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Ways to Reverse Prediabetes with Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Written by
Team Nutrisense
Reviewed by
Kara Collier
RDN, LDN, CNSC
a person making a salad

If we said clean, healthy living was important, you'd agree in a heartbeat, right? It's no secret that healthy lifestyles ensure a healthy mind and body and prevent several chronic ailments, conditions, illnesses, and diseases. 

We're going to talk about one of these conditions, a common one that can affect people at any age and is suddenly on the rise: diabetes. While not all diabetes can be prevented, some types start with prediabetes. Prediabetes means you consistently have high glucose levels for extended periods, and it can slowly progress into diabetes when this occurs for too long.

The good news is that there are many ways to reverse prediabetes and prevent chronic conditions by optimizing your health. You can do this by learning the basics of healthy eating and physical exercise, maintaining healthy weight goals and sleep patterns, and focusing on a low-stress life. Here's a little more about prediabetes and how you can focus on reversing it. 

What Prediabetes Is and Why It's Reversible

types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes

Prediabetes is a condition where your blood glucose levels are pretty high (between 100 and 125 mg/dl) for an extended period but not so high that you're diagnosed with diabetes. There are three types of diabetes, type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Here’s a little more about each one: 

Type 1 Diabetes

  • It usually develops early in life.
  • It’s an autoimmune disorder. 
  • It’s characterized by a lack of productive insulin-making pancreatic cells, resulting in an inability to turn the food you eat into usable energy for your cells. 
  • This type of diabetes usually requires insulin injections and may also be hereditary.

Type 2 Diabetes

  • It often develops later in life.
  • It can be attributed to age, diet, or lifestyle. 
  • It may be mild (and controlled by lifestyle or medication) or severe (requiring insulin injections). 
  • Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body is no longer sensitive to insulin. Even though you continue to make insulin, your body may have difficulty using it to turn food into energy.

Gestational Diabetes

  • It develops during pregnancy and typically resolves after childbirth.
  • For some, it does not resolve and may instead develop into type 2 diabetes later on. 
  • Symptom-wise, gestational diabetes looks similar to type 2 diabetes. 
  • If diet and lifestyle changes do not control it, you may need oral medication or insulin injections. Your healthcare provider will usually check for this using an oral glucose tolerance test.

When your body doesn't make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it does have effectively, it can lead to a buildup of sugars in the blood. But why is prediabetes reversible only for people with type 2 diabetes? There's currently no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, and lifestyle choices are not what causes it. With type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes can actually help to prevent, as well as to reverse the condition.

11 ways to Help Reverse Prediabetes

Now that you know you can prevent as well as reverse prediabetes, it's time to start taking the first steps towards it. Making healthy diet and lifestyle choices is a good way to begin! Of course, remember that there's no one-size-fits-all, and it's best to consult with a healthcare professional before you make any major changes. Here are 11 tips and tricks to help you out.

1. Work With a Dietitian

a person talking to a dietitian

The most important way to work on preventing diabetes is with healthy lifestyle choices—which you can incorporate with the help of a dietitian. The influence of diet on weight, glucose levels, and insulin is essential in the management of diabetes. An individualized diet plan created by a registered dietitian is a good way to prevent weight gain and maintain a healthy weight.

Your dietitian will work as part of your healthcare team in some situations. Their role is to give you the confidence to manage your diabetes, help you understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and guide you towards the changes you need to achieve your goals and improve your glycemic control.

Tips and Resources

  • Contact your doctor and test your glucose levels regularly.
  • If you have a risk of prediabetes or have been diagnosed with it, ask your doctor to recommend a dietitian you can work with.
  • If you're looking by yourself, you can find nutritionists and dietitians in hospitals, private clinics, universities, and online.
  • Keep track of your glucose levels in real-time with a continuous glucose monitor

2. Focus on Weight Loss If Needed

a person measuring their waist

Studies show that interventions promoting weight loss can also improve insulin sensitivity, help reduce lipid oxidation, and improve glucose metabolism.

An increase in adipose tissue can lead to insulin resistance. If your body cannot use insulin, your glucose levels will rise. Losing at least 10 percent of body fat and adopting an exercise routine to reduce fat tissue can improve your blood sugar levels and help reverse prediabetes.

Another thing to note about prediabetes is its role in your metabolic health. It is more common nowadays for people to gain weight due to changes in dietary patterns and decreased physical activity. The key to good metabolism is balancing food intake and physical exercise to prevent weight gain.

Tips and Resources

  • Focus on a balanced diet that is rich in whole foods.
  • Combine a healthy diet with regular physical activity.
  • Try to reduce your intake of refined grains (white flour, white rice, white bread) and added sugars.
  • If your diet allows for this and your body responds well to fish, try to include it in your meals at least twice a week.
  • Dairy (like yogurt) may help prevent type 2 diabetes, thanks to the benefits of fermented foods rich in probiotics. 

3. Eat Fewer Simple, Processed Carbs

The best way to decide what types of carbs you should consume is to use the glycemic index (GI). The GI is a value given to different kinds of food, based on how quickly they can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. Foods that have a low GI release glucose slowly into the blood, whereas foods that have a high GI release glucose rapidly, causing the rise of blood sugar levels. The GI of foods usually ranges from 0 to 70, but some high GI foods can rank higher on the scale. 

Refined carbs and sugars are digested faster than other foods, and due to their high GI, they tend to increase blood glucose levels. A low glycemic diet may improve blood sugar regulation, promote weight loss and reduce cholesterol levels in some people. 

Tips and Resources

  • Consider eating fruits with a low glycemic score like apples, berries, oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit.
  • Add more vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach, and tomatoes into your diet.
  • Instead of refined grains, eat more whole grains like quinoa, couscous, buckwheat, and oats.
  • Introduce legumes like lentils, black beans, and chickpeas to your diet.
  • Avoid overconsuming foods like white bread, rice, cereals, pasta, baked goods, snacks, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

4. Balance Your Diet

tomatoes, cucumbers, avocadoes and two plates of salad

A healthy diet can help restore normal blood sugar levels and sometimes help to reverse prediabetes. While a 'healthy diet' can differ from person to person, it usually consists of all three macronutrients, high-quality calories, and adequate fiber. There are multiple diets you can try that help to reduce blood glucose levels if you're prediabetic. The most common one is a lower carbohydrate diet—which emphasizes protein, healthy fat, fiber, and non-starchy vegetables, with additional low glycemic index carbs. This may help lower blood glucose levels). A Mediterranean diet may also be helpful with reversing prediabetes, as there is some research to show that this diet is effective for weight loss, which we know can have a positive impact on blood sugar levels.

Tips and Resources

  • Eat a varied macronutrient diet that best suits your bodies individualized needs, and manages your blood sugar levels
  • The type of fat you eat is important. Focus on healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fatty fish.
  • Consume good quality meat like grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, and free-range poultry.
  • Eat a good amount of fiber every day (25-30 grams).

5. Avoid Foods That Cause Blood Sugar Imbalances

Sweetened beverages contribute to rising glucose levels in your bloodstream, which can be risky for people who already have prediabetes. Other factors contributing to blood sugar spikes include added sugars and refined carbohydrates. For better glucose management, try the tips below. 

Tips and Resources

  • Reduce or avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, noodles, pizza, white rice, and white flour.
  • Don't eat too many foods with added sugars like candy, cakes, cookies, and pies.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages can also affect glucose levels. Avoid overconsuming soft drinks/soda, sports drinks, sweetened ice tea, energy drinks, fruit juice/punch. 

6. Improve Your Overall Hydration Levels

lemons and  glass of water with lemon

Dehydration can negatively influence blood glucose levels by stimulating the release of certain hormones such as cortisol, the stress hormone. This can affect insulin sensitivity and lead to higher glucose levels. It is also essential to keep hydrated to avoid high glucose concentrations in the blood.

Tips and Resources

  • Drink around eight to 10 glasses of water a day.
  • Try not to exercise when it's too hot outside or under direct sunlight, especially if you have heat intolerance
  • If you're prone to dehydration, add more water into your diet with broths, fruits, and vegetables that contain more water.

7. Make Exercising a Regular Part of Your Life 

Exercise helps to improve your physical health and can also boost mental health. Lower body fat and higher lean muscle mass are associated with lower blood sugar levels, so it's no surprise that so much discussion around diabetes prevention includes talk of weight-loss goals. You can achieve all of this with a healthy diet and some activity. Physical activity also boosts metabolic rates and increases lean muscle mass, which leads to improved insulin action.

Tips and Resources

  • To keep your exercise regime effective, start with 20 minutes of exercise and gradually increase the time and intensity. 
  • Wondering what to begin with? Try walking, biking, jogging, swimming, or playing various sports.

8. Find Ways to Reduce Stress

a person meditating

High levels of stress on a consistent basis may also contribute to the development of prediabetes. This is because certain hormones can develop insulin resistance, released only when the body goes through certain stages of stress. Conditions like depression can exacerbate stress and are often seen among people with prediabetes. All this can cause a resistance to insulin, which leads to very high glucose levels in the bloodstream.

Tips and Resources

  • Aim for quality relaxation and sleep every night and consult with a healthcare professional if you suffer from insomnia.
  • Practice relaxing activities like breathing techniques, walking in the park, yoga, and meditation. 

9. Embrace Health Technology

If you were diagnosed with prediabetes, it is vital to keep track of your glucose levels. Today's technology helps us do so with devices that monitor blood glucose to reverse and prevent conditions like prediabetes and diabetes.

Tips and Resources 

  • A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a device that measures blood glucose levels in real-time by sensing the glucose present in interstitial fluid.
  • A glucometer is a tool that can be used by taking a small drop of blood and placing it on the test strip in the glucometer.
  • Lancet devices have a sharp object that pricks the tip of the finger for a blood sample. 

10. Work With Your Doctor

a person explaining something on a tablet to a patient

A diabetes specialist can help you go through all the steps you need to reverse prediabetes. First of all, the doctor gives you information about your diagnosis and the proper treatment for your personal needs. They also help keep track of your glucose levels. It is essential to stay in touch with your doctor to prevent the appearance of complications and other risk factors. Diabetes can develop with high glucose levels, cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure. So, it's good to have a medical professional supervise these monthly. 

Tips and Resources

  • Proactively ask your doctor for a prediabetes screening, and then follow up with questions about how often you should be doing this.
  • Even if you don't have prediabetes, ask your doctor whether you have any risk factors and what steps you can take to lower the risk of prediabetes.
  • If you have prediabetes, you can ask your doctor questions about medication for prediabetes. But don't forget to work with them to optimize your health even if you're prescribed any. 

11. Consider Your Eating Window 

Your blood sugar usually drops at night, which helps your body rest. When you eat too late at night, you can have higher glucose values due to reduced insulin sensitivity in the evening. Eating too late at night can raise insulin, lead to weight gain and impair fat metabolism. Consider eating earlier, and if you practice intermittent fasting, find a fasting window that works best for your body. 

Tips and Resources

  • Reduce your alcohol intake, especially late at night. 
  • Use a continuous glucose monitor to see how your body responds to different types of foods at various times of the day to check the optimal time to stop eating. 
  •  If you're unable to eat earlier, try to make dinner the lightest meal of your day.
  • Work with a dietitian to find an eating schedule that works best for your specific body. 
Related Article

Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

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