Insulin resistance is a common problem among Americans – and a serious one that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Insulin resistant people no longer respond well to the insulin their body produces, which means the pancreas has to pump out more of this essential hormone to successfully get glucose into cells. Eventually the pancreas starts to fatigue from producing too much insulin and type 2 diabetes develops. Fortunately, there are ways to decrease insulin resistance through diet and other lifestyle changes before the big “D” happens. Here are some ways to improve insulin resistance through diet.
Reduce Insulin Resistance by Lowering Calorie Intake
Eating a high calorie diet contributes to obesity, a major risk factor for insulin resistance. Obesity stresses part of the cell called the endoplasmic reticulum. When the endoplasmic reticulum becomes overstressed, it sends out signals to reduce the sensitivity of cell receptors for insulin. This leads to insulin resistance. If you want to improve insulin resistance, cut back your calories and lose the excess weight.
Decrease Insulin Resistance by Changing the Composition of Your Diet
What you eat plays just as important a role in insulin resistance as how much you eat. To reduce insulin resistance, eat more unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables. These foods don’t cause as great of an insulin response as the highly processed foods you find in packages at the grocery store.
The carbohydrates in your diet should be fiber-rich ones. When you eat grains, choose whole-grain foods that are high in fiber – not processed ones. Limit high-glycemic carbs such as white bread, white potatoes and white rice. These foods cause a surge in blood sugar and insulin levels and contribute to insulin resistance.
Choose lean sources of protein, and eat a handful of nuts each day. Nuts, especially walnuts, boost insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of insulin resistance. Nuts also have positive effects on blood lipids and help to lower the risk of heart disease. When choosing protein, don’t forget to include a source of omega-3 fatty acids. These heart-healthy fats also help to reduce insulin resistance.
Other Dietary Factors That May Improve Insulin Resistance
Two less proven dietary components that may reduce insulin resistance are drinking modest amounts of alcohol (1-2 glasses of wine per day) and eating a teaspoon of cinnamon a day. It’s not advisable to overindulge in either alcohol or cinnamon since both can have toxic effects on the liver at high doses.
The Bottom Line?
Diet plays a big role in controlling insulin resistance. Make these dietary changes and a commitment to exercise at least 30 minutes each day – and you can improve your insulin resistance substantially.
Dr. Mercola website. “How Does Obesity Cause Diabetes?”
Symposium: Nuts and Cardiovascular Health.
UPI.com. “Omega-3 Guards Against Insulin Resistance”
Diabetes Care. 26:3215-3218, (2003).
Diabetes Essentials. Fourth Edition. 2009.