Can Adding More Whole Grains To Your Diet Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

Fiber is an ally in stabilizing blood sugar

Not sure if you should add that loaf of rye bread or those rolled oats to your grocery cart? If you’re concerned about your blood sugar, the answer is “Yes!”

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For years, doctors have known that whole grains are part of a heart-healthy diet. But according to a recent study, eating more whole grains can also help prevent type 2 diabetes.

The study looked at 55,465 participants between the ages of 50 to 65. Researchers found that the highest whole grain intake among men was associated with a 34 percent decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. Women who ate the most whole grains saw a 22 percent decreased risk.

Why fiber has a protective effect

“Whole grains, which are fiber, can help with diabetes because fiber helps with insulin sensitivity,” explains endocrinologist Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis, MD, who did not take part in the research. “Fiber is harder to break down. As a result, it stabilizes blood sugar. So you don’t get those spikes in blood sugar that you get with refined sugar.” 

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Whether you have type 2 diabetes or are trying to prevent it, Dr. Kellis says it’s important not only to eat plenty of whole grains (such as wheat, rye and oats), but to also cut back on refined grains.

Why refined grains aren’t as smart a pick

Too many refined grains — such as sugary beverages, sweets, pastries, white breads, white flour, white pasta and white rice — can cause your blood sugar to spike.

And even if a food label advertises “whole grain,” it’s still important to read the label in its entirety to make sure that there aren’t hidden refined sugars as well.

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Dr. Kellis also points out that whole grains are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to type 2 diabetes prevention.

“Yes, increasing whole grains will help to reduce your risk of diabetes, but you want to incorporate vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and fruits into your diet as well,” she says. 

Complete results of the study can be found in The Journal of Nutrition.

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