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'I'm an Endocrinologist, and Eating This One Thing Regularly Is One of the Easiest Ways to Get Diabetes'

A doctor checking a patient's blood glucose level

Chances are, you know someone living with type 2 diabetes. The chronic disease has been linked to many health concerns, including high blood pressure, which is often referred to as "the silent killer." It's the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and 7 million people are unaware that they are affected.

Although genetic and racial factors may make you more susceptible to being diagnosed with diabetes—American Indians, Latinos, Asians and African Americans are at higher risk—there is good news. Making a few simple tweaks to your diet early on can not only lower your risk of developing disease but help you live a longer, healthier life at the same time.

This is why we spoke with several endocrinologists about the #1 food that guarantees you'll get diabetes so you can be sure to avoid it moving forward.

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The #1 Food That Causes Diabetes, According to Endocrinologists

All of the obesity specialists we spoke with unanimously agreed that ingesting refined sugar regularly can increase your chances of getting diabetes, a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

"The excessive consumption of sugary foods and beverages can lead to insulin resistance, a key factor in the development of diabetes," explains Dr. Maria Teresa Anton, MD, an endocrinologist and educator at Pritikin Longevity Center. "But cutting down on added sugars is a simple yet powerful step in managing diabetes risk," she says.

Dr. Rekha Kumar, MD, an endocrinologist and the Chief Medical Officer of Found agrees, especially when it comes to sugar-sweetened beverages like fruit juice and soda. "They are high in calories and sugar, often fructose, which is a version of sugar that leads to insulin resistance," she says, referring to the precursor state to diabetes.

While sipping sugary drinks every once in a while isn't the worst thing in the world for a moderately healthy individual, cracking open a can of Mountain Dew is not something you want to get into the habit of doing—especially if your family has a history of diabetes.

"Regularly indulging in sugary treats or high-carbohydrate foods can spike blood sugar levels, placing increased stress on the body's insulin response," says Dr. Anton, adding that moderation is key, as is being mindful of portion sizes. Measuring your food, drinking a large glass of water before meals and chewing slowly are a few helpful ways to stop overeating.

Related: The #1 Best Diet to Follow if You Want to Lose Visceral Fat

More Foods to Avoid for Diabetes Prevention

Refined sugar can be found in everything from canned fruits and dairy-based desserts to packaged baked goods (we're looking at you, sweet rolls), so opting for a real piece of fruit to satisfy sweet tooth cravings will make a big difference.

Even checking the nutrition labels on bottled salad dressings and sauces before tossing them in your cart is a smart move, since they can also be leaden with addictive sugars.

More foods to avoid include highly processed carbohydrates and saturated fats, according to Dr. Anton, who says, "Steering clear of items like white bread, sugary cereals and fried foods can contribute to overall health and help manage diabetes risk."

Related: 13 Foods That Help With Diabetes

What to Eat Instead

Aside from eliminating the aforementioned foods and drinks, Dr. Kumar advises upping your vegetables, fiber and lean protein intake. Eating a small salad with meals is an easy way to sneak in more greens, as is eating more fiber-rich foods like chickpeas, oats, beans, apples and pears.

And it probably goes without saying, but living a sedentary lifestyle only increases your risk of getting diabetes. "Active muscles process sugar better," she explains, so try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week. This could be anything from walking and jogging to playing tennis, hiking or riding a bike.

While a healthy diet and exercise are paramount, Dr. Anton says it's crucial to prioritize stress management and get an adequate amount of sleep, which is around 7 to 9 hours each night. "Chronic stress and lack of sleep can impact hormone levels and contribute to insulin resistance," she shares, "so embracing a holistic approach to well-being is essential in preventing diabetes and promoting overall longevity."

Supplements can also be beneficial in keeping diabetes at bay—specifically vitamin D and magnesium, as they play a role in insulin sensitivity. Although Dr. Anton recommends consulting your healthcare provider before taking any new medications or supplements.

Next up, the one thing you should never, ever do if you want to avoid getting diabetes.

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