Here’s the best insulin resistance diet to follow if you have some degree of insulin resistance, are a type 2 diabetic, or suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This diet plan will help you reverse insulin resistance relatively quickly and normalise your blood sugar levels.
Insulin resistance (also known as pre-diabetes) is a condition whereby body cell becomes resistant to the action of insulin. This means that glucose remains high in the blood stream and can potentially damage blood vessels and nerves. This is why people who suffer from diabetes have a much greater incidence of heart disease and stroke compared to people who don’t have the condition. It is also why it is so important to find ways to overcome insulin resistance and normalise the body cells’ sensitivity to insulin.
Insulin resistance (reduced insulin sensitivity) may result from:
- Abnormal insulin production from the pancreas or insulin antibodies being present in the blood stream.
- Fewer insulin receptors on cell membranes or defective receptors with a reduced affinity for insulin.
- Abnormal signal transfer from the insulin receptor after insulin is bound.
- Fewer GLUT4 molecules present in the cytoplasm of the cell, which means less glucose can be transported through the cell membrane.
Since there are several areas where insulin’s function can be affected it is easy to see how insulin resistance can become a problem for many people. Also, there are a variety of potential causes of insulin resistance and these are discussed in more detail in the article titled, What is Insulin Resistance?
If you would like to find out if you have insulin resistance, you can start by seeing if you have of of these Insulin Resistance Symptoms. If you do suffer with some of the symptoms then you may want to have more comprehensive testing done. This is covered in more detail in: Best Insulin Resistance Test.
Throughout this website we will cover various ways to improve insulin’s functioning in the body so that you can overcome insulin resistance quickly, safely, and effectively. By doing so you will be able to reduce your risk of getting any of the diseases associated with this common condition.
Even though we will focus on nutrition, since it is the most important aspect of reversing insulin resistance, we will also cover various other aspects that can be enormously helpful in reversing the condition. These include: exercise, supplements, and various other lifestyle factors. Of course, the more aspects you choose to incorporate into your lifestyle, in conjunction with an insulin resistance diet, the faster your results will come.
Important points to keep in mind when following an insulin resistance diet:
Not sustainable for most people
It is important to note that an insulin resistance diet isn’t something that is considered to be a long-term, sustainable approach to nutrition for most people simply because following a nutritional plan that excludes so many foods, particularly those containing carbohydrates, is very difficult to do for a long period of time.
Must be followed until your blood sugar levels are stable
Nevertheless, if overcoming insulin resistance is important to you, then you must follow this approach until you’re able to maintain relatively stable blood sugar levels. After that, you will be able to re-introduce more carbohydrate-based foods into your diet and will still be able to maintain healthy blood sugar levels if you incorporate various other principles (i.e. regular exercise and supplements) into your lifestyle.
Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly
The easiest way to determine whether or not you have insulin resistance and therefore if you need to follow an insulin resistance diet is by having a blood test. If your results indicate that your fasting blood glucose level is 6.0 mmol/L (108 mg/dl) or higher then you have some degree of insulin resistance and should follow an insulin resistance diet until you achieve a level consistently less than 6.0 mmol/L.
Use as many strategies as possible in conjunction with the insulin resistance diet
By following the insulin resistance diet outlined below, incorporating foods, spices and herbs for insulin resistance into your everyday diet, in addition to the exercise and supplementation strategies covered on this site you will be able to quickly and easily reverse insulin resistance and normalising your blood sugar levels again.
Take responsibility for your health
It is imperative that you take personal responsibility for your health. Do not rely on doctors or other health professionals to tell you what to do. You must become educated about what needs to be done in order to optimise your body’s functioning and ensure you maintain good health for your entire life.
Have a full blood test at least once a year
Once or twice a year you should have a full blood test done. This means checking all your levels of hormones, blood lipids and of course, blood sugar levels.
If there are any slight variations in the results that indicate that you’re heading in a certain direction then you must take steps immediately! Do not wait until you’re in the ‘clinical’ range.
Oftentimes, people will have their blood work done and the results show that they have a mildly elevated fasting blood sugar level. Let’s say it’s 6.5 mmol/L. Many doctors will tell them that it is fine, slightly elevated, but nothing to worry about. It’s not in the critical range yet (above 7.0 mmol/L), which indicates a diabetic condition.
Then they might say, ‘We will wait and see what happens’ instead of saying, ‘you must take action right now!’
An insulin resistance diet is the first step you must take if you notice any elevation in your fasting blood sugar level. It will help to increase your insulin sensitivity, lower your fasting blood sugar level, help to keep your blood sugar level stable throughout the day, and most importantly, reduce the negative consequence of having high blood sugar.
Most people generally find that an insulin resistance diet improves their blood lipid profiles as well.
How to structure an insulin resistance diet
There are several points to keep in mind when it comes to successfully structuring an insulin resistance diet:
- Keep your daily intake of carbohydrates low
- Ensure the carbohydrates you do have come from low and medium-density sources only and have a low glycemic load
- Ensure you have plenty of high quality fats and oils
- Keep your meal sizes small
- Ensure all of your meals are ‘complete’ meals
- Include foods and herbs that help to reverse insulin resistance
- Have frequent meals
- Add glucose disposal agents to your diet
We will address each of these points individually and see how they are beneficial in formulating the ideal diet to help you overcome insulin resistance.
Keep your daily intake of carbohydrates low
Since carbohydrates convert into glucose in the blood stream and glucose in the blood stream has the greatest impact on insulin release from the pancreas, it is absolutely imperative that your carbohydrate intake is kept low.
If more insulin does get produced it will result in even more insulin resistance and this seems to be the major problem with conventional diets for people with insulin resistance; they are simply too high in carbohydrates!
So often when people consult with a dietitian they are recommended to follow the standard low-fat, high carbohydrate approach! Of course, their condition becomes worse by doing so!
Then, when they follow a low carbohydrate diet, just for a limited period of time, their insulin resistance reverses very quickly depending on the severity of their condition. It simply makes sense to follow a low-carbohydrate diet until you cure the insulin resistance.
Of course, a low carbohydrate diet doesn’t mean your carbohydrate intake goes to zero, it simply means that you reduce it to about 50 grams of total carbs per day. This equates to about 10 grams of carbs per meal if you’re having 5 meals/ snacks a day or slightly less than 20 grams of carbs per meal if you’re having 3 meals a day.
Of course, a person with a large frame or a physically demanding job may certainly need more carbs than that, but it is essential that the carbohydrate intake is kept relatively low. An absolute maximum amount of carbohydrates per day should be around 100 grams. However, less is best to help overcome the insulin resistance fast.
50-100 grams of total carbohydrates per day is certainly enough to provide you with the energy you need to function well, to keep your blood sugar level stable, and most importantly, keep insulin low.
Ensure the carbohydrates you do have come from low and medium-density sources only and have a low glycemic load
Here’s a list of low-carb foods that you may find useful: Low Carb Food List For People With Insulin Resistance.
The reason why the low and medium-density carbohydrates sources should be emphasised is simply because they are less concentrated sources of carbs compared to the high-density carbohydrates, i.e. they contain a lot more fibre and water. This means they can help you feel full quicker as well as generally resulting in a slow, sustained release of glucose into the blood stream.
As a result, they have less impact on blood sugar levels and therefore insulin levels as well.
The medium-density carbohydrate sources include: most fruits, starchy vegetables like, potato, pumpkin, sweet potato, corn and peas; and some dairy products like milk and yoghurt.
The low-density carbohydrate sources include: fibrous vegetables like, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, as well as all the ‘salad-type’ vegetables.
Some people may argue that some of the medium and low-density carbohydrate sources shouldn’t be eaten by people with insulin resistance because they are high glycemic index carbohydrates (i.e. carrots). However, there isn’t a problem with eating these foods simply because the portion sizes are small (approximately 10 grams of carbohydrates per meal).
By only having a small portion the glycemic load will still be low. The concept of glycemic load is discussed in more detail in the article titled, Low Glycemic Food List.
Also, if you have ‘complete’ meals (covered in a moment), the fat, protein and fibre will actually slow down the absorption rate of the carbohydrates therefore lowering the glycemic index of the carbohydrate-containing food.
Lowering the glycemic index of a high glycemic index food means that it will have less of an impact on the blood sugar level and therefore less of an impact on insulin as well.
Ensure you have plenty of high quality fats and oils
The fats and oils we consume make up the membranes of all body cells. Since insulin receptors are located on cell membranes and insulin signally is affected by the quality of fats in the membrane, it simply makes sense that an insulin resistance diet should contain a substantial amount of high quality fats and oils, particularly natural sources of the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats come from olive oil, avocadoes and nuts. High-quality polyunsaturated fats, particularly omega-3s, come from from fish, fish oil, flax seeds, and flax seed oil.
By including these high-quality oils in your diet on a regular basis, the function of the insulin receptors will improve thereby reducing the insulin resistance in the body, stabilising blood sugar levels and assisting weight loss efforts. There is a significant amount of research demonstrating this.
The effects of different types of fats and oils on insulin resistance is covered in more detail in the article titled, Dietary Fat and Insulin Resistance.
Keep your meal sizes small
It is absolutely essential that an insulin resistance diet contains small meals. This is simply because larger meals will induce a greater insulin response from the pancreas because more nutrients from the meal need to be stored in the body. A greater insulin response will of course lead to becoming more insulin resistant. Therefore, small meals are the only option.
If you currently have 3 meals a day then you may want to increase your meal frequency to perhaps 5 small meals a day in order to be able to reduce your portion sizes and therefore the insulin response.
Ensure all of your meals are ‘complete’ meals
Having ‘complete’ meals is a standard weight-loss recommendation. However, it becomes even more important when preparing an insulin resistance diet plan.
As we briefly covered earlier, a complete meal will help to slow down the absorption rate of the carbohydrates from the meal. This will therefore keep your blood sugar level stable and insulin low. Obviously, by keeping insulin low, you can help to cure insulin resistance.
All you need to do is ensure that all of your meals and snacks contain a portion of all 3 macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. There are plenty of macronutrient lists available online that can provide you with the information you need.
Include foods and herbs that help to reverse insulin resistance
There are many foods, spices and herbs that you should include in your insulin resistance diet to improve your body’s ability to dispose of glucose effectively and therefore reverse insulin resistance. Some of these foods have been included in the insulin resistance diet outlined below.
Not only can some of these foods, spices and herbs help to reverse insulin resistance, but many of them have been shown to improve blood lipid profiles as well as offer a range of additional health benefits. The health benefits come from the high levels of phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) they contain.
It is strongly recommended to include as many of them in your diet as you possibly can.
Have small, frequent meals
Consuming frequent meals is another standard weight-loss recommendation. However, the main reason why it is beneficial as a part of an insulin resistance diet is because it helps to keep the meals small, the blood sugar level stable, and insulin levels low.
However, one could argue that it is probably beneficial to reduce meal frequency because if you don’t eat anything insulin doesn’t get produced. However, if you reduce the meal frequency the likelihood of your appetite increasing which results in having larger meals is far more likely. Therefore, small, frequent meals that induce a minimal insulin response are best.
Add glucose disposal agents to your diet
Glucose disposal agents (GDAs) assist your body in disposing of glucose from the blood stream more effectively. A good example of a powerful GDA is cinnamon. You can simply add it to your tea or coffee to obtain the benefits it offers or better still take it as a supplement with your main meals.
To find out more about how cinnamon can improve blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, please read, Cinnamon and Blood Sugar.
A good example of a supplement that contains cinnamon as well as another glucose disposal agent, chromium, is Nature’s Bounty High Potency Cinnamon Plus Chromium.
To find out more about how chromium can help to reverse insulin resistance, please read, Chromium and Insulin Resistance.
Also, there are many other glucose disposal agents that can assist your body in disposing of glucose more effectively. These are discussed in more detail in the article titled, Top 5 Supplements For Insulin Resistance.
Here’s a Sample Insulin Resistance Diet Menu:
Omelette made with:
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tomato (diced)
- 50g ham
- 20g onion (diced)
- Dash of milk
- 2-3 sprigs of parsley
- 30g low-fat cheese
1 cup of coffee (with milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon, no sugar)
1 piece of fruit
Chicken salad, made with:
- 100-150g diced chicken breast
- 100g of English spinach
- 1/4 red onion (sliced)
- 1/2 punnet of cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 continental cucumber (diced)
- 1/2 avocado
- 30g Danish fetta cheese (diced)
- 4-5 sliced olives
- 1/4 red capsicum
- 3-4 sprigs of parsley
- 2-3 basil leaves
- sprinkle of rosemary leaves
1 small tin of flavoured tuna
150g of lean red meat or 200g of salmon with,
50g sweet corn
2-3 garlic cloves
50g of onion
(the vegetables can be steamed or roasted)
50mls of diabetic sauce
This insulin resistance diet only provides one option per meal and is very strict. However, it will help you overcome insulin resistance very quickly as well as help you lose weight fast and feel great!
If you would like to get a complete plan to help you overcome insulin resistance fast, please get a copy of Your Complete Type 2 Diabetes Treatment Plan.