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Battle Diabetes with the Mediterranean Diet

The foods in a Mediterranean diet make perfect sense for a person with type 2 diabetes because the food choices lean toward being low-glycemic. The glycemic index is a measurement given to carbohydrate-containing foods that shows how quickly they turn into blood sugar. High-glycemic foods create a quick, high blood sugar spike, while low-glycemic foods offer a slow blood sugar rise.

A diet that provides this slow rise in blood sugar is best for diabetics, who can’t manage a large influx of sugar normally. Most vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes (hallmarks of the Mediterranean diet) provide a much slower blood sugar response compared to white bread, white pasta, or sugary snacks.

A 2009 study from the Second University of Naples in Italy published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that diabetics who followed a Mediterranean diet instead of a low-fat diet had better glycemic control and were less likely to need diabetes medication.

The portion sizes in the Mediterranean diet can also make a significant difference for a diabetic. Starchy foods such as the whole grains found in cereals and breads can also make blood sugar rise if a person consumes too much of them, but the portion sizes associated with a Mediterranean pattern of eating are much lower and help keep total carbohydrate intake during the meal in check.

But the benefits don’t stop at those who already have diabetes; this diet pattern may help you reduce your risk of getting the disease. The SUN cohort study from the University of Navarro, Spain, which involved more than 13,000 participants with no history of diabetes, showed that those participants who followed a Mediterranean style diet were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

What’s more interesting about this study is that participants who had high risk factors for type 2 diabetes (including older age, family history of diabetes, and a history of smoking) and followed the diet pattern strictly had an 83 percent relative reduction for developing the disease.

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