5 Foods to Improve Insulin Resistance

If you have insulin resistance, you may be able to reduce or even reverse it by adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

What is Insulin resistance?

‍Insulin resistance occurs when cells in our body are not able to respond well to insulin. Insulin is a hormone which is produced by the pancreas and it helps move glucose from from blood into cells, where it is used for energy. So it basically helps our body to use glucose.

Insulin resistance is actually the pathogenic link underlying the different metabolic abnormalities clustering together in the metabolic syndrome (obesity, lifestyle & dietary habits).

If you have insulin resistance, your pancreas need to produce greater amounts of insulin to help maintain normal blood glucose levels.

Diet And Insulin Resistance

Eating foods that quickly raise your blood sugar levels triggers the pancreas to release insulin to absorb the sugars.

So in this way consuming more of such foods that highly raise blood sugar puts a lot of stress on the pancreas to overwork. Over time, this extra stress on the pancreas can actually worsen the insulin resistance and your condition may progress to Type 2 diabetes.

Following a diet low in refined or simple carbohydrates can help your body to manage sugar levels in a better way & may improve your insulin resistance.

This can be achieved by eating a balanced diet that includes more of fruits & vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes & healthy fats. This will help in slower digestion of food, resulting in a slower, steadier increase in blood sugar & more sustained energy levels.

Another good way to slow the rise in blood sugars is to pair a carbohydrate source with protein or a healthy fat. For example, an apple with peanut butter, whole grain crackers with cheese, a banana with almonds.

You need not eliminate any foods from your diet completely, the key is to be aware of how certain foods affect the blood sugar levels & how to balance or offset those with other food choices.

The following foods help to provide a more stable energy source & support insulin sensitivity.

1. Complex carbohydrates to improve insulin resistance

Complex carbs have more nutrients than simple carbs. They’re higher in fiber too, so they digest more slowly. They do not cause sharp spike in blood sugar, hence they help to improve insulin resistance.

Being fiber rich also makes them more filling, which means they’re a good option to control appetite. They will help to maintain several smaller meals which is important to manage sugar levels.

Complex carbohydrates improve Diabetes

Complex carbohydrates include:

  • Whole wheat
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grain breads
  • Whole grain pastas
  • Whole barley
  • Millets
  • Buckwheat
  • spelt
  • kamut
  • Whole rye
  • Whole corn
Buckwheat for Insulin resistance

2. Lean proteins to fight insulin resistance

People with insulin resistance should get their protein from lean sources low in saturated fat. A slow conversion of lean protein to glucose does not cause blood sugar spikes.


3. Fruits like Berries fight Insulin Resistance

Berries for Insulin resistance

All fruits are packed with fiber & nutrients, but some are higher in sugar than others, like grapes & bananas.

You need to watch the glycemic index of fruits. Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food raises your blood sugar levels after eating. Berries have the lowest GI amongst all the fruits.

You can eat a cup of berries compared to half a banana for the same sugar content. Some lower carbohydrate fruits include:

  • Watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe & peaches
  • Oranges & pineapple
  • Berries such as raspberries, strawberries and blueberries
  • Green banana

Watermelon scores lowest in carbohydrate content, having only 7.55g per 100 g of fruit. It has a high water content which will give you a feeling of fullness while providing fewer calories.

Berries are a popular choice for people who are watching their carb intake. Strawberries have the fewest carbs of all the berries while blackberries have the fewest net carbs.

For each 100 g of strawberries, you’ll get 7.68g of carbohydrates & 2 g of fiber, giving a net of 5.68 g of carbohydrates.

For each 100 g of blackberries, you’ll get 9.61g of carbohydrates & 5.3 g of fiber, giving a net carb of only 4.31 g.

Raspberries are also another excellent choice, as they net only 5.44g of carbohydrates per 100 g serving.

4. Vegetables

Broccoli for Insulin resistance

Vegetables get less of a bad rap as compared to fruits when it comes to carbs. They generally contain less sugar & fewer carbs than fruits.

Even when you’re limiting carbs, vegetables must be an important source of nutrition in your diet. They’re high in fiber & lower in calories per serving than any other food group. Also, they contain an array of healthy compounds like phytochemicals, vitamins & minerals.

In general, the higher the water content in a vegetable, the lower the carb content.

While vegetables are always a good choice, but you should keep it in mind that some vegetables, like potatoes & sweet potatoes, are starchier than others & provide more carbohydrates.

Vegetables with little to no carbohydrate include:

  • Broccoli
  • Dark leafy greens
  • white mushroom
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell Peppers
  • celery
  • Cucumbers
  • spinach
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower

5. Low fat Dairy & healthy fats

Diets that contain monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), such as the fats found in olive oil, nuts, & avocado, have been shown to promote weight loss & decrease insulin resistance.

  • Peanut butter
  • High-protein, low-carb yogurt (Example: Greek yogurt)
  • Low fat Cheese
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Avocado

Foods to limit:

Foods high in added sugars can put pressure on the body’s ability to produce insulin & should be limited.

These include:

  • Sweetened beverages like soda, fruit juices, sweet tea or lemonade
  • Foods high in saturated fats like whole milk, butter, coconut oil & red meat
  • Sugary sweets like candy, cookies, cake & ice cream
  • White bread, white rice & all refined flour based foods.
  • Processed foods
  • Canned fruits, which are packed in sugary syrup
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol

Tips for creating a balanced diet to improve insulin resistance:

  • Set small & realistic goals. Choose one or two things to change at a time. First go for changes that are more easily achievable. After winning the small tasks, you will feel more confident & motivated for the bigger ones.
  • They don’t need to be huge changes. Maybe it’s just adding two to three vegetables to your diet a day or reducing or eliminating sugary juices or sugar-sweetened soda.
  • Put a timeframe on it. 
  • Don’t go hard on yourself, just keep trying.  Commit to starting fresh the next day and getting back on track.
  • Do not loose hope.

FAQ(Frequently asked questions)

How do I know if I am insulin resistant ?

If you have high blood sugar, high triglycerides, high LDL (bad) cholesterol & low HDL (good) cholesterol, your doctor may determine you have insulin resistance.

What is the test for early detection of insulin resistance ?

HbA1c levels can be used as a test for the early detection of insulin resistance.

What is HbA1c test?

The hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test measures the amount of blood sugar (glucose) attached to hemoglobin. It can tell your average glucose levels over the past three months.  

What is normal HbA1c?

A normal HbA1C level is below 5.7%,
a level of 5.7% to 6.4% indicates prediabetes,
& a level of 6.5% or more indicates diabetes.
Within the 5.7% to 6.4% prediabetes range, the higher the A1C, the greater the risk is for developing type 2 diabetes.

Which time is best for HbA1c test ?

It should be done in the morning before you eat anything for a more accurate test. Do not eat or drink for 8-10 hours before a fasting blood glucose test.

My name is Amanpreet Kaur Samra. M.S. Biochemistry. I'm the founder and writer of this blog. I have been teaching Biochemistry for a good number of years. I started this blog because I have always been very passionate about writing, in particular about Nutrition and Healthy Weight Loss.

1 thought on “5 Foods to Improve Insulin Resistance”

Leave a Comment