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How to Improve Insulin Resistance with Diet and Exercise
Sneha Kishore

How to Improve Insulin Resistance with Diet and Exercise

Insulin Resistance Diet: Build a Healthier You

Around 49% of Americans have either type two diabetes or prediabetes. Insulin is a hormone that plays a major role in the development of these two diseases. But it can also lead to insulin resistance, a common precursor to diabetes.

Luckily, insulin resistance is reversible with healthy lifestyle habits and routine exercise. Learn about the best insulin resistance diet and workout options!

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin is a hormone that stores energy. Every time you eat a meal, your body works hard to complete this process and create energy for your day. But sometimes, the process becomes interrupted, causing insulin resistance.

When your body is resistant to insulin, your cells struggle to respond to the hormone. Your body will attempt to fix the problem by producing more insulin. But an overproduction of insulin can lead to diabetes or prediabetes.

If this is happening in your body, you may begin to feel some common symptoms. These can include low energy, hunger after meals, and weight gain. Weight gain can in turn lead to obesity in some, which is linked to insulin resistance and diabetes.

The Insulin Resistance Diet

There’s currently no single, specific insulin resistance diet, but most health professionals believe that low-carbohydrate, low-sugar diets work best. It’s also vital to cut out any ultra-processed foods from your diet right away. By low carbohydrates, we mean processed and simple carbohydrates should be low, not complex unrefined carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These should be a major part of the diet that benefits our gut microbiome and in turn, overall health.

Fill Up on Vegetables

The bulk of your plate should be a rainbow of non-starchy vegetables. Vegetables are nutrient-dense, and many of them don’t lead to a spike in blood sugar levels. One study found that those who ate nutrient-rich veggies increased their insulin sensitivity by 31%!

Try to get a healthy serving of these vegetables every day:

  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • Artichokes and asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant
  • Celery

But not every vegetable is built the same. Starchy veggies like potatoes, beets, and jicama have a higher carb content meaning they’re more likely to spike your blood sugar. You don’t need to remove them from your diet but try to eat them in moderation.

Limit Carb Intake

Carbs and insulin have a complex relationship. Carbohydrates are an essential part of any diet. They give us an energy boost, and carb-based foods are often a good source of fiber.

But inside the body, carbs break down into sugar and raise insulin levels. Avoid simple carbs like white bread and pasta to reduce this risk. Instead, look for high-fiber complex carbs that are low on the glycemic index.

Many studies have concluded that low-glycemic carbs are effective in reducing insulin levels. Some good sources include:

  • Brown rice
  • Steel-cut oats
  • Whole grains
  • Bulgur, millet, and quinoa

Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables also contain carbs! So if you’re trying to reduce your overall daily consumption, don’t forget to add them to your total.

Choose Lean Protein

Protein is essential for building muscle and, in turn, reducing body fat. Studies show that adding protein to the can result in greater insulin sensitivity.

Normal-protein diets place protein at less than 20% of the daily calories. So if you want to increase your protein intake, aim for around 25% to 30%. But be careful about going overboard! On average we need about 0.6 – 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight of protein.

Some studies found the opposite to be true. Diets that are too high in protein actually result in increased insulin resistance! Try to keep your protein sources plant-based if possible like:

  • Tofu
  • Legumes
  • Tempeh

If you don’t wish to be completely plant-based, chose lean proteins like chicken, fish, turkey etc. Keep in mind, however, that plant sources of protein are much more gentle on our kidneys and can be less inflammatory.

Make Smart Fruit Decisions

Fruits are full of powerful antioxidants and vitamins, not to mention they’re delicious! But they often get a bad reputation for their sugar content. Individuals who are insulin resistant shouldn’t avoid fruit, but they should make smart choices.

Berries of all kinds are a great option for increasing insulin sensitivity. They’re lower in sugar and high in fibers, polyphenols, and micronutrients. Citrus fruits, peaches, apricots, and melons are delicious, lower-glycemic choices.

Go For Healthy Fats

Almost every dieter knows the power of the avocado! That’s because avocados are part of the healthy fat family. Healthy fats keep you fuller longer and can even reduce insulin resistance in moderation.

Other healthy fats include olives, nuts, and seeds. Avoid coconut oil and palm oils as these are not healthy sources of fat.

Make It High Fiber

Fiber is essential for reducing insulin resistance. Studies have found that it’s effective in improving sensitivity and maintaining body weight. Both soluble and insoluble fiber plays a role in sustaining a healthy blood sugar level.

Increase your fiber intake with oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, or beans. Almonds, sunflower seeds, and nuts also contain a healthy amount of fiber. And we can’t forget avocados, an excellent source of fiber!

The Importance of Exercise

Daily movement is crucial for all people, but those with insulin resistance can use it as a direct treatment. Studies have found exercise to reverse insulin resistance! At the same time, regular workouts reduce body weight and increase muscle mass and make you feel good!

Health professionals recommend a combination of aerobics and resistance training every week. Aerobics exercises can include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Light jogging
  • Biking or rollerblading
  • Swimming
  • Hiking

Resistance workouts can include weights, or you can opt to use your body weight as the resistance. It depends entirely on fitness level and personal preference. Movements like squats, extensions, and crunches are excellent for building muscle.

An average of four to seven workouts per week (150 to 300 minutes per week) will likely increase insulin sensitivity. Moderate to high-intensity exercise has shown to be most effective. But it’s essential to keep your fitness level and ability in mind to avoid injuries.

Small Lifestyle Changes Lead to Big Health Gains

You don’t need to eat expensive organic food to create a healthy diet. The insulin resistance diet is about eating whole, nutritious meals and cutting out ultra-processed foods. This diet, combined with regular daily exercise, can successfully reverse insulin resistance!

If you suspect you might have insulin resistance, we can help! Argow Health offers nutritional guidance and lifestyle medicine. Schedule a consultation today, and we’ll create the right path for a healthier, happier you.


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