16 Nutrition Tips To Improve Insulin Sensitivity

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how to improve insulin sensitivity

Here is a shocking fact

In 2012 is was estimated that around 86 million adults over 20 in the USA had pre-diabetes a condition where blood glucose levels where high but not high enough to be treated as full blown type 2 diabetes.

This condition know as insulin resistance syndrome can lead to other serious health issues the main one being type 2 diabetes.

Of course, if not treated properly then the risk of becoming diabetic is very high.

Along with increasing your risk to developing, other serious health conditions being resistant to insulin can lead to weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight at the same time.

So, if you have problems with blood sugar then now is the time to do something about it before it gets worse.

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin plays a major role in how food is broken down and then used for energy. When we eat the food consumed is broken down into different components one of them being glucose.

Glucose is a form of sugar released into the bloodstream and used for energy. The role of insulin is to distribute this new energy source to areas of the body that need it either for internal or external use.

improve insulin sensitivity

If you become Insulin resistant, cells stop responding to insulin and won´t allow glucose to be absorbed into the cells.

If the glucoses remains in your blood stream then more insulin is produced leading to a cycle of elevated insulin and blood sugar levels that increase your insulin resistance and over time may lead to diabetes.

Not only that but excess glucose in your bloodstream can end up in your fat cells as stored energy for later use.

Insulin also directs the body to stop using fat for energy and utilize the new energy source that you have consumed

The causes of Insulin resistance range from factors such as genetics, aging and for women the onset of menopause.

However, for many the real issue is over eating the wrong foods and not taking enough exercise.

By making just a few changes in your diet and adding in regular exercise, you can help reverse or prevent the symptoms and risk associated with this issue.

This is why I recommend trying out the Paleo diet. It´s recommendation in replacing processed foods with natural foods and avoiding high carbohydrate foods such as grains is a great foundation for managing insulin and the risk of becoming diabetic.

That said, here are 16 simple nutrition tips to help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

1-Cut out foods containing refined sugar.

Eating foods that contain a lot of refined sugar will result in a large insulin response. Therefore, reduce all processed foods that contain sugar. The obvious culprits are sweets, cakes, biscuits and any form of desserts.

Also, beware of yoghurts, cereals, pasta sauces and many low fat ready-made foods that can contain lots of sugar.

Start reading food labels and avoid any foods that have over 10g of sugar per 100g of product.

2-Cut out refined sugar drinks.

Canned soda drinks that contain a lot of sugar are an obvious no no if trying to reduce insulin resistance. Also, avoid liquid fruit juices as they contain lots of fructose a sugar derived from fruit that if taken in large quantities can lead to insulin resistance.

Stop all sports or energy drinks as well as they contain sugars in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.

3-Avoid high-fructose fruits.

Although fruits are healthy and should be part of any nutrition plan they do contain fructose a natural sugar that if eaten will cause significant insulin spikes. Therefore when trying to improve insulin sensitivity stick with fruit that have lower levels of fructose such as all types of berries, nectarines, cherries, pomegranates and pears.

4-Cut Down or avoid refined grains with a high glycemic response.

Sugar and fructose based products are not the only foods that can affect insulin function.

High glycemic carbohydrate foods such as breads, rice and pasta are quickly broken down into glucose when consumed triggering a large insulin response.

While managing insulin avoid these foods where possible or eat sparingly.

manage carb intake

5-Manage your carbohydrate intake.

Once you are making better carbohydrate choices for managing your blood sugar levels the next stage is too manage the amount you eat. There are no set rules here as everybody is different in terms of their tolerance to carbohydrates but a good starting point is

50g per day if you are very overweight and doing no exercise

50-100g per day if you are exercising regularly but not losing weight

100-200g per day if you have lost weight but need to lose more and are training at least2-4 hours a week with intensity.

6-Increase Protein Intake.

As you lower carbohydrate food intake replace them with protein based ones. As protein type foods, don´t increase blood sugar levels too much they are beneficial to eat when trying to restore insulin sensitivity.

Keeping blood sugar levels stable reduce food cravings especially for carbs and makes sticking with a diet or nutrition plan much easier.

7- Eat more vegetables.

Eating more vegetables should be high priority in any healthy nutrition plan. They help with improving insulin sensitivity because they don´t raise blood sugar levels (apart from root vegetables and peas) and keep you satisfied due to the high fibre content.

If you have vegetables as your main carbohydrate source, you will not only improve your insulin health but also be able to manage your weight easier.


8- Add acidic foods to carbs.

Acidic foods such as lemon and lime are known to increase insulin sensitivity. Acetic acid in vinegar for example was proven to help reduce blood glucose and insulin response when added to carb based foods.

Also, consider using foods pickled in vinegar such as kim chi or sauerkraut to help reduce the insulin response from any carb-based foods you are eating.

9- Use spices to flavour your foods

Spices such as fenugreek, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric are linked with improving insulin sensitivity.

They achieve this by helping insulin to absorb blood sugars into cell tissue. Use natural spices if possible but supplements can help as well.

10- Drink green tea
Although some research found no link to insulin sensitivity, other studies have concluded there is a strong suggestion that it can have an impact on insulin health. Whether you believe this or not the antioxidant boost you receive from drinking green tea should be good enough reason to drink at least a couple of cups a day.

green tea

12- Avoid trans-fats

This is standard advice on any nutrition site but it is always worth a mentio as people still seem to be eating too much of them. Trans fats found in lots of fast foods and baked goods are just bad for your health. Eating too much of them will degrade the health of your cells creating more risk for becoming insulin resistant.

13- Avoid processed vegetable oils.
Like trans fats processed vegetable oils are known to cause inflammation in the body and attack the health of your cells, leaving you vulnerable to insulin resistant. Oils such as safflower, canola corn and sunflower are just some types to be wary of eating.

Eaten in small amounts every now and again won´t make much of a difference but general long-term use could lead to problems that are not worth taking the risk. Swap for omega 3 based oils such as Olive, Coconut, Grape seed and Avocado.

14-Eat more nuts and seeds.

Omega 3 fats are linked with better insulin sensitivity so eating foods rich in them is a smart move. Nuts and seeds are a good source of this type of fat but don´t overdo them. A handful (20-30g) is enough every day.

15- Eat oily fish a few days a week.

To eat more omega 3 fats include more oily type fish in your diet. Fish such as Mackerel, Salmon, Trout and Sardines supply omega-3 fats EPA and DHA that are proven to keep your cells healthy and responsive to insulin.

If you’re not a big fish fan then consider a good quality fish oil supplement.

16- Eat More Magnesium

The mineral Magnesium is proven to assist with maintaining a good level of insulin sensitivity. To get your daily intake go for leafy green vegetables, nuts and broccoli. Also, consider taking a daily supplement.

Bonus Tip 1 – Avoid eating just before bed.

If we are eating late at night then generally these tend to be high carbohydrate type foods.

As these produce the highest insulin, response getting a good night’s night sleep is difficult.

The sleep hormone melatonin produces when insulin levels drop so if your body is flooded with insulin as you go to bed then staying asleep can be an issue.

I you struggle to sleep properly you may find that it can reduce insulin sensitivity because cortisol levels are elevated due to the stressed state of your body caused by lack of sleep.

Bonus Tip 2 – Start Exercising Regularly.

Changing dietary habits is just one part of the battle against insulin resistance. Regular exercise is also vital for improving insulin sensitivity because it forces the muscle and cells to absorb more energy for fuel both during and after a workout.

A combination of strength training and cardiovascular is the ideal plan for dealing with insulin resistance.

Choose a program that works the whole body and focuses on helping you build muscle and improve conditioning.

In Summary

Insulin resistance is an issue for most people and needs to dealing with.

Unfortunately this is not the case and people only realise there is an issue when it is too late and they have become diabetic or are at high risk.

If you want optimal health and to stay lean as you get older managing insulin is important but thankfully it can be done with just a few changes to your diet that are outlined here.

As you may have noticed many of these tips relate to the Paleo diet which is why I recommend eating the Paleo way if you have problems with insulin and controlling blood sugar.

If you want to give it a try our 7 day guide has all you need to get started.

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