If you’re looking to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, look no further than a package of lentils in your pantry. A new study published in Clinical Nutrition suggests that consuming legumes, especially green, red or brown lentils, can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

And what is a legume? Legumes include alfalfa, clover, peas, peanuts, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, and beans, all of which are believed to provide significant health benefits as they move us toward a more plant-based diet. Legumes contain high levels of B vitamins that are used to regulate metabolism and produce energy, and they also contain high levels of fiber, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

In addition, the legume family is composed of phytochemicals, which have been observed to improve metabolism and protect against chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The foods are also known to raise blood glucose levels slowly after consumption.

In the new study, the authors examined the link between legume consumption and diabetes risk among patients with an increased risk of heart disease. The authors also studied the results of substituting legumes with other protein-rich foods and carbohydrates.

The study looked at more than 3,300 participants who did not have diabetes at the time of the study. People with 1.5 weekly servings of 60g of raw legumes were classified as lower consumption, while those consuming more than 3.35 servings per week were considered higher consumption. Then researchers analyzed the link between incidence of type 2 diabetes and legume consumption through Cox regression models. The analysis showed that people with higher legume intake were 35 percent less likely to develop diabetes, compared with patients with lower intake.

And out of all the legumes, researchers found that lentils (those small round, lens-shaped, dried legumes) had the strongest link to a reduced risk of diabetes. Patients who consumed nearly 1 weekly serving of lentils were 33 percent less likely to develop diabetes compared with participants who ate less than half a serving per week, according to the study.

A frequent consumption of legumes, particularly lentils, in the context of a Mediterranean diet, may provide benefits on type 2 diabetes prevention in older adults at high cardiovascular risk,” the authors concluded.

The bottom line? If you have diabetes in your family genetics, consider adding lentils to your weekly menu.

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