Insulin Resistance Diet: 11 Best Foods to Balance Sugar Levels (2024)
Time to read 11 min
Time to read 11 min
Did you know that, in 2022, a total of 11.3% of people in the United States were estimated to have diabetes? To put that in numbers, that's over 37 million Americans!
Controlling blood sugar has always been a problem, both for healthy and diabetic individuals alike. One of the best methods to prevent progressing into diabetes and help fight an already existing diabetic condition is the insulin resistance diet. But what is that exactly?
An insulin resistance diet is a collection of foods that you can consume without worrying about excessively raising your blood sugar levels. You'll get the nutrients you need without adding more sugar than your body can handle.
In this post, we'll list 11 foods you can safely incorporate into your diet without dangerously raising glucose levels.
When someone has type 2 diabetes, their cells develop insulin resistance. This is a condition where cells don't respond well to the body's secreted insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that allows our cells to use glucose and convert it into energy.
During insulin resistance, cells don't take in the circulating blood sugar, which keeps the average blood sugar levels high.
These high sugar levels, if left uncontrolled, can cause various problems like nerve and eye damage. As such, the need for an insulin resistance diet becomes a must.
Before we get into the best foods to eat in an insulin resistance diet, it's important that you're familiar with the glycemic index.
It's a scale you can use to decide whether certain foods are suitable for your insulin resistance diet or not. Think of it as a scale from 0–10. The lower the food is on the glycemic index scale, the less glucose it'll produce in your bloodstream, and the safer it'll be.
In the following section, we'll break down many food groups that you can safely eat. However, what if you want to eat foods that aren't mentioned in the list? That's when the glycemic index can be handy. Simply look at how these foods measure on the index, and you'll know whether they're safe or not.
The insulin resistance diet primarily consists of low-carb foods that contain healthy fats. These foods won't raise your blood sugar and will make it easier for you to feel full without adding too much pressure on your body.
Let's see some examples.
Fish and shellfish are great sources of protein, minerals, and healthy fats, and they also reduce the chances of getting heart issues.
According to the CDC, diabetes and heart diseases go hand in hand. As such, since fish can reduce the risk of heart disease, then you get two birds with one stone.
You use the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish to improve your heart health and avoid raising your blood sugar levels.
Trout, tuna, and mackerel are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids that you can safely eat without having an unfavorable blood sugar response.
Nuts, like peanuts and almonds, are treated as snacks by some people, but what you may not know is how many benefits they have.
A study was conducted on 25 people who had confirmed type 2 diabetes. Throughout the day, their diet consisted of only nuts and almonds.
Their post-meal sugar levels weren't as high as other foods.
Non-sweetened, low-fat yogurts have been clinically proven to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
After analyzing 42 studies in 2022, it was concluded that daily intake of non-sweetened yogurts reduced type 2 diabetes by 7%.
Much like nuts, flaxseed has many benefits that people may not be aware of, and one of these is that it can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
However, flaxseed itself isn't a meal, as you won't consume some seeds and call it a day. Instead, it can be added to other low-sugar foods like yogurt.
A study was conducted on 57 people who had type 2 diabetes. They consumed low-fat yogurt containing flaxseed for eight weeks.
There was a marked reduction in blood sugar throughout the period.
Oats may not be a fan favorite because of their bland taste, but there's no denying that their low carb and sugar content can help prevent those blood sugar spikes.
Oats are also rich in fiber content, which further helps in regulating blood sugar levels.
Note: Some people handle the bland taste by adding honey to the oats. While honey is a much healthier sweetener than sugar, it's still a sweetener with a decent amount of carbohydrates.
There's no advantage in substituting honey for sugar. You'll still raise your glucose levels.
Citrus fruits, like grapefruit and oranges, are excellent choices for those of you who crave sugar but still need to be on an insulin resistance diet.
These fruits contain natural sugar, but they're still on the low end of the glycemic index. They also contain naringenin, which is a polyphenol that's clinically proven to help against diabetes.
Eggs are rich in protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and healthy fats. They're easy to cook and quick to consume, making them a perfect addition to your insulin resistance diet if you're in a hurry.
A study in 2018 found a 4.4% fasting blood sugar reduction in 42 adults with type 2 diabetes after consuming one egg per day.
Apples are natural sweets for those who love to taste something sugary throughout the day without worrying too much about their blood sugar.
They're rich in fiber, chlorogenic acid, and gallic acid, which can help reduce the risk of diabetes and help control blood glucose levels in the existing conditions.
A 2019 study on 18 women concluded that eating an apple half an hour before a rice meal reduced overall blood sugar levels compared to eating rice alone.
It's difficult to think that sweet berries won't spike blood sugar levels. However, they'll also help in regulating them.
A 2019 study of 32 prediabetic adults found that consuming two 250-gram cups of red raspberries with high-carb meals reduced the overall blood sugar levels in these adults.
These adults were prediabetic, as in they weren't diagnosed with diabetes, but they were a lot closer to being diabetic than healthy. Accordingly, these results suggest that berries can reduce the risk of diabetes.
Beans are rich in various helpful elements like protein, magnesium, and fiber. They're also high in resistant starch, which can help you avoid blood sugar spikes (more on that later).
A 2012 study of 12 women found that consuming rice with black beans showed a significant reduction in overall blood sugar levels than to eating plain rice.
Other studies also concluded that beans and lentils could actually reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance.
Pumpkin health benefits are nothing short of impressive. They're rich in fibers and antioxidants, which makes them excellent foods for those with insulin resistance.
Pumpkins themselves are high in useful carbs called polysaccharides, which, according to some studies, can help reduce blood sugar levels.
The pumpkin seed also contains a lot of protein and healthy fats, so they can help with blood sugar regulation. A study concluded that consuming 65 grams of pumpkin seeds reduced blood sugar after meals by 35%.
Certain foods can raise blood sugar levels and worsen the existing insulin resistance condition. They do that directly by overloading the body's ability to secrete sufficient insulin amounts and indirectly by forcing the body to secrete more insulin to control blood sugar levels, worsening the insulin resistance.
As such, limiting or avoiding these foods entirely is best to give your body the best chance against insulin resistance.
Some foods include sweetened beverages like juices and soda, highly processed foods like ice cream and chocolate, refined whole grains like white bread and pasta, and extra oily foods like fried foods.
While eating foods among that list is acceptable from time to time, limiting them or potentially eliminating them entirely will be another step in your way to treat insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a condition that'll most likely stay. It may not be possible to treat it 100%, but your healthy diet can bring you a big step closer to having normal blood sugar levels.
Not only that but the extra weight loss you'll have from maintaining that healthy diet will further improve your body's immunity and ability to fight various diseases.
Pair the foods mentioned above with better lifestyle habits like sports and extra water intake, and you'll get much better control of your blood sugar levels.
Here are a few extra things to keep in mind:
Our food consists of macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the foods we need in large quantities, like proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Micronutrients are the "supplements" of our diet, like vitamins and minerals. Messing up with supplements can reduce your body's overall health, but the margin for error is fairly large.
Macronutrients, however, are when the margin for error is considerably lower. A short period of a messed up diet can constantly keep your insulin levels high in the bloodstream, contributing to insulin resistance.
Accordingly, even if you consume unhealthy foods from time to time, you need to extend the time between those intervals as much as you can to allow the insulin levels in your bloodstream to fluctuate and, hence, reduce the chances of your cells becoming resistant to it.
Middle groceries, or "the groceries in the middle of the store," are typically the most dangerous for both healthy and diabetic people.
They can worsen the condition of an already diabetic person and can be a contributing factor in transforming a non-diabetic person into a diabetic one. They can also lead to various digestive and kidney diseases.
What are those groceries? Alcoholic beverages, processed and sweetened foods/drinks, fried/boxed foods, white bread, pasta, and ice creams are all typically found in the middle of the store.
The outer perimeter of the grocery store, however, contains fresh meat, seafood, and vegetables. I just wanted to let you know that's where you need to hang around the most.
Also, keep in mind that you should aim for non-starchy vegetables as much as you can, as starchy ones are often high in calories.
Foods that contain resistant starches resist being digested in the small intestine. Let's take a broader look at this one.
Your digestive tract begins with your mouth, down to your stomach, and then the small intestine, followed by the large intestine.
Food absorbed in the stomach and the small intestine gets their carbohydrates released inside the bloodstream, which you don't want if you're on an insulin-resistant diet.
On the other hand, the resistant starches ferment in the large intestine, reducing the total carbohydrates in your bloodstream and acting as a prebiotic "good bacteria" inside the digestive tract. Resistant starches have also been proven in some clinical trials to improve insulin sensitivity in the cells.
So, what are foods that contain these resistant starches? Examples of such foods are oats, beans, legumes, green bananas, plantains, and potatoes.
Could you make sure that at least one of them is present in your kitchen at all times?
We mentioned some fruits on our list that are healthy and safe to include in an insulin resistance diet. However, fruit juices, more often than not, aren't as healthy as the fruits themselves.
That's because of the added sugars and preservatives. Even ones labeled as "fresh and natural" still have some ingredients that can spike your blood glucose.
Your best bet is to consume the juices that you make at home. That way, you can be sure that they're completely free of any sugary additions.
Eggs are a great protein source, and their carbohydrate content is low, making them not only ideal for an insulin resistance diet but also helpful for weight loss.
The insulin resistance diet is already low on carbohydrates and sugars, which should put you on the way to losing weight healthily.
However, if you want even better results, pair that with regular exercises to maximize your weight loss while getting stronger.
As long as type 2 diabetes is controlled through a healthy, balanced diet and exercise, no extra treatment measures are needed.
All type 2 diabetes patients have insulin resistance, as it's considered the hallmark of the disease.
It's rare to see in type 1, but it's still possible nevertheless.
So, we've learned that an insulin resistance diet, while it isn't an active treatment for insulin resistance, can still help you enjoy your life normally without relying on insulin injections.
Focus on highly nutritious foods and low in carbohydrate and sugar content. You may rely on the options mentioned in this guide or use a glycemic index to formulate your diet plan.
However, that only applies if you're prediabetic or have type 2 diabetes. If type 1 diabetes is the culprit, you'll have to rely on insulin injections.
The good news is that the future is here. You no longer have to bear that annoying needle sting every time you need insulin. With InsuJet, you can enjoy a needle-free insulin administration that's as effective as it's comfortable.
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