DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Healthy plant-based diets may lower the risk of developing diabetes, according to a new study from Harvard University.

“What is really healthy in a plant-based diet is that when we eat food that is not processed, which is high in fiber, we tend to eat less,” said Elisabetta Politi, certified diabetes educator and dietitian with Duke Health.

“Fiber has been shown to slow the digestion of nutrients and therefore provide satiety,” Politi added.

Harvard researchers studied more than 10,000 participants and found those who developed Type 2 diabetes had a lower intake of healthy plant-based foods.

They were also more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol and be less active.

“The main difference between the healthy and the unhealthy plant-based diet, it’s about the amount of processed food,” Politi said. “So, we’re thinking of food that it’s on the table the same way that it is in nature.”

Healthy plant-based foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. You want to stay away from things like refined grains, potatoes, and sweets.

Politi said the risk of developing diabetes when you eat well and maintain a healthy weight.

“To me, it’s encouragement to not completely eliminate animal protein, which can provide satiety and other important nutrients, but yes to limit as much as possible food that is processed and refined,” Politi said.

Harvard researchers plan to conduct more studies to understand how healthy versus unhealthy plant-based diets reduce the risk of other chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.