Brown Rice and 4 Other Foods That Can Help Prevent Diabetes

Nuts, fish, fat-free dairy products, and green leafy vegetables may help prevent or manage diabetes.

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Healthy eating plays a major role in diabetes prevention and management, as demonstrated by a new study published online by the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggesting that choosing brown rice over white rice may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. But selecting the right type of rice isn't the only food choice you can make to help avoid the disease. To ward off diabetes—or keep it in check if you've already been diagnosed—consider adding these foods to your diet:

Nuts
Nuts help dampen hunger and provide healthy fats, magnesium, and fiber. Peanuts and other varieties are thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease and help improve cholesterol levels. Some research suggests that eating nuts may reduce the risk of diabetes. Because of this, people with diabetes should consume nuts to help reduce their cardiovascular risk, according to a study published in 2008 in the Journal of Nutrition. A common myth is that nuts should be avoided by those who want to lose weight because they're thought to be fattening. Not so, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, which suggests consuming nuts, which are high in calories, in small portion sizes—say, a half-ounce of mixed nuts, totaling about 84 calories.

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Green leafy vegetables
A 2008 Diabetes Care study found that women who ate more green, leafy vegetables in addition to fruit had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Eating lots of veggies such as spinach, kale, and collards, which are low in calories and carbohydrates, may also help accomplish a key goal of weight loss: Consuming less calories than one expends, says dietitian Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, president-elect for healthcare and education at the American Diabetes Association.

Fish
Choose fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, Mayer-Davis recommends. But shy away from fish that is deep fried or breaded, the ADA suggests. A study published this month in Diabetes Educator found that people with diabetes who consume more fish may have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as improved cholesterol levels and a lower risk of cardiac death.

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Fat-free milk and dairy products
A 2005 Archives of Internal Medicine study found that men who consumed more dairy products, particularly those low in fat, had a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Other research suggests that dairy products may help ward off insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes. When shopping, select dairy products that are fortified with vitamin D and calcium, Mayer-Davis suggests, since research shows that low levels of vitamin D may be tied to poor health outcomes.

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Exercise is key, too
Losing 7 to 10 percent of your body weight if you're overweight is the ideal goal to help ward off type 2 diabetes, Mayer-Davis says. Because of this, both a healthy diet and regular physical activity are important for preventing and managing the disease. Regular exercise also "improves the way in which insulin works in the body to control glucose levels," another key benefit, she says.

The commitment to a healthy lifestyle should be lifelong and it should also influence your family members, says Mayer-Davis. "When you're thinking about a healthful diet for yourself, if you're a parent, this is something you're modeling for your children as well. Whole families should adopt healthful habits."