Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to food ingestion. Insulin resistance is described as a state when the energy from our food ingested and converted to glucose is not able to enter the cells of our muscles, liver and fat where they are converted to energy. The outcome of this is an increased sugar level in our blood and also an overworked pancreas. Causes for this are still being investigated, but genetic predisposition. Obesity, visceral obesity, food habits, lack of physical activity and some medications may lead to Insulin resistance. Short-term insulin resistance is not the problem but chronic hyperinsulinemia is dangerous for our health. It leads to obesity, increased triglycerides, hardening of arteries, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome including heart diseases, diabetes and PCOS.
Preventing and reversing Insulin resistance by eating the right food is simple and doable but needs discipline and consistency.
Here Are Foods That Support Improvement In Insulin Resistance:
1. Low GI Foods
Glycaemic Index is a measure of the effect of food on blood sugar. Foods with a high GI need more insulin for their assimilation, on the other hand, foods with low or medium GI help reverse insulin resistance. Foods with a GI 0f more than 70 are best avoided, these include foods with a high amount of carbs but no fibre, and foods that contain sugars. Sweetened beverages, tinned fruits, white rice, white bread, potatoes, and breakfast cereals are some examples of high GI foods. These should be consumed the least, when unavoidable pair them with a high fiber, high protein food.
2. Carbs Count
Carbs are a very important part of a healthy diet. By choosing high fiber whole grains you add fibre, phytonutrient antioxidants, and medium to low GI foods, and they digest slowly keeping the energy levels up and avoiding most meal sugar spikes. All of these help control insulin resistance and also protect against heart diseases, diabetes and obesity. Carb counting can also be practised to control portion sizes.
Sugar in any form raises blood sugar and also has a detrimental effect on insulin resistance. Be it soft drinks, sweetened juices, mithais, iced teas, vitamin drinks, energy drinks, all contain sugar. Read the labels and look for hidden sugars like high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners to control the insulin spikes.
This is one important nutrient for controlling insulin resistance. Fill up half your plate with low-carb vegetables, in addition to fibre they add vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that protect against a host of health conditions. Whole grain fibre is particularly helpful for addressing insulin resistance. The insoluble fibre present in whole grains delays the release of carbs into the blood preventing spikes, it is very effective in controlling insulin resistance as a number of studies have shown. Add a whole, unprocessed grain to at least one meal a day. Barley is particularly effective for sugar control.
4. Healthy Fats
Healthy fats play a vital role in controlling Insulin resistance. Saturated and trans fatty acids have a negative effect on insulin. Choosing the right quality is more important than quantity. Infact, high-fat foods actually reduce sugar spikes. But please do not go overboard. Choose fats from seeds and nuts like almonds, walnuts and chia/ flaxseeds. Have a handful a day. Cooking oils should be rich in mono-unsaturated fats like peanut, olive and safflower oils. Mustard oil is also rich in healthy monounsaturated fats.
5. Protein and Dairy
Proteins, the bane of Indian food habits, must be included in every meal. This effect the weight positively and helps maintain muscle mass rather than fat mass. Proteins add satiety to a meal. whole dals, and legumes add fiber and antioxidants, both of which protect the body. Proteins as snacks are a good option.
Dairy products are showing a positive effect on controlling blood sugars in recent studies. They add proteins, protective Vitamin D and calcium. Dairy fat contains trans-palmitoleic acid, which the researchers at Harvard School of Public health, have found to be very supportive in minimizing the risk of insulin resistance.
Apart from these particular foods, we must also follow certain other diet tips to improve insulin resistance.
- Meal timings: Studies have shown that consuming more energy in the first half of the day was a better way to improve insulin resistance. This is something that we have all been hearing for a long time, do not skip breakfast make it a good meal and follow it up with a sumptuous lunch, go easy at dinner and shut your kitchen at 9 pm. Even if you work night shifts, eat an early dinner and keep two snacks at fixed times for the night. Make these a combination of healthy carbs, protein and fats to keep the body going.
- Intermittent fasting has shown very good results for insulin resistance. There are various ways to approach this. The 5: 2 method has been found to be the most effective. So 5 days are normal meals between 8 am and 8 pm and two days are 500-600 calories. These could be two consecutive days or at a gap of two days. It works well but you need to stick to it very well for at least 3 months.
- Exercise improves insulin sensitivity, and decreases weight and a combination of cardio and strength training will help build muscles. Again it has to be a daily activity not sporadic. Morning exercise is the best to follow.
All in all, insulin resistance can be controlled with mindful eating and a healthy lifestyle, but you need to do so every day and not once in a blue moon.
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.