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Living with or preventing diabetes requires more than just monitoring your blood sugar. It's about understanding the role of protein and fat in your diet. With approximately 10% of people aged 20-79 worldwide living with diabetes and many more at risk, it's crucial to understand how your choices can affect your health. In this article, we will delve into expert advice on creating a diet plan to prevent diabetes and its associated complications.

Nutritional Foundations

The first step towards preventing diabetes is to embrace a well-rounded diet. Nutritionists often recommend consuming ample fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, nuts, and seeds while steering clear of highly processed, packaged foods. While this advice may sound familiar, let's delve deeper into the intricacies of diabetes and nutrition.

Weight and Diet: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Weight management is commonly associated with diabetes risk. However, a renowned cardiologist and nutrition professor, emphasizes that regardless of your weight, your diet plays a significant role in diabetes prevention. It's not just about the glucose levels; it's about what you eat and how it affects your body.

Unmasking Glucose

Understanding the role of glucose in diabetes is crucial. Refined starches, such as white rice, white bread, and potatoes, trigger rapid spikes in blood glucose. These spikes lead to increased insulin release, which, in the long term, escalates the risk of diabetes. Moreover, added sugar, which is 50% glucose, is a well-known culprit in diabetes development.

Fructose, the other 50% of sugar, has a minimal impact on blood glucose and insulin. However, recent research has uncovered its role in diabetes when consumed in excessive quantities, such as in heavily sweetened foods and drinks.

The Weight Dilemma

Weight gained from fatty foods can accumulate around the liver and other organs in the abdomen, substantially increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. This form of weight gain is far more perilous than the accumulation of subcutaneous fat.

Protein's Role

Excess protein in your diet can elevate insulin levels and turn into fat, similar to excessive starch or sugar consumption. Unless you are actively engaged in strength training, additional protein is unnecessary. Furthermore, protein from red meat, when consumed in excess, can harm the pancreas and elevate diabetes risk.

Balancing Protein Intake

Approximately 10% of your daily calories should come from protein, equivalent to 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This translates to 55 grams of protein or 220 calories in a 2200-calorie diet. Opt for healthy protein sources such as nuts, seeds, soy, beans, lentils, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy products such as Yogurt, cheese, or milk.

Gut Health Matters

Foods that promote a diverse and healthy balance of gut microbes can improve metabolism and help control diabetes. Include vegetables, fruits, high-fiber foods like beans and whole grains, and fermented foods like cheese and yogurt in your diet.

Red Flags in Your Diet

Beware of excessive iron intake from red meat, as it can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and lead to diabetes. Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose, may also disturb this balance, increasing the risk of diabetes.

Balanced Diet

While avoiding excessive animal protein is wise, adopting a strict vegan diet doesn't guarantee diabetes prevention. The key is to have a well-balanced diet that includes whole grains while avoiding refined grains.

The Healthy Fats

Contrary to earlier beliefs, healthy fats from sources like olive oil, nuts, fish, and avocados are essential for a balanced diet. Low-fat diets often replace fats with starch and sugar, a detrimental choice for those trying to stave off diabetes.

The Role of Exercise

Exercise builds muscle, which helps in absorbing excess glucose and protein in the bloodstream, preventing them from turning into fat. While exercise alone may not lead to weight loss, it can improve insulin resistance. 

Meals, Not Nutrients

Instead of focusing on single nutrients, consider the combination of foods in your meals. Pairing foods can slow down the body's absorption of starch and provide other beneficial nutrients. For instance, ice cream, which contains dairy and sugar, has not been linked to a higher risk of diabetes. Consuming a single slice of white bread by itself causes a rapid spike in both blood sugar and insulin levels. However, when you pair that bread with olive oil or spread it with peanut butter, the added calories not only result in slower absorption of the bread's starch but also introduce other valuable nutrients into the equation.


Diabetes is not solely about blood sugar; it involves the complex interactions of various nutrients in your body. Avoiding diabetes is crucial as it reduces the risk of severe health problems, including infections, cancer, blindness, kidney disease, and heart disease.

In conclusion, understanding the relationship between your diet, diabetes, and overall health is essential. By making informed choices and maintaining a balanced diet, you can significantly reduce your risk of diabetes and its associated complications.

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