Lindsey Desoto is a licensed, registered dietitian and experienced medical writer.
Elizabeth Barnes, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders, type 2 diabetes, and heart health.
Type 2 diabetes often affects middle-aged adults, but it can occur at any time in your life. Lack of physical activity, genetics, and being overweight can increase your risk of diabetes.
However, if you are at risk for the disease, you can help prevent or delay its onset by increasing your activity level and following a balanced diet.
This article discusses foods to incorporate into your diet to help stabilize your blood sugar (glucose) if you are at risk for diabetes.
Julia Khusainova / Getty Images
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, eating fatty fish can reduce the risk of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, for which people with diabetes are also at a higher risk.
Fatty fish can also play a role in preventing diabetes. One study followed participants without diabetes to evaluate associations between fatty fish consumption and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Individuals who reported consuming at least two servings of fatty fish per week had a 22% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who did not consume fatty fish.
The best sources of fatty fish include salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
Green, leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach contain vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Studies show the nutrients in leafy greens may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Leafy greens are low in carbohydrates and calories, which can help keep your blood sugar under control following a meal and support weight management. Because of their high antioxidant content, leafy greens are also considered one of the best cancer-preventing foods.

Avocados are a good source of healthy fats, vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Because they are high in fiber and healthy fats, incorporating avocado into your meal may help reduce blood sugar spikes after eating. Avocados are also reasonably high in magnesium, a mineral that can help regulate blood sugar.
Regularly enjoying a handful of nuts may help manage your weight and reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A recent study showed that nuts’ monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats could play a role in blood sugar control and appetite suppression. Nuts also contain fiber and polyphenols, which may help lower blood sugar by altering the gut microbiota.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, which can benefit your overall health and protect against chronic disease.
Studies show that olive oil-enriched diets are associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and improved glucose metabolism. Determining if the fat or antioxidants found in extra virgin olive oil contribute to these benefits will require additional research.
Compounds in garlic may help reduce blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. It may also help reduce the complications of diabetes by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. One study found adding garlic to the diet of a person with type 2 diabetes can improve blood glucose control in as little as two weeks.
Berries, such as blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, and raspberries, are high in several nutrients and phytochemicals that can benefit your health.
Incorporating more berries into a balanced diet can reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. One study found berries can improve blood sugar levels after meals and insulin resistance in overweight or obese adults with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
Broccoli contains a sulfur-containing compound called sulforaphane, naturally found in cruciferous vegetables. Sulforaphane can help decrease blood sugar levels by reducing glucose production from liver cells and improving the body’s ability to absorb and use glucose.
When given as a concentrated extract, one study found broccoli sprouts decreased glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and fasting blood sugar levels in obese patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables also contain glucosinolates, which improve insulin sensitivity and reduce triglyceride and blood sugar levels.
Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are a low glycemic index (GI) food, which means they are digested and absorbed slowly and are less likely to impact blood sugar levels.
Studies also suggest regular legume consumption for at least six weeks can significantly improve markers of blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. However, additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.
Oats contain beta-glucans, soluble fibers that are linked to several health benefits, such as improving cholesterol and blood lipid levels and supporting weight maintenance. In addition to reducing risk factors associated with diabetes, beta-glucans can improve insulin resistance.
Studies show that higher consumption of whole grains, such as oatmeal, is also linked to lower diabetes risk. This is likely due to their low glycemic index and fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemical content.
Fermented foods, such as Greek yogurt, contain probiotic bacteria, which can help keep your gut healthy. Probiotics can improve insulin resistance in individuals with diabetes by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
Researchers found yogurt might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in healthy older adults when consumed as part of a healthy diet. Furthermore, one study found that consuming yogurt daily for four weeks can reduce blood sugar levels and regulate insulin response in people without diabetes who have higher blood sugar levels after eating.
Shirataki noodles are made from a soluble fiber glucomannan. Studies have shown that konjac glucomannan delays gastric emptying, which can be helpful for:
You can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and eating a well-balanced diet. Some of the best foods to reduce your risk of diabetes include fatty fish, leafy green vegetables, unsweetened oatmeal, avocados, nuts, and berries. If you've been told you are at risk for diabetes, you can work with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan that's best for you.

Learning you are at risk for diabetes can feel overwhelming. Though some people at high risk develop type 2 diabetes, others do not. Exercising and making diet changes, such as avoiding highly processed foods and eating whole foods, can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
Water is the best hydration option for people with elevated blood sugar. Unsweetened tea, flavored water, coffee, and sugar-free lemonade are good options to control your levels.
Most people at risk for diabetes can enjoy any whole fruit in moderation. Dried fruit, juice, and canned fruit in syrup should be limited because they are high in sugar.
You do not have to give up coffee if you have prediabetes. Some studies suggest regular coffee consumption may reduce a person's risk for type 2 diabetes. If you are at risk for prediabetes, you'll want to flavor it with unsweetened almond milk or a natural sugar alternative.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes risk factors.
American Heart Association. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids.
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Wang PY, Fang JC, Gao ZH, et al. Higher intake of fruits, vegetables or their fiber reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis. J Diabetes Investig. 2016;7(1):56-69. doi:10.1111/jdi.12376
USDA. Dark green leafy vegetables.
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By Lindsey DeSoto, RD, LD
Lindsey Desoto is a registered dietitian with experience working with clients to improve their diet for health-related reasons. She enjoys staying up to date on the latest research and translating nutrition science into practical eating advice to help others live healthier lives.

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