Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Moms now have another reason to encourage the kids to eat their vegetables: A recent study has found that increased consumption of green leafy vegetables can significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Roughly 24 million people in the US have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and another 57 million are living with prediabetes.

A high intake of fruit and vegetables is known to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and certain types of cancer. To determine how a diet high in these foods affects the risk of Type 2 diabetes, researchers at the University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom, reviewed six studies that included more than 220,000 participants ranging in age from 30 to 74. The studies all lasted between 4.6 and 23 years.

The data showed that eating 1.35 servings of green leafy vegetables per day was associated with a 14% reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with consuming only 0.2 servings daily. (A serving size is 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables or a 1/2 cup of cooked or raw nonleafy vegetables.) Eating more fruits and vegetables in general also appeared to have a beneficial effect on diabetes risk, but it was not statistically significant.

The researchers suggested several possible reasons fruit and vegetables might reduce the risk of disease, including their antioxidant content and, in the case of green leafy vegetables, their magnesium content. The scientists also noted that these benefits are likely associated with foods, rather than dietary supplements. In an editorial accompanying the study, Jim Mann, PhD, and Dagfinn Aune, BSc, stated, “Although some studies have shown associations between individual vegetables and fruits and coronary heart disease, stroke, and some cancers (for example, allium [onion family] vegetables and stomach and colorectal cancer, tomatoes and prostate cancer), most current recommendations focus on food groups as a whole rather than magic bullets.” The researchers suggest that further study into the effects of green leafy vegetables on diabetes is warranted.

Whether or not green leafy vegetables ultimately prove to be effective in reducing diabetes risk, there are still plenty of reasons to incorporate these nutritional powerhouses into your diet, including their high vitamin and mineral levels, their low carbohydrate content, and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

To learn more about the research, read the article “Green Leafy Vegetables Reduce Diabetes Risk, Study Finds” or see the study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

And for some tasty ways to get your share of green leafy vegetables, check out these recipes:

Country-style collard greens
Savory spinach scramble
Seasoned collard greens


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