As much as we all love chocolate, cookies, cake, and countless other sweet treats, these foods really don’t do our bodies any favors. They contribute to a whole host of health problems, ones that are becoming more common every day. This is pretty evident when you think about just how many people have diabetes, which now affects 8.5% of all adults, according to the World Health Organization.

The medical community largely agrees diabetes is a preventable disease. In that spirit, check out these seven easy things you can do right now to help prevent diabetes.

1. Maintain a regular fitness routine

Staying active can seriously reduce your risk of diabetes. |

Staying active is one of the best ways to stay healthy in general, so it shouldn’t be too surprising it’s also an effective way to prevent diabetes. What is surprising is just how much of a difference it can make. A recent review found individuals who completed 150 minutes per week of physical activity were 26% less likely to develop diabetes than those who were inactive, and those who reached 300 minutes each week reduced their risk by 36%. If you know you’re falling short, try getting back into the swing of exercise by walking. It’s surprisingly effective and you don’t need any special equipment to do it.

2. Practice portion control

Keep your portions reasonable. |

Research certainly supports this idea. In one recent study, dieters were divided into three groups: one where participants were allowed to freely select their meals, one where participants were given pre-portioned meals, and another pre-portioned meal group that emphasized a high-protein diet. At the end of the 12-week period, those given both types of portion-controlled meals lost more weight. The authors also noted short-term weight loss often predicts success in the long term, suggesting this really is an effective strategy.

3. Eat plenty of fiber

Brussels sprouts are loaded with fiber. |

Talking about eating less isn’t practical if you don’t opt for foods that keep you satisfied, so consider fiber your new best friend. It’s the nutritional equivalent of a triple threat because, according to Mayo Clinic, it can help you lose weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, and improve your blood sugar level. This equates to a lower risk of diabetes and a generally happier body. Make sure to fill your plate with veggies and whole grains.

4. Pick the right fats

Walnuts contain heart-healthy fats. |

Another key way to ensure you feel satisfied throughout the day is to incorporate fat into your diet. Just know not all fats are a good choice. One 2009 review highlighted the important role unsaturated fats play in helping to reduce the risk of diabetes, saying they should replace saturated and trans fats in our diets. What this means on a simpler level is to eat plant-based sources of fat like avocado, olive oil, and nuts while cutting back on animal fats.

5.  Limit added sugar

Blueberries and other fruits have natural sugars. |

It’s far too simplistic to say eating sugar leads to diabetes, but there’s some truth to the idea. We know being overweight increases your odds of developing Type 2 diabetes and we also know eating too much sugar is a big part of the problem. While we might not be able to say consuming too much of the white, granular stuff has been linked directly to diabetes, there is research linking sugary beverages with the disease. According to a meta-analysis including nearly 311,000 participants, drinking one or more sugar-sweetened beverages each day increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 26%.

6. Manage stress

Practice yoga to keep your stress levels in check. |

Aside from the toll it takes on your mind, chronic stress can really hurt your body. You probably see where this is going, so we’ll get right to it. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden performed a study with a 35-year follow-up that linked high levels of chronic stress to a significantly greater risk of diabetes. The exact mechanisms at play might be tough to sort out, but the message to manage stress is clear. Many people find physical activity to be a huge help, and meditation is also a great choice. As long as you find something to help you unwind, you’ll be doing your health a big favor.

7. Get enough sleep every night

Don’t forget about sleep. |

We’ve touched on how chronic sleep deprivation can harm your health, and you can add an increased risk of diabetes to the list. An article published in the Cleveland Clinic highlighted numerous studies demonstrating this link. The authors admit there are shortcomings to the research, but they also say physicians should consider sleep recommendations a potential method to delay or even prevent diabetes.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec

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