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Dear Diabetes: Insulin-Resistance Diet?

What is an insulin-resistance diet?

Insulin resistance seems to have been in the news a lot lately; many of my clients come to me asking if there is such a thing as an insulin-resistance diet. Before answering, I think it’s helpful to understand what insulin resistance actually is: Insulin is one of the hormones that regulate blood glucose. Its job is to usher glucose out of the blood and into the cells where it turns into energy or is stored for later use.

Sometimes cells do not respond properly to insulin, and glucose is not able to easily enter them; when this happens, we say the body is resistant to insulin. This is a feature of type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

So, to answer those questions, is there a diet to halt or reverse insulin resistance? Well, the short answer is no. No specific combination of foods can be shown to do that. However, since lack of exercise and being overweight contribute to insulin resistance, it makes sense that a diet promoting weight loss makes the cells more sensitive to insulin. Indeed, in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) – a diabetes prevention trial that studied more than 3,000 people at risk of developing diabetes – researchers learned that weight loss and increased physical activity could decrease insulin resistance, and help to reduce or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

I always say that there are many paths to a healthy plate and many healthy ways to lose weight. But the DPP plan involved the following:

  • Eating a balanced diet including all food groups
  • Reducing calories and fat
  • Measuring food to control portion size and being aware of food triggers
  • Keeping food records

What more can you do? Many of my clients are anxious for guidelines that can help. After talking to your doctor about a meal plan that can help you meet your nutritional – and possibly weight-loss – goals, I recommend making sure to eat breakfast! In a study conducted in Japan, there was a greater insulin sensitivity among those who ate breakfast vs. those who did not.

Most importantly, I tell my clients to make the bulk of their diet whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. When choosing meats and dairy, opt for lean varieties. Save desserts and highly processed foods like chips, crackers, and hot dogs for rare occasions. (Read more about making appropriate food choices.)

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE*, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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