Insulin Resistance Diet

Diet to help insulin resistance

Insulin resistance often progresses to type 2 diabetes when unchecked, but what you eat has a significant impact on whether and how fast it happens. In fact, If you have prediabetes, improving your diet may be the most effective way of reversing it. The National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is designed to help with an insulin resistance diet to prevent or delay diabetes if you have prediabetes.

An insulin resistance diet to slow or reverse insulin resistance includes losing extra pounds if you have them, choosing certain nutritious foods, and limiting others. Lark DPP personalized coaching can help with weight loss and a healthy diet to fight insulin resistance.

What Is Insulin Resistance?


Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells in your body are not as sensitive to the effects of insulin as they used to be. Insulin is a hormone from the pancreas that helps muscle, fat, and liver cells in your body take up blood sugar, or blood glucose. With insulin resistance, cells need more insulin than normal to be able to take up the same amount of glucose from the blood.

Insulin resistance starts out mild and can progress. It may become severe enough to cause prediabetes and eventually diabetes. Many people may only find out that they have insulin resistance when they learn that they have prediabetes, or high blood glucose. Some people do not know they have insulin resistance until they develop diabetes. However, catching insulin resistance or high blood glucose when you have prediabetes can help you prevent diabetes.

Weight Loss and Insulin Resistance


Being overweight or obese increases risk for developing insulin resistance and being diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes. More than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese according to a measure called body mass index (BMI), which considers height and weight. You can use this calculator to check your BMI.

While the bad news is that excess weight raises risk for insulin resistance, the good news is that losing weight helps. The great news is that losing just a little bit of weight helps dramatically. The DPP encourages participants to lose 5 to 7% of body weight. To put that in context, that amount is 10 to 14 pounds if you weigh 200 lb., or 8 to 11 pounds if you weigh 160 lb.

If that is too much for you, consider this: each 2-lb. chunk of weight you lose can lower your risk of developing diabetes by 16%. Is that worth fighting for? If you agree that it is, here are a few tips that can lead to weight loss.

  • Eat a higher proportion of low-calorie foods, such as vegetables, fruit, and lean proteins.
  • Eat a smaller proportion of high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, such as fried foods, sugary foods and beverages, refined starches such as white bread and pasta, fatty meats, and processed snack foods.
  • Take smaller portions of higher-calorie foods.
  • Enjoy each bite and chew it thoroughly.
  • Drink more water to reduce hunger.

Lark DPP helps you set and achieve weight loss goals through small, manageable changes.

Foods That Can Reduce Insulin Resistance


Some foods and nutrients can reduce insulin resistance. Certain others, though they may not directly reduce insulin resistance, have been linked to a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes. These foods may be helpful for preventing or delaying diabetes.

  • Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa, shredded wheat, and bulgur.
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring. 
  • Non-starchy vegetables, such as greens, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, carrots, beets, green beans, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Nuts and peanuts
  • Legumes, such as lentils, split peas, soybeans, and garbanzo, navy, black, pinto, and other beans.
  • Fresh fruit, such as berries, oranges, apples, pears, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

Five Quick Swaps to Support Insulin Sensitivity

  • Look for heart-healthy fat sources, such as fish, olive and vegetable oils, avocados, and nuts, instead of fried foods and fatty meats.
  • Select whole grains and whole-grain products instead of refined ones, such as bread, flour, rice, cereal, pasta, and crackers.
  • Choose fish and plant-based proteins instead of red or processed meat.
  • Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, sports drinks, fruit drinks, and flavored/sweetened tea and coffee.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables instead of chips, cookies, or French fries.

Foods That Can Increase Insulin Resistance


There are a few foods that can increase insulin resistance or risk factors or risk for developing prediabetes or diabetes. These are some foods to consider limiting or eating only occasionally.

  • Red meat, processed, and cured meats, such as ribs, steaks, ham, pepperoni, bologna, salami, hot dogs, ground beef, and luncheon meats.
  • White potatoes, such as chips, French fries, hash browns, and mashed potatoes.
  • White bread and other products made with white flour, such as bagels, pita, English muffins, croissants, muffins, and other baked goods.
  • Other refined grains and grain products, such as white rice, pasta, and crackers, and refined cereal.
  • Sugar-sweetened foods, such as cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream, candy, jam, and certain flavored foods, such as flavored oatmeal and many flavored yogurts.
  • Fried and battered foods, such as fried chicken, fried fish, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, zucchini sticks, and fried shrimp.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Solid fats, such as butter, lard, and shortening.

Lark DPP can help you keep track of when you choose these foods, and offer suggestions for healthier alternatives.

Carbohydrates on an Insulin Resistance Diet


Can you eat carbohydrates with prediabetes? Do you need to avoid carbs? The topic can generate heated debate, but it turns out that both sides can be right, and both sides can be wrong. It appears that going “healthy” is more important than whether you go “low-carb” or “moderate-carb.” 

If you do choose to eat carbohydrates, opt for higher-fiber, more nutritious sources, such as whole grains beans, and fruit, while limiting added sugars and refined starches. If you opt to limit carbs, it is best to limit fatty and processed meats and unhealthy fats, while emphasizing plant-based proteins, fish, and healthy fats instead.

“Healthy” Sample Day “Unhealthy” Sample Day
Moderate-Carb
Breakfast: Shredded wheat with yogurt, berries, and nuts
Breakfast: Bagel and jam with caramel latte
Lunch: Veggie burger with lettuce and tomato on a whole-grain English muffin, carrot sticks, tangerine
Lunch: Cold cut sub with potato chips and a cookie, soda
Dinner: Salmon, whole-grain pasta tossed with tomatoes, side salad
Dinner: Spaghetti and Alfredo sauce, breadstick, pie
Low-Carb
Breakfast: Omelet with egg plus egg whites, cheese, spinach, and tomato, plus avocado,
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs made with butter, and cheese
Lunch: Bunless turkey cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, celery sticks, strawberries
Lunch: Bunless bacon cheeseburger with fried onions
Dinner: Baked pecan-crusted tilapia served with roasted asparagus, fruit salad with nuts
Dinner: Steak with butter, creamed spinach

Help with an Insulin Resistance Diet


Following an insulin resistance diet can be challenging, but Lark DPP can help. Lark’s personalized coaching can help you set and work towards goals in weight loss and healthy eating as you make small changes to establish long-term habits. Features include food logging, instant feedback, 24/7 unlimited accessibility, and tips for achieving your goals.


FAQs of Insulin Resistance Diets

  1. Should I avoid carbs if I have prediabetes?
    • A recent study has shown that choosing healthy sources of carbs is more important than whether you go “low-carb” or “moderate-carb.” 
  2. Is red meat okay?
    • If eaten occasionally and in measured amounts, as it can increase insulin resistance.
  3. Why is insulin resistance important?
    • Insulin resistance starts out mild and can progress. It may become severe enough to cause prediabetes and eventually diabetes. Many people may only find out that they have insulin resistance when they learn that they have prediabetes, or high blood glucose. Some people do not know they have insulin resistance until they develop diabetes. However, catching insulin resistance or high blood glucose when you have prediabetes can help you prevent diabetes.
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Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health

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