According to a recent study from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, increasing your intake of plant foods while lowering your intake of animal products is linked with a 20% decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Not all plant-based diets are created equal, however. The study also found that an unhealthy plant-based diet – one that favored foods and drinks like fruit juices, refined grains and desserts – was linked with a 16% increased risk, even when animal foods remained limited.
The best outcome came for those who stuck to a healthy plant-based diet – mainly fruits, vegetables,whole grains, nuts and legumes – while limiting unhealthy plant foods and minimizing animal products, giving them a 34% reduced risk. To lower your risk, the study's lead author, Ambika Satija, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, says that even making moderate dietary changes like limiting animal foods (especially red or processed meats) by one to two servings a day can have a healthy impact.
While the study did not focus on exactly how such a diet can help prevent diabetes, previous research suggests that quality plant-based foods can help by promoting a healthy gut microbiome, regulating blood sugar levels and preventing inflammation.