Insulin is an anabolic hormone that delivers glucose from the blood to fat, liver and skeletal muscle cells. Insulin resistance occurs when cells down-regulate their insulin receptors. It is a serious, wide-spread problem that leads to several chronic diseases including type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Thankfully, there are dietary changes that can effectively improve your insulin resistance. Basically, we are aiming to limit the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas by altering both the types of foods we eat and when we eat them. These changes are intended to be life-long. As with any habit, the changes will take some getting used to.
Here are the basics:
Eliminate simple carbohydrates. This includes cookies, donuts, pastries and most breads and pastas, including gluten-free. Choose complex carbohydrates, which are carbohydrates accompanied by fiber, or fruit. Whole grains like brown rice or millet and beans are examples of complex carbohydrates. Vegetables are also carbohydrates with fiber. Ideally, you will not be eating packages foods like cereal, bread, crackers, cookies, etc. When you do choose these items, read the labels and ensure they contain 3+ grams of fiber per serving. Don’t forget to pay close attention to serving size!
Eat your higher carbohydrate foods later in the day. These include root vegetables, most whole fruits and whole grains. Cortisol is our stress hormone, and one of cortisol’s actions is to release stores of glucose from our skeletal muscle and liver when we need to increase blood sugar while fasting. While we are sleeping at night, we are fasting so our body increases cortisol. Cortisol is highest in the morning and already giving us our glucose, no need to add to it! Rethink your breakfast and start your morning with fat and protein!
Consider a smoothie with 1 cup berries, 1 cup frozen greens like spinach or kale, ¼ avocado, 1 TB nut butter and 1 cup milk
Chicken sausage link with ½ avocado and sauerkraut, kim chi, sautéed greens or a salad
Hard boiled eggs with pickled veggies and ¼ avocado
Don’t forget to eat enough food to keep you satisfied until lunch.
Limit the complex carbohydrates higher on the glycemic index to 1-2 servings per day. 1 serving = ½ cup brown rice, millet or quinoa and ½ sweet potato, 1 small purple potato or ½ russet potato.
Do not snack. Have 2-3 meals per day. There are few people that do better with 5-6 small meals per day, this is usually not ideal for those with insulin resistance. As addressed above, choose fat and protein for breakfast with low-glycemic index fruits and vegetables like berries all the leafy greens. Lunch is your time to eat like royalty. Have all the major food groups. Dinner is like lunch but lighter, and a time for more complex carbohydrates due to lower levels of cortisol. If you get uncontrollably hungry in between meals, drink 8 oz of room temperature or warm water and wait 20 minutes. If you’re still absolutely famished, have 1 serving of fat = 8 olives, ¼ cup nuts, 1 TB nut butter, or 1 oz cheese.
Do not drink your calories. Avoid juice, sugar and “diet” soda, sweetener in your tea or coffee, and alcohol. For alternatives to soda, consider flavored sparkling waters like La Croix or Dasani. For a coffee alternative, you can get used to not using sweetener within a couple weeks.
Intermittent fasting for 16 hours. This requires skipping a meal, usually breakfast or dinner. Bulletproof coffee for breakfast is allowed during the fast since it doesn’t increase insulin.