12 Ways to Never Get Diabetes

These simple steps may be all it takes to stay healthy and stop worrying about sugar problems.
© Prevention // © Prevention

Diabetes-Proof Your Life

It might seem strange to have a day that “celebrates” diabetes—World Diabetes Day is November 14th this year —but we disagree. Why? Because this is one of the most preventable diseases in the world, meaning that starting today, you can take concrete steps toward a diabetes-free future.

Whether you’re already living with type 2 diabetes, or you’re one of the estimated 25% of American who have prediabetes, it’s never too late to change your health for the better—and avoid a lifetime of drugs and blood sugar monitoring, an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other scary health threats. Read on for 12 simple tricks everyone can start today.

Learn how to control blood sugar using food, vitamins, minerals, herbs, even mental attitude in the Beat Diabetes Naturally book.
1 of 14 Couple riding bicycles (© Tom Merton/Getty Images)

1. Nudge the Scale

Shedding even 10 pounds can significantly slash your risk.
Even extremely overweight people were 70% less likely to develop diabetes when they lost just 5% of their weight—even if they didn’t exercise. If you weigh 175 pounds, that’s a little less than 9 pounds! Use our calorie calculator to see how many calories you consume—and how many you need to shave off your diet—if you want to lose a little.
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2 of 14 Woman standing on a scale (© Tara Moore/Getty Images)

2. Pick the Right Appetizer

May we recommend the salad? Eating greens with a vinaigrette before a starchy entrée may help control your blood sugar levels.
In an Arizona State University study, people with type 2 diabetes or a precursor condition called insulin resistance had lower blood sugar levels if they consumed about 2 tablespoons of vinegar just before a high-carb meal. "Vinegar contains acetic acid, which may inactivate certain starch-digesting enzymes, slowing carbohydrate digestion," says lead researcher Carol Johnston, PhD. In fact, vinegar’s effects may be similar to those of the blood sugar—lowering medication acarbose (Precose).
Before you eat that fettuccine, enjoy a salad with this dressing: Whisk 3 tablespoons vinegar, 2 tablespoons flaxseed oil, 1 clove garlic (crushed), 1/4 teaspoon honey, 3 tablespoons yogurt, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. (Makes four 2-tablespoon servings.)
3 of 14 Woman eating a salad (© Monkey Business Images/Getty Images)

3. Ditch Your Car

Walk as much as you can every day. You’ll be healthier—even if you don’t lose any weight.
People in a Finnish study who exercised the most—up to 4 hours a week, or about 35 minutes a day—dropped their risk of diabetes by 80%, even if they didn’t lose any weight. This pattern holds up in study after study: The famed Nurses’ Health Study, for example, found that women who worked up a sweat more than once a week reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 30%. And Chinese researchers determined that people with high blood sugar who engaged in moderate exercise (and made other lifestyle changes) were 40% less likely to develop full-blown diabetes. Why is walking so wonderful? Studies show that exercise helps your body utilize the hormone insulin more efficiently by increasing the number of insulin receptors on your cells. Insulin helps blood sugar move into cells, where it needs to go to provide energy and nutrition. Otherwise it just sloshes around in your bloodstream, gumming up blood vessel walls and eventually causing serious health problems.
4 of 14 Businessman walking (© Datacraft Co Ltd/Getty Images)

4. Be a Cereal Connoisseur

Selecting the right cereal can help you slim down and steady blood sugar.
A higher whole grain intake is also linked to lower rates of breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke—and cereal is one of the best sources of these lifesaving grains, if you know what to shop for.
Some tips: Look for the words high fiber on the box; that ensures at least 5 g per serving. But don’t stop there. Check the label; in some brands, the benefits of fiber are overshadowed by the addition of refined grains, added sugar, or cholesterol-raising fats.
Decode the grains: Where that fiber comes from matters too, so check the ingredient list to find out exactly what those flakes or squares are made from. Millet, amaranth, quinoa, and oats are always whole grain, but if you don’t see whole in front of wheat, corn, barley, or rice, these grains have been refined and aren’t as healthy.
Watch for hidden sugar: The "total sugars" listing doesn’t distinguish between added and naturally occurring sugars; the best way to tell is scan the ingredients again. The following terms represent added sugars: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, sugar, and sucrose. Skip cereals that list any of these within the first three ingredients (which are listed by weight).
5 of 14 Pouring milk in a bowl of cereal (© Stockbyte/Getty Images )

5. Indulge Your Coffee Cravings

If you’re a coffee fan, keep on sipping. The beverage may keep diabetes at bay.
After they studied 126,210 women and men, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that big-time coffee drinkers—those who downed more than 6 daily cups—had a 29 to 54% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes during the 18-year study. Sipping 4 to 5 cups cut risk about 29%; 1 to 3 cups per day had little effect. Decaf coffee offered no protection. Caffeine in other forms—tea, soda, chocolate—did. Researchers suspect that caffeine may help by boosting metabolism. And coffee, the major caffeine source in the study, also contains potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants that help cells absorb sugar.
But before you become a VIP at Dunkin Donuts, remember that a medium chain-store cuppa is about 14 to 16 ounces—right there, that’s 2 "cups" by standard measures.
6 of 14 Man drinking a cup of coffee (© Julien Capmeil/Getty Images)

6. Ditch the Drive-Thru

You might get away with an occasional fast-food splurge, but become a regular "fast feeder" and your risk of diabetes skyrockets.
That’s what University of Minnesota scientists found after they studied 3,000 people, ages 18 to 30, for 15 years. At the start, everyone was at a normal weight. But those who ate fast food more than twice a week gained 10 more pounds and developed twice the rate of insulin resistance—the two major risk factors for type 2 diabetes—compared with those who indulged less than once a week. In addition to the jumbo portions, many fast food meals are loaded with unhealthy trans fats and refined carbohydrates, which may raise diabetes risk even if your weight remains stable. A better bet: Keep a baggie of DIY trail mix in your purse at all times in case hunger pangs come on. Nuts are known blood sugar—lowerers.
7 of 14 In-n-Out Burger drive thru (© Ambient Images/SuperStock )

7. Go Veggie More Often

Consider red meat a treat—not something to eat every day.
Women who ate red meat at least 5 times a week had a 29% higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those who ate it less than once a week, found a 37,000-woman study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. And eating processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs at least 5 times a week raised type 2 diabetes risk by 43%, compared with eating them less than once a week. The culprits? Scientists suspect the cholesterol in red meat and the additives in processed meat are to blame.
Try these two delicious dishes for a filling, meat-free entree: Stuffed Peppers Provence-Style and Pasta Primavera. Both recipes are high in calcium and fiber, two of the powerful nutrients behind Prevention's Diabetes DTOUR Diet plan.
8 of 14 Woman sitting on a kitchen counter, eating greens (© Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images)

8. Spice Up Your Life

Cinnamon may help rein in high blood sugar.
German researchers studied 65 adults with type 2 diabetes who then took a capsule containing the equivalent of 1 g of cinnamon powder or a placebo 3 times a day for 4 months. By the end, cinnamon reduced blood sugar by about 10%; the placebo users improved by only 4%. Why? Compounds in cinnamon may activate enzymes that stimulate insulin receptors. The sweet spice has also been shown to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, blood fats that may contribute to diabetes risk.
9 of 14 Spicy stewed mangoes (© Riou/photocuisine/Corbis)

9. Unwind Every Day

Chronic stress can send blood sugar levels soaring.
When you’re stressed, your body is primed to take action. This gearing up causes your heart to beat faster, your breath to quicken, and your stomach to knot. But it also triggers your blood sugar levels to skyrocket. "Under stress, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, raising blood sugar levels to prepare you for action," says Richard Surwit, PhD, author of The Mind-Body Diabetes Revolution and chief of medical psychology at Duke University. If your cells are insulin resistant, the sugar builds up in your blood, with nowhere to go—leading to chronically high levels. The good news is, simple relaxation exercises and other stress management moves can help you gain control over blood sugar levels, according to a study conducted at Duke University. Try these proven relaxers:
  • Start your day with yoga, meditation, or a walk.
  • Take three deep, slow breaths before answering the phone, starting the car, serving the kids lunch, or any other activity.
  • Reclaim your Sundays as a day of rest or fun with your family, relaxing, worship, etc. Try to avoid spending the whole day on obligatory errands such as mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, or catching up on work.
10 of 14 Man lying on the grass smiling with eyes closed (© Michael Rowe/Getty Images)