Nearly 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes -- or around 9.3 percent of the population. The condition was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, according to the American Diabetes Association. That's one reason why, every year, U.S. News asks a panel of experts in diet and nutrition to review popular eating plans and evaluate each on its ability to both prevent and manage diabetes. Below are 10 of the best, listed in alphabetical order:
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet was developed by Andrew Weil, a Harvard University-educated doctor and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. It reflects his belief that certain foods cause or combat systemic inflammation. The plan is based on a Mediterranean-style diet, which research suggests can reverse metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors such as high blood pressure and blood sugar levels that can lead to diabetes. Plus, the Anti-Inflammatory Diet is primarily vegetarian, which the ADA considers a healthful option that can help prevent and manage diabetes. Nearly all of the ADA's top 10 superfoods for diabetes are well-represented on Weil's diet.
Biggest Loser Diet
Experts consider the plan, which revolves around healthy eating and exercise, one of the top choices to manage or prevent diabetes. If you go on the Biggest Loser Diet, you're in for a crash course in nutrition, learning about foods with "quality calories" (think fruits, veggies and lean protein). In an American Journal of Medicine study, researchers reported those on the plan reduced their levels of A1C -- a measure of blood sugar -- after seven months. Plus, Biggest Loser data show some contestants no longer had indications of metabolic syndrome.
Experts say that Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, edges out many other diets as a diabetes-halting weapon. Its emphasis on whole grains, fruits and veggies matches the sort of nutritional prescription that diabetics frequently hear their doctors recommend. DASH echoes dietary advice touted by the ADA, and research suggests combining it with calorie restriction reduces the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome. Plus, a small study published in 2011 in Diabetes Care found Type 2 diabetics on DASH reduced their levels of A1C and their fasting blood sugar after eight weeks.
Engine 2 Diet
The Engine 2 Diet is a low-fat, "plant strong" diet thought to help prevent and often reverse the diseases caused by the so-called Standard American Diet, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and cancer. The plan should help dieters drop pounds -- and being overweight is one of the greatest risk factors for developing diabetes. Plus, it includes a fitness regimen, which is key for diabetes prevention and control.
Flexitarian is a marriage of two words: flexible and vegetarian. The premise is that you don't have to eliminate meat completely to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism, and the diet is considered an above-average option for those concerned about diabetes. Eliminating meat typically leads to consuming fewer calories, and losing weight -- and keeping it off -- is essential for preventing Type 2 diabetes. Plus, a vegetarian diet is a healthful option, according to the ADA.
Mayo Clinic Diet
On the Mayo Clinic Diet, you recalibrate your eating habits, breaking bad ones and replacing them with good ones with the help of the Mayo Clinic's unique food pyramid. Experts agree that the diet's eating guidelines and fitness advice are a compelling combination for preventing or controlling diabetes. It focuses on coaching dieters to develop healthy, lasting habits around which foods they choose to eat and which to avoid.
The Ornish Diet is a good option for preventing or controlling diabetes, experts concluded. It's low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which matches the ADA's guidelines, and it's been found to lower the A1C level in diabetics -- a positive signal of better control over blood sugar. Plus, Ornish's basic principles of emphasizing whole grains and produce, while shunning saturated fat and cholesterol, are right in line with ADA guidelines.
As a diet for managing diabetes, veganism -- eliminating all animal products, even dairy and eggs -- is a smart option. A vegan diet could also help prevent diabetes, since it helps dieters drop pounds, and being overweight is one of the greatest risk factors for developing diabetes. One study found that vegan diets may have a beneficial effect on hemoglobin A1C levels, and 43 percent of vegan participants reduced the number of diabetes medications they were taking.
On the whole, experts think the vegetarian diet has real ability to help prevent or control diabetes. Followed right, the diet emphasizes many of the foods Americans should eat to maintain a healthy, disease-free lifestyle. The ADA deems it a healthful option, and because there are no rigid meal plans or prepackaged meals, you can ensure that what you're eating doesn't go against your doctor's advice.
Volumetrics revolves around filling your plate with low-density foods, which are low in calories but high-volume, helping you feel full and satisfied while dropping pounds. The diet has the potential to prevent or control diabetes, experts say. A study published in Diabetes Care, for example, found that adults following an eating plan resembling Volumetrics had significantly lower fasting insulin levels than those whose diets emphasized high-energy-dense food. Low-density diets, the authors wrote, help prevent insulin resistance -- a frequent precursor to Type 2 diabetes -- in which the body doesn't respond as it should to the hormone.