juices and sweets.
- Animal-based diet with animal fat such as butter, eggs, dairy, and meat, and a lower intake of plant foods.
The researchers found that for those study participants eating a mostly healthy-plant based diet, there was a 20% lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes, regardless of their weight or other risk factors.
The other interesting study information to note is that many of those people with type 2 diabetes and a lower intake of healthy plant foods had a higher body weight, and were more likely to have elevated cholesterol levels as well as high blood pressure. They also were more likely to have a family history of diabetes and were less physically active.
We have certainly discussed previously the many potential health benefits from a diet rich in whole-grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes. It seems that certain substances in both coffee and tea may offer protection from developing type 2 diabetes as well. All of this information just points to the importance of meal planning around produce and whole-grains, rather than the plant foods as an afterthought. Do you plan your meals around a head of broccoli or cauliflower? Does whole-grain pasta figure in as the primary focal point of the meal? Maybe we need to look at our meal planning a bit differently, with a plant-slant.
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.
By: Rita P. Smith, MS, RD, CDE, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital