Insulin, one of the most important hormones when it comes to weight gain, regulates your blood sugar and controls how much glucose your cells can absorb. It also decides how much fat to store and how much to convert for energy.
After you eat a large meal, a substantial amount of insulin releases itself into the bloodstream; it also enters the bloodstream as needed throughout the day, ensuring that blood sugar levels remain stable. If your cells don't respond to insulin the way they should, a condition known as insulin resistance can occur, contributing to your risk of weight gain and, eventually, type 2 diabetes.
What you can do?
Stop overeating the foods that cause insulin resistance.
When you overeat foods high in sugar, too much fast food and too many processed carbohydrates, your insulin levels go haywire. When this happens, it can lead to weight gain and low-grade inflammation.
Over time, your body gets used to this extra insulin and becomes less sensitive to it. It reduces how much glucose your cells absorb from your bloodstream and increases your risk of prediabetes and Diabetes by raising blood sugar levels.
What you eat has links to insulin resistance, although researchers are still working out exactly how, but there's good news. You can reduce insulin resistance and help keep your blood sugar in check by picking the right foods. Everyone responds to foods differently, so even so-called high-GI foods don't lead to the same blood sugar increases from person to person. However, there are some broad guidelines for people with insulin resistance:
boost your fibre intake by eating more whole grains
eat food that provides polyunsaturated or "good" fats
focus on non-starchy vegetables (fewer potatoes, more leafy greens)
choose whole foods rather than processed or convenience food.
Eating to support weight loss - during the Menopause
Being overweight can lead to excess fat storage around your organs and waistline. Women who are in Menopause find this a very common problem. Studies have established a link between belly fat and the release of hormones that trigger inflammation.
Inflammation is how your immune system responds to potentially harmful events around your body. It's essential for fighting infections, but ongoing inflammation can negatively affect your risk of Diabetes and heart disease.
Eating a balanced diet can help you manage your weight to reduce your risk of insulin resistance. One weight loss strategy is a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories than you take in. However, not all calories are nutritionally equal. Focusing on eating quality foods rather than quantity can help you lose weight sustainably. Opting for healthier snacks between meals can help, and eating more variety is also believed to help. Increase the variety of plants you're eating by aiming for at least 30 plants per week.....that may seem a lot, but variety, as they say, is the spice of life.
Staying active also helps to maintain a lower weight and significantly reduces the risk of long-term health problems.
Where possible, go for fresh, whole vegetables you've prepared yourself. This means they'll have no extra sugar or salt. You can still choose frozen or canned veg too, but choose products low in salt.
Some insulin-friendly vegetable options are:
Leafy greens, including kale, cabbage, and spinach
Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli
Whilst it's tempting to increase your vegetable intake by drinking vegetable juice, whole vegetables have a lot more fibre and fill you up for longer. So try to eat whole if you can.
Whole fruits are also high in fibre, which can help keep your blood sugar in check and help you feel fuller for longer.
If you have canned fruit, choose the low-sugar varieties. Fruit juices can also be very high in sugar and not particularly useful for managing insulin resistance. They also provide less fibre than whole fruit.
You can still enjoy some dairy treats if you have insulin resistance — they're a vital source of calcium, which helps keep your bones strong. But many cheese, yoghurt, and animal milk contain saturated fats, which may be linked to increased insulin resistance, according to research. Try swapping your saturated fats for healthier ones, such as nuts, seeds, and avocados.
Refined grains are heavily processed, but whole grains still have the parts of the seed that provide more fibre. This means they don't spike blood sugar as much as refined grains, and they can also help you feel fuller for longer between meals.
Examples of grains that help stabilise blood sugar include:
You can find whole-grain alternatives for various bread, pasta, and cereal.
Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes provide plenty of fibre and protein that release energy slowly while keeping you fuller for longer.
Are all especially good.
Not just a great source of protein, oily fish also provide omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect you from heart disease by improving blood fat levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. Having Diabetes doubles your risk of heart disease or stroke, so it's important to eat foods like fish that can help look after your heart.
For excellent seafood sources of omega-3s, choose fatty coldwater fish like:
Lean protein and poultry
Lean white meat is a good source of protein. However, avoid eating the skin to manage your insulin resistance. If you've cooked the bird skin-on, which is fine, remove it before eating because the skin is high in poor-quality fat, which isn't good for heart health.
Other lean sources of protein include:
pork: centre loin or tenderloin*
veal: roast or loin chop*
lamb: roast or lean chop*
beef: lean, with the fat removed*
vegetarian protein: beans, legumes, tofu, soy, and tempeh
*Limit to 1-2 times per week
Nuts and seeds
Having healthy fats in a meal can help control your blood sugar response.
Nuts, seeds, and their butters can provide you with lots of healthy fats and nutrients like magnesium, fibre, and protein, without adding too many carbohydrates. This is good news for your blood sugar and insulin resistance, as low-carb foods are less likely to trigger a blood sugar spike.
However, nuts are energy dense, so make sure you portion your nuts correctly; a palm-sized serving of nuts is one portion. Choose raw and unsalted varieties, if possible.
Foods to avoid for insulin resistance
It's important to cut down on processed foods with added sugar. Foods like these increase your risk of a blood sugar spike:
soft drinks, juice, and sweet tea
refined grains, including white rice, white bread, and cereal with added sugar
ultra-processed snack foods like sweets, biscuits, cakes, and crisps
Insulin resistance develops when your body gets too used to high blood sugar levels and becomes less sensitive to insulin. Some foods can help you manage insulin resistance and avoid blood sugar spikes.
Beans and legumes
Nuts and seeds
Fatty coldwater fish
These foods release energy slowly and help you to feel full for longer. It would be best if you also tried to limit the amount of processed foods you eat, including sugary drinks and cereals, refined grains like white rice and white bread, and snacks like crisps and sweets.
However, please remember that every one of us is unique, and so we must also learn to listen to our bodies because they know best.
Studies referenced in this piece