Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t easily take up glucose from your blood.
Insulin resistance causes poor circulation, headaches, low energy, high blood sugar levels, weight gain, lack of sleep and concentration and weakness amongst many other unfavorable conditions. Here are some ways I’ve learned that help in either avoiding or reducing the likelihood of glucose spike from striking.
This is a non-negotiable, it is true that food can heal. A helpful rule is to approach your nutrition with a lifestyle perspective, choosing and incorporating foods into your diet that will benefit your overall wellness and deliver optimal health results in the long run. Focusing on foods that will aid in fighting glucose spikes, here are some basics to follow:
- Avoid the offenders:Refined grains/wheat. These carb-dense foods lead to intestinal inflammation which leads to increased cortisol levels in the gut, resulting in spiked blood glucose. Some of the culprits are breads, pastries, crackers, white rice, cereals and pastas.
- Make vegetables a must-have: Try to eat at least 1/3 of your meal in the form of non-starchy vegetables. Or fiber rich vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, leafy greens, etc. The fiber helps your body process other foods, they add enzymes, vitamins and minerals while also cleansing your body of toxins. Go veggies!
- Strive to eat “Low-carb”:A low-carb/high-protein diet with all natural foods. There is a Paleo rule that states “If it has a heartbeat or grows from the ground, eat it. If it comes out of a box, throw it out.” This is an extreme approach, but is a guideline us with insulin resistance should follow to prevent out of control levels. Taking the approach of a lifestyle versus a fad diet, eating meats, fish, eggs, nut, vegetables being selective with fruits and healthy fats & oils.
- Avoid Inflammatory Foods: As mentioned above, carbs and highly processed foods inflame our digestive organs and cause added strain on our bodies, therefore making it difficult for insulin to do its job. Foods that cause inflammation include: trans fats (think processed foods found in boxes and packages), sugar, gluten, fast food, alcohol, vegetable oil, dairy and MSG (which is used in most fast food chains, restaurants and packaged foods to make them tastier).
- Eat out less and try preparing your food more often: You are your own health advocate and now you can be your own personal chef. I mean, come on, I’m sure you already have interesting lives and do amazing things every day. Why not add chef to the mix? When we cook for ourselves, we know exactly what our food contains in terms of carbs, sugar, fiber, salt and so on. We can control our own portions and add our own twists and alternatives to fit our needs.
MAKING IT YOUR OWN
There are millions of recipes out there, many of which claim to be “healthy” yet are loaded with calories, mystery ingredients and refined carbs. Yes, they are tempting, but you can help yourself by finding alternative ways to create your own version of your favorite dishes. For example, I will find a recipe online and look up the ingredients. Most of the time, it is a recipe that is not so blood glucose friendly. I then research healthier versions of it to give me ideas. Once I narrow it down, then I return to the ingredients and see if there are any that I can swap out for healthier alternatives. These little changes make a huge difference!
For example, I only cook with avocado oil, coconut oil and ghee. I also like to flavor my foods with all kinds of natural herbs and spices such as pepper, garlic, lemon, basil, oregano, nutmeg, paprika and cinnamon.
One of my comfort foods was Lasagna. After thorough research, I’ve found many healthy alternatives that are just as tasty. Zucchini and cauliflower have been lifesavers in the kitchen and I’ve made endless dishes using spaghetti squash as my healthy alternative to pasta. I’ve found insulin friendly dishes such as Eggplant Lasagna Bake and Chicken breast Pizza. Every time I’ve eaten one of these dishes, I leave the dinner table feeling satiated and happy because I know I won’t be worried about a glucose spike that I would have otherwise experienced had I gone with the real version.
EAT AN EARLY DINNER
I’d suggest eating earlier in the evening to avoid late night blood sugar spikes when you’re trying to sleep. Late night eating and snacking not only causes weight gain, but it throws your metabolism off. I try to eat early in the evening after work. If I’m hungry before bed, I will drink a caffeine free tea to curb my appetite or choose a healthy snack that won’t cause a major spike like string cheese, an apple and peanut butter, boiled egg, slice of turkey or a handful of nuts.
HAVE DRINK SMARTS
You can do yourself the biggest favor by avoiding soda and sugary drinks at all costs. There is no way around that one! Sugary fluids contain nothing but artificial ingredients and may be the biggest sugar inducer out there. They deliver zero health benefits and only lead to rapid blood sugar spikes, entering the bloodstream quickly and aggressively. Watch out for other drinks that have hidden sugars commonly found in our favorite coffees, teas and alcoholic beverages. Do your body some good and hydrate with tons of water instead. Sugary drinks will leave you sluggish and dehydrated, causing even more fuss with your insulin resistance management. By hydrating throughout the day, you will feel more alert and energized. I like to flavor my water with a natural tea bag, it gives it flavor and benefits from the tea leaves making a nurturing drink. There are several water apps that remind you to drink up!
LET’S GET MOVING
Another non-negotiable here. However, exercise is not the thing most people are jumping up and down about when faced with insulin resistance. Our natural instinct is to treat it with more insulin or curl up into a ball and nap it out, hoping for a more favorable time when we wake up.
I decided to go on a walk after eating as often as possible to help my body mediate glucose levels better. Sure enough, after a 30 minute walk, I feel more energized and proud of myself. I didn’t do anything extreme but worked through the laziness I was feeling prior to the walk. The worst part is just getting your shoes on and starting—I swear it is 99 percent mental! Once I get 10 minutes into the walk, I am fine. It is nice to get fresh air and moving around always helps.
According to research a mix of cardio (I like to do HITT cardio workouts) and resistance training, is the best way to help our bodies with insulin sensitivity.
For those of you who are pressed for time like me, I decided to wake up a bit earlier (with much resistance at the beginning) to get a short warm up, 20 minute HITT or resistance workout (alternating), stretching and quick shower. It has helped immensely, curving my appetite and giving me a great punch of endorphins for the rest of my day, I happily wake up now. But all movement helps like going for a brisk walk at work or doing a quick stretch session at home (There are tons of tutorials online, I like YouTube 15, 20 or 30 minute workouts). Laziness only leads to more sluggishness and uncooperative feelings so, let’s get moving!
HANDY HEALTHY SNACKS
When making a run to the grocery store, find healthy snacks to keep at home or in the office. If you don’t buy junk food, you won’t have the temptation to eat it! It’s that simple. Some of my favorite snacks include pistachios, almonds, apples, berries, cheese, veggies and protein bars. That way, when it’s time for dinner I’m not overeating after spending the entire afternoon HANGRY (Hungry & Angry).
Doesn’t it seem like eating “low carb” proves to be inconvenient during some of life’s best moments? It’s easy to dread going to certain outings where food is the focal point. Most of the time, these celebratory foods are unhealthy and high carb. So, I opt to bring a healthy, fibrous veggie and protein side or entrée to share and eat myself and maybe enjoy a SMALL piece of what they are offering IF, AND ONLY IF the quality and taste will be worth it (in which case, enjoy every bite!). If the celebration is at a restaurant, there are always healthier options you can order.
GET MUCH NEEDED SLEEP
Studies show getting good quality sleep on a regular basis can help improve all sorts of issues, from your blood sugar to your workouts.
During deep sleep, the amount of glucose in your blood drops. Not enough time in this deepest stage means you don’t get that break to allow a reset, like leaving the volume turned up. Your body will have a harder time responding to your cells’ needs and blood sugar levels for more responsive insulin sensitivity.
Your best bet is to shoot for 7-8 hours of slumber each night for peak health benefits.
These are just some practical ways I’ve found to be helpful when dealing with insulin resistance, I hope they help you too!
Certified Functional Nutrition Practitioner