In the last 2 articles, we looked at what insulin resistance is and what puts us at a higher risk for developing it. I would imagine you would like to know what you can do to reduce your risk for getting this illness or, if you currently have it, how you can reverse it. In this article, I have compiled a list of things that can help you with this from how we eat to our workouts and stress reduction. In this article, we will talk about nutrition since it is such a big subject and so important to our success.
Let’s start with nutrition. Many people with insulin resistance can reverse it with diet alone; although, I recommend doing all the components. Let’s see what you can change in your nutrition to make some big changes.
First and most obvious is to reduce or eliminate the sugars and carbohydrates in your diet. Now some people can change the type of sugars and carbs for higher quality ones and do great with it, while for others they need to be a little more strict and avoid them all together.
The obvious sugars we all should eliminate from our diets are sugar, like granulated and powdered etc. Soda, fruit juices, alcohol, fruit sugars, honey, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, jellies and jams, cookies, cakes, etc.
Carbohydrates to eliminate include: breads (especially white fluffy stuff), pastas, cereals, flour, and potatoes.
Now these things listed are carbs and sugars that everyone would do better to eliminate. If you are someone who just needs to exchange a bad carb for a better carb then you may be able to still have whole grain such as whole oats, quinoa, brown rice etc. You want to aim for a whole grain verses a refined grain such as those in breads and cereals.
If you are someone who just needs to have higher quality sugars then you may be fine doing whole fruit. Not fruit juices. Fruit is probably the only “sugar” you would want to be eating and even if your body can handle it you would probably not want to do more than 1 or two pieces a day. You would also want to make sure it is a low glycemic fruit such as berries, pears and apples (green are best).
Some people benefit from a more strict elimination of sugars and carbs. Before you decide to cut all the carbs out first test out using yams and squash for a higher quality option and just reduce them. For those who need to be stricter because either you have a more severe instance of insulin resistance or nothing you are doing is working. You would then want to get rid of all the stuff listed above as well as starchy vegetables such as yams, squash and most root vegetables, grains and fruits. For you carbohydrates should come from non-starchy vegetables, and they should compose a large part of your diet.
Eliminate fake sugars/sugar substitute. Sugar substitutes have been hailed as a solution for weight loss. All you have to do is avoid real sugar and eat this calorie-free chemical, and you are on the path to weight loss. Right? Wrong! We are now seeing correlations to the use of artificial sweeteners and many health complication including weight gain, and an increase in blood glucose levels and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. This is a big issue for reversing insulin resistance. A study in the “Journal of Diabetes Care” suggests that aspartame can raise insulin levels just as much as sugar! So your safest bet is to avoid fake sugar as you would real sugar.
Artificial sweeteners go by many names. Here is a list to start with:
Acesulfame K, Glycerol, Cyclamate, Isomalt, Alitame, Thaumatin, Neohesperidine dihydrochalcone, Lactitol, Xylitol, Erythritol , Aspartame, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates, Mannitol, Neotame (new), Polydextrose, Saccharin, Sorbitol, Sucralose (Splenda),Tagatose, Anything with “-ose” or “-tol” at the end is either sugar or an artificial sweetener. Xylitol is also in this list since it is a sugar alcohol, but I have heard mixed reviews on whether it is actually an okay substitute in an insulin resistant diet.
If you want to use a sweetener then test out stevia. There are different reports and speculations saying that anything that tastes sweet is going to affect our blood sugar. Some other studies say that this substitute does not affect blood sugar. It is a natural substance. If you can go without anything sweet that will be your best bet. If you cannot live without sweets then test out stevia and see how it works for you. The best tasting one I have found is the KAL brand. I use the natural liquid for teas, and even make my own chocolate with it. This is a life-saver when you are new to giving up sugar. Because sugar can be such an addiction, substituting with other healthy versions of what you love can make the difference of sticking with your new lifestyle and falling off the bandwagon.
Change the types of fats you are eating. The type of fats we eat can either help or harm us. Start to change out your vegetable or Canola Oil out for Olive Oil. In fact, if you can it is best to use olive oil in the place of butter. For example on your vegetables sprinkle on some olive oil and maybe even some garlic powder. If you need to cook with oil use Grapeseed Oil. It has a high heat tolerance and is still full of good mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Eat LEAN proteins! Some studies are showing that protein paired with too much fat increases insulin resistance. Also some links are being made to insulin resistance and too much protein in the diet. The solution? Go ahead and have your protein but have no more than is needed for your body and activities. Many people are fine with between 2-4 oz.. You may need more, but this gives you an example of how little we can put into our meals.
Have a protein with each meal and snack! The best protein you can eat is fish followed by game meats such as elk, deer, ostrich and buffalo. Chicken breast can be a good commonly found choice. In studies fish has been shown to have the best effect on increasing insulin sensitivity. So if you have the choice go for fish!
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may want to go with a protein powder or Tofu. I am not a big fan of either compared to the meat sources. But it is better than no protein.
Nuts and seeds can be a great snack when you are on the run. I suggest keeping a snack bag with you just in case you are out and about with no appropriate food nearby. That being said, do not go too over board with the nuts. Although they are a good convenient snack to keep on hand, they are full of fats. It’s definitely a wise idea to watch how many fats you are eating when dealing with insulin resistance.