Fill up on fiber to prevent diabetes

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If it’s one thing we as Americans are good at, it’s yo-yo dieting. Wouldn’t it be nice to lose it and keep it off? Last week we discussed how a high fiber diet can aid in weight reduction and weight maintenance. After all, it’s one thing to lose weight, but more meaningful in the long run to sustain the weight loss. A high fiber diet is not only beneficial to weight loss, but it’s also helpful in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

While many plant-based foods are a source of carbohydrates, scientists have known they are often the ticket to diabetes prevention. This week on the blog we’ll explore how and why including more fiber in your diet reduces the chance for diabetes.

Which fiber prevents diabetes?

Diabetes is preventable. A recent study published in Clinical Nutrition looked at data from the PREDIMED study, research of over 3,000 subjects with elevated risk for heart disease, but without type 2 diabetes.  The study found that after 4 years, participants with the highest intake of legumes had a 35% reduction in risk for diabetes. The researchers compared types of legumes eaten and found that lentils in particular were linked with a 33% reduction in diabetes risk.  This was observed with just one serving of lentils per week versus less than ½ serving.  Chick pea consumption showed a smaller effect in lowering risk of diabetes, while other dried beans and peas showed no significant link. 1

In addition, results from large, prospective cohort studies show that very high consumption of insoluble cereal fibers (in most research studies, over 30 grams per day) or whole-grain products (in most studies, greater than 30 to 40 grams per day) high in cereal fibers may reduce insulin resistance and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 20–30%. 2

Carbohydrates and diabetes

Sadly, when individuals at risk for diabetes learn that their blood sugar is high, they start slashing all carbohydrates from their diets, including the nutritious ones. While it makes perfect sense to reduce intake of highly processed, high sugar foods and beverages (like cake, cookies, candy and sweetened drinks that raise blood sugar and lead to weight gain), don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

High fiber carbohydrates such as shredded wheat, bran cereal, whole grain pasta, and brown rice can (and should) be included in your diet in moderation to provide adequate fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. As mentioned above, legumes such as lentils should also be embraced. The US Dietary Guidelines advise 25 to 30 grams of fiber for women and 38 to 40 grams of fiber for men daily. 3 Read below to achieve this goal.

Meal ideas

If you’re struggling to find ways to boost your fiber intake, try these:

  • Switch from instant oats to rolled oats. They cook up in 2 minutes in the microwave and can be seasoned with cinnamon, vanilla and ginger instead of brown sugar.
  • Snack on whole grain crackers and peanut butter or hummus and veggies.
  • Swap out white pasta or tortillas with whole wheat. You’ll pick up an extra 3 to 6 grams of fiber this way.
  • Try ancient grains like quinoa, farro and bulgur in grain bowls, salads or side dishes.
  • Enjoy lentils a few days per week beyond meatless Monday.

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD


  1. Nerea Becerra-Tomás, Andrés Díaz-López, Núria Rosique-Esteban, Emilio Ros, Pilar Buil-Cosiales, Dolores Corella, Ramon Estruch, Montserrat Fitó, Lluís Serra-Majem, Fernando Arós, Rosa Maria Lamuela-Raventós, Miquel Fiol, José Manuel Santos-Lozano, Javier Diez-Espino, Olga Portoles, Jordi Salas-SalvadóCorrespondence information about the author Jordi Salas-SalvadóEmail the author Jordi Salas-Salvadó. “Legume consumption is inversely associated with type 2 diabetes incidence in adults: a prospective assessment from the PREDIMED study”. Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 03.015
  2. Weickert MO, Pfeiffer AFH. Impact of Dietary Fiber Consumption on Insulin Resistance and the Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. J Nutr. 2018;148(1):7-12.

Download a PDF Handout: Get Enough Fiber to Prevent Diabetes

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