These Top 10 Foods Can Help Prevent Diabetes

These Top 10 Foods Can Help Prevent Diabetes



Are you ready to join the fight against chronic disease? The Food as Medicine philosophy speaks for itself. We now know that how we eat and what we eat can greatly impact our longevity. Consuming nutritious, whole foods can help preserve your health, and act as a defense mechanism against chronic diseases like diabetes. If you have any family members diagnosed with diabetes and believe you may be at risk, these ten foods below may be able to help prevent disease before it even starts. 

Purple Cauliflower OptUP Score: 90

A non-starchy vegetable that has proven itself to be a superstar in the food scene, cauliflower continues to outdo itself especially with all of its nutritional benefits. One cup of cauliflower contains a good source of fiber and an excellent source of Vitamin C and K. Interestingly enough, Cauliflower contains a compound called indole-3-carbinol also known as I3C, which works as a strong anti-inflammatory compound fighting chronic diseases and inflammation. Pretty cool! 

How to Use:

It’s extremely versatile and can be used in anything from cooking to desserts. You can cut a cauliflower head into slices and make cauliflower "steaks" or you can blend it up into a "rice" using a food processor for an Asian stir fry. My favorite way to use cauliflower is by adding it as "bulk" to my meals. I'll mix it into ground beef for burger patties or ground turkey for my chili. You don't even know it's there!

Avocados OptUP Score100

A power packed fruit (yes, I said fruit) with all the good fats, avocado is, of course, a part of the fight. Avocado earns its spot as a beneficial "nutrient booster" by helping the body better absorb fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E, K, as well as antioxidants like alpha- and beta-carotene. Because of its high fat content, avocado assists with managing blood sugar levels throughout digestion and supports heart health, and even hormone levels. 

How to Use:

You can never go wrong with a bowl of guac! Add some diced mango or pomegranate arils to better complement the nutrients and boost the flavor. Also, blending an avocado in a food processor with garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper makes a great pasta sauce. Adding avocados to your brownie batter or even as a mayonnaise replacement is a great way to add creaminess to a dairy-free lifestyle. 

Flax Seed OptUP Score: 92

Flax seeds are a superfood with high amounts of fiber, healthy fats, and polyphenols known as lignans. Lignans, believe it or not, may help with lowering hypertension and heart disease (1). 

How to Use:

Adding 2-4 TBSP of ground flax seed to a smoothie, oatmeal, cookie batter or even mixing in your yogurt is an easy way to boost the nutritional density of your food. My favorite way is adding them to my protein balls. I mix 1 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup honey, 2 cups Simple Truth vanilla protein powder, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1/8 cup flax seeds, 1/3 cup whole grain oats, 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips. I form them into 2-inch balls which then become nutrient-packed easy, on the go snacks. 

Purple Cabbage OptUP Score: 92

This vibrant and purple cruciferous vegetable is an underdog for sure. Purple cabbage contains nitrates which are great for managing your blood pressure and cardiovascular system. High blood pressure is certainly common in patients who have diabetes, and some studies suggest there’s a correlation between the two. In addition, having high blood pressure may potentially put you at a higher risk for the on-set of diabetes, so it's important to ensure your blood pressure is managed over time (2). Consuming nitrate containing foods like beets, celery, and cabbage is a good place to start. 

How to Use: 

Finely chop half a head of cabbage to use in a stir fry bowl and use the other half for wedge salads. Make sure to grill or roast the wedge in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes to achieve a softer bite. A fun and creative way to use purple cabbage is as "edible bowls". Remove the top two or three layers of the cabbage head and use as "bowls". Coat the outside of the bowl with a drizzle of salad dressing and fill it with all your favorite salad combos!

Cherries OptUP Score: 96

These little guys are bursting with nutrition. Cherries are packed with potassium, a blood pressure lowering nutrient that offsets the effects of sodium. Even better, they contain a powerful antioxidant know are quercetin which contributes to keeping your blood vessels relaxed. So, instead of taking a chill pill, just eat a few cherries. 

How to Use:

The darker the cherries, the more antioxidants they contain, so give them a moment to ripen up if needed! Make a cherry compote to use on whole grain pancakes by chopping the cherries, removing the pit, and heating on medium heat in a saucepan for 10-12 minutes (add a splash of water if needed.) This will create a warm, fruity sauce you can use to dip your waffles or pancakes in.  

Oranges OptUP Score: 90

An orange a day keeps the doctor away- hey, hey. Oranges contain beta-carotene, a nutrient that converts into vitamin A, which is ultimately used for vision and skin health support. We can't forget about the excellent source of vitamin C they provide, contributing to the fight against free radicals, which may also be linked to diabetes (3).

How to Use:

The most popular way to consume an orange is through juice, but how about using it in a fruity homemade salad dressing? Use the orange zest to brighten up your salad or roasted vegetables, or go ahead and squeeze fresh orange juice over your stir-fry to add some sweetness to your meal.  

Walnuts OptUP Score: 88

The best nut of all nuts, walnuts are one of the only tree nuts that contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Walnuts contain 2.5g of this nutrient, which is commonly found in fatty fish in the forms of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega 3s are beneficial for diabetes prevention as they have been shown to potentially play a role in supporting heart health (4). 

Salmon OptUP Score: 84

A protein packed and healthy fats contributing food, salmon certainly plays a beneficial role in diabetes prevention. Although all fish contains omega-3s, salmon contains elevated amounts as this compound is found in their muscles in an oil form. 

How to Use:

Add chopped smoked salmon in a food processor and blend with ricotta cheese. This makes a delicious, flavorful spread for your crackers or veggies. Salmon tacos with purple cabbage, cilantro, and cotija cheese is always a great combo to a taco-favorite. 

Kale-YEAH! OptUP Score: 96

Kale is here to stay and it’s because of its protective health properties. Kale contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which may combat oxidative stress and damage (5). 

How to Use:

Carotenoids are best absorbed with a little bit of fat. Pair sautéed kale with baked salmon and you've got a match made in heaven as you are optimizing your nutrient absorption. Kale chips made with olive, avocado or canola oil will also have the same effect.  

Lentils OptUP Score: 100

Lentils are sometimes forgotten about but not any longer as our OptUP nutritional rating system gives us a reason to keep these small but mighty pulses top of mind. They receive a perfect score of 100 due to their stellar amounts of protein and fiber, making them cholesterol, sodium, and fat free. 

How to Use:

Making lentils from a dry state can take some time, but it's extremely easy. Rinse the lentils with a mesh strainer and bring 1 cup of lentils with 2 cups of water up to a boil. Cover and simmer with a lid for ~20 minutes or until tender. You can never go wrong with making a spicy lentil soup, especially since the cold weather has arrived. If you want an even simpler solution for eating more lentils, reach for lentil packed pasta found in the spaghetti aisles at Kroger. 

Cinnamon OptUP Score: 76

You may have heard it before that cinnamon may benefit diabetes prevention. Fascinating enough, this spice has been shown in some studies to increase the effect of insulin and improve the metabolism of sugar (6).  Although the position of the American Diabetes Association is that there's not enough proof to support the use of cinnamon in diabetes management, the research suggests a possible benefit (7). 

How to Use:

Mix 1/2 tsp in your overnight oats or sprinkle on top of your roasted sweet potatoes. You could even sauté diced apples with your chicken dinner and top with cinnamon for a comforting and heartwarming meal. Don't forget about the cooked baby carrots Mom used to make with cinnamon too! 


  1. Rodriguez-Leyva D, Weighell W, Edel AL, LaVallee R, Dibrov E, Pinneker R, Maddaford TG, Ramjiawan B, Aliani M, Guzman R, Pierce GN. (2013, October.) Potent antihypertensive action of dietary flaxseed in hypertensive patients.
  2. The association of hypertension and diabetes: prevalence, cardiovascular risk and protection by blood pressure reduction:
  3. Free Radical Activity in Type 2 Diabetes
  4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life:
  5. Koushan K, Rusovici R, Li W, Ferguson LR, Chalam KV. The Role of Lutein in Eye-Related Disease. Nutrients. 2013;5(5):1823-1839. doi:10.3390/nu5051823.
  6. Shen Y, Honma N, Kobayashi K, et al. Cinnamon extract enhances glucose uptake in 3T3-L1 adipocytes and C2C12 myocytes by inducing LKB1-AMP-activated protein kinase signaling. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e87684.
  7. American Diabetes Association. Foundations of care: Education, nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation, psychosocial care, and immunization. Diabetes Care. 2015;38(Suppl 1):S20-S30.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


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