A plant-based diet including whole grains, veggies, nuts, coffee, and legumes may help stave off type 2 diabetes.
According to a study published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, a plant-based diet rich in polyphenols may help keep type 2 diabetes at bay.
Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health looked at the dietary habits of 10,684 participants.
They compared metabolites and health outcomes to see which eating habits were linked to a lower risk of developing diabetes.
A metabolite is a chemical compound created when the human body breaks down food for energy. It can differ based on the type of diet a person eats.
The researchers observed that people who ate a diet high in plant-based foods like whole grains, veggies, nuts, coffee, and legumes were less likely to develop diabetes versus their counterparts who ate more animal-based foods or processed foods.
Meanwhile, diets high in more processed plant-based foods like refined grains, fruit juice, potatoes, and sweets offered no benefits in lowering risk of diabetes.
Plant-based foods are rich in polyphenols
“The results are not surprising given that the health benefits of healthy plant-based foods have been well-documented,” Dr. Frank Hu, senior author of the study and chair of the nutrition department at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Insider.
According to the data from the metabolites, specific nutrients in whole plant foods called polyphenols may be responsible for the health benefits of certain plant-based diets.
The healthy plant-based diet used in the study included whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, as well as coffee. All of these are rich sources of polyphenols.
These foods give rise to metabolites such as trigonelline – a compound linked to better insulin sensitivity in some research – and hippurate, which has been linked to more stable blood sugar.
The researchers believe that a closer study of these metabolites could help them understand how different plant-based diets influence disease risk, and how certain diets may help prevent diabetes.
“When adopting a plant-based diet, we recommend consumers to choose healthy plant foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts,” Hu said.
“Limit the consumption of unhealthy plant foods, such as refined grains like white bread and pizza and high glycemic foods like sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.”
Several other studies also point to the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.
Last year, Health check service Medichecks surveyed 10,000 Brits to explore the effects of a plant-based diet versus meat.
It found that vegans had a lower blood sugar (HbA1c) count, meaning a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
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