The #1 Food That Helps With Insulin Resistance, According to Dietitians Who Specialize in Diabetes

You may think of insulin as a medication to help people manage diabetes-and it certainly can. However, insulin is also a hormone that naturally occurs within the body and is vital to our well-being.

“Think of insulin like a key,” says Jocelyne Loran, RD, LDN, CDCES from UM Charles Regional Medical Center. “This key works to open up our body’s cells and bring sugar into the cell to be used for energy. Sugar fuels our body like gas fuels a car.”

However, the body can become resistant to this crucial hormone. Cue the lights going off in the body that something is up.

“When you have insulin resistance, the key-insulin-is no longer working properly,” Loran explains. “So, it takes more keys to get the same job done. Eventually, over time, blood sugar levels trend high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.”

If you’re experiencing insulin resistance, have Type 2 diabetes or are generally hoping to engage in some preventative self-care, diet is an excellent place to start.

“Knowledge is power,” Loran says. “Knowing about foods that may combat insulin resistance helps ensure that you can live your best life, especially if you are at risk for developing diabetes.”

The good news? Foods that help are nutritious, versatile and taste good. And one popular food, in particular, is a favorite for helping with insulin resistance.

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The Best Food for Insulin Resistance, According to Dietitians

Several foods help with insulin resistance, but one is a favorite of dietitians specializing in diabetes: avocado. “As a source of both [monounsaturated] fat and fiber, fresh avocado can be a great addition to a meal plan focused on improving insulin sensitivity,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, the author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet.

Palinski-Wade points out that 79% of the carbohydrates in an avocado come from fiber. Avocados have three grams of this essential carb.

“Diets rich in fiber may help to stabilize blood sugar levels while promoting gut health-two key components to improving insulin sensitivity,” Palinski-Wade says.

Fiber slows digestion, helping to regulate blood sugar and keep people feeling fuller longer so they don’t overeat.

Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, of Entirely Nourished, agrees that avocados’ high fiber and healthy fat content make them an excellent addition to meals. Another perk? They have low carbohydrate content.

“Their micronutrient profile supports overall metabolic health and may aid in weight management, making them a valuable addition to a balanced diet for individuals with insulin resistance,” Routhenstein says.

A 2022 study linked avocado consumption to improved blood glucose levels in adults who were overweight or obese and experiencing insulin resistance. Additionally, a 2023 study of more than 14,000 Hispanic people found that avocado was associated with better blood glucose levels, especially in participants with Type 2 diabetes.

Ready to dig in? “A simple behavior such as swapping out a refined carb at a meal with avocado can go a long way in improving one’s overall diet quality,” Palinski-Wade explains.Avocado can be enjoyed alone, sliced and added to sandwiches and salads, or even blended into smoothies.”

Related: 110 Foods You Can Eat on the Mediterranean Diet-From Hummus to Beets to … Octopus? Use This List to Help You Grocery Shop

3 Other Great Foods for Insulin Resistance

1. Beans

This food is actually Loran’s top recommendation for insulin resistance. “Beans are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber,” Loran says. “An additional benefit is that beans are also very rich in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure because potassium works against sodium or salt in our bodies.”

Potassium is especially important for people with insulin resistance because they are at a higher risk of developing hypertension.”Beans are a food that can help with the management of both high blood pressure and insulin resistance,” Loran says. “Beans have a relatively long shelf life and are very affordable when compared to some other foods that reduce insulin resistance. They are also seen as a staple in a variety of cultural foods. Clearly, beans are the bomb.”

Loran suggests adding beans to chilis or as a side dish for salmon and broccoli.

2. Barley

Routhenstein is a big fan of barley for insulin resistance.”Barley, rich in beta-glucan, boosts GLP-1 production in the gut,” Routhenstein says. “GLP-1 helps regulate blood sugar by promoting insulin release, slowing digestion, and aiding metabolism.”

Not a regular consumer of this food? You may be after trying Routhenstein’s barley-based breakfast of choice.

“I enjoy preparing a hearty barley breakfast bowl, reminiscent of oatmeal but with a savory twist,” Routhenstein says. “I top it with sautéed kale and a tomato omelet for a well-rounded and satisfying start to my day.”

3. Lentils

Palinski-Wade recommends lentils, largely because of the high-fiber content. One cup of lentils contains 15.6 grams of fiber.

“Lentils can be enjoyed alone, on top of salads, added into stir-fries and soups or even mixed into dishes as a meat extender,” Palinski-Wade says.

Related: 25 Foods That Are Good For Your Heart, From Fruits and Veggies to Heart-Healthy Nuts and Seeds

3 More Tips to Help With Insulin Resistance

Eating more avocado and beans can be helpful in the fight against insulin resistance, but other lifestyle factors can be helpful as well. These include:

1. Exercise

Loran recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week.

“Exercise works like a medication to lower blood sugar levels. It makes the body’s cells more likely to respond to insulin, which helps to lower blood sugar,” Loran says.

You might try doing about 30 minutes five times per week (but you can break it up into smaller or larger increments). Regarding flexibility, “Any kind of exercise is beneficial,” Loran says. “Great examples include aerobic…. dancing and walking.”

Loran also suggests adding in strength training. Routhenstein agrees, adding that compound movements like squats, lunges and push-ups are great because they target multiple muscle groups at once. Bonus: They can be done bodyweight-only or with weights, depending on what you have and desire.

2. Get enough sleep

Sleep is restorative, and it can help with insulin levels. “Lack of sleep, even after just one night, can increase insulin resistance in the body,” Palinski-Wade says. “Practice healthy sleep habits by setting a consistent wake and sleep routine, eliminating distractions and electronics at bedtime and avoiding caffeine at least eight hours before bed.”

3. Prioritize your mental health

Life is stressful. And unfortunately, too much stress can do a number on the body. “Stress releases hormones that make our bodies more resistant to insulin as well,” Loran says.

Need help de-stressing? Routhenstein says meditation, deep breathing, yoga and tai chi can help. “Have a midday check-in where you take a minute to reset from your stressful workday,” Routhenstein suggests. Medications for mental health can also help, Loran says, although you should always speak with your doctor or a psychiatrist before starting any new medication.

Next up: The One Diet You Should Try ASAP If You Want to Lose Weight and Lower Your Cholesterol


  • Jocelyne Loran, RD, LDN, CDCES from UM Charles Regional Medical Center
  • Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, the author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet

  • Avocado Consumption for 12 Weeks and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Adults with Overweight or Obesity and Insulin Resistance. The Journal of Nutrition.

  • Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, of Entirely Nourished

  • Associations between avocado intake and measures of glucose and insulin homeostasis in Hispanic individuals with and without type 2 diabetes: Results from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL). Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.

  • Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Copyright 2024 The Arena Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This story was originally published March 2, 2024, 6:25 AM.

source: star-telegram

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