The Insulin-Resistance Diet: Does Everyone Need It?

Key Takeaways:

  • An insulin-resistant diet, which aims to maintain balanced blood sugar levels, may provide benefits to anyone looking to boost their energy levels or better control their mood.
  • According to dietitian Rahaf Al Bochi, the ideal insulin resistance diet pairs carbohydrate foods with proteins and fats in order to allow blood sugar levels to rise more gradually.
  • This diet should be abundant in whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, and raw fruit and should limit the intake of simple sugars from sweet drinks, desserts and excessive fruit juice.
  • Regular physical activity and gradual lifestyle modifications can also help reduce insulin resistance over time, in addition to adopting a healthy diet.
  • A recommended plate composition for an insulin-resistant diet would consist of half vegetables, a quarter carbohydrates, and a quarter proteins and fats.

Individuals diagnosed with conditions such as type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome have often been counselled to follow an insulin-resistance diet. However, this style of eating can provide benefits to anyone interested in maintaining balanced blood sugar levels, aiming to potentially treat or prevent chronic conditions, or simply looking to boost their energy levels and mood control.

“An insulin-resistant diet is a diet that facilitates balanced blood sugars in the body,” clarified Rahaf Al Bochi, a renowned dietitian and proprietor of Olive Tree Nutrition in Duluth, Ga.

Understanding Insulin Resistance

Insulin, a hormone generated by the pancreas, helps in the transfer of sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into cells, Al Bochi elaborates. “When cells become unresponsive to insulin, they are dubbed ‘insulin resistant’, leading to elevated sugar levels in the blood”, she further explains.

The onset of this resistance is not fully understood, although factors such as genetics, age, inflammation, other physiological stresses, certain medications, and lifestyle factors like inactivity and being overweight may influence its development. A recent study of hibernating bears may eventually increase understanding of human diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, which is the most prevalent form in humans. Notably, being overweight is not a necessary condition for developing insulin resistance.

Planning an effective diet for insulin resistance

The ideal insulin resistance diet pairs carbohydrate foods with protein and fats, as per Al Bochi’s recommendations. Foods rich in protein and fats could include meats, chicken, fish, cheese, avocados, oils, beans, nuts and seeds. Carbohydrates can be found in foods like bread, pasta, dairy, or fruits.

According to Al Bochi, your blood sugar will rise more gradually when consuming protein, fats, and carbs together, as compared to consuming carbohydrates solely.

A 2019 research review highlighted the reduction of simple sugar intake from sweet drinks, desserts and excessive fruit juice. “It’s been proven that consuming low-glycemic-index carbohydrates dense in dietary fiber is beneficial,” the review mentioned. “An insulin-resistant individual’s diet should be abundant in whole grains and copious non-starchy vegetables and raw fruit.”

Health benefits of an Insulin-Resistance diet

Insulin resistance diagnosis cannot be decisively pointed out through a single test, according to the CDC. Diagnosis could be made if an individual has high blood sugar, high levels of triglycerides in their blood, increased level of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, or reduced level of “good” (HDL) cholesterol.

Adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular moderate-intensity physical activity and losing weight can help improve insulin resistance. Gradual lifestyle modifications can reduce insulin resistance over time, lower blood glucose levels, and lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol levels.

Balancing Your Plate

Al Bochi recommends a diet plate that consists of half vegetables, a quarter carbohydrates and a quarter protein and fat. Non-starchy vegetables should be prioritized, and blood sugar can be balanced by combining fats and proteins with carbohydrates, such as an avocado and egg on morning toast.

Plausible Food Choices for Insulin Resistance

A wide variety of foods can be included in an insulin-resistance diet. Non-starchy vegetables could include options like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, pea pods, tomatoes and peppers. Protein sources can include lean meats, fish, and even plant-based foods like beans, hummus, lentils, peas or tofu. Even though fruits have plenty of vitamins and minerals, they are considered carbohydrates. It’s also advisable to consult with a registered dietitian for personalized nutrition advice.

For the ultimate control over insulin resistance, encompass your plate with an array of colorful, fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and nuts because these can also help lower blood sugars.

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