Insulin is a hormone the pancreas produces that helps transport both glucose and triglycerides from the bloodstream into the cells. Glucose is the body's primary source of energy; every cell needs glucose. Triglycerides are a type of lipid, stored only in fat cells, that is converted to energy when you lack sufficient glucose in your bloodstream. Insulin is released in response to glucose; the faster and higher your glucose levels rise, the more insulin will flood your bloodstream to bring down blood sugar levels. Keeping glucose levels stable will also regulate insulin levels.
Avoid added sugars. Sugar, which includes natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup, as well as things like high fructose corn syrup, are the easiest substances for your body to convert to glucose. The more sugar you eat, the faster your blood sugar rises. Often, this triggers the release of too much insulin as your body attempts to compensate for the flood of glucose in your bloodstream. Too much insulin can lead to low blood sugar, signaling your brain that you need more glucose. This triggers hunger, often with a craving for more sweets, starting a vicious cycle of low and high insulin levels that can lead to weight gain and pre-diabetes.
Eat a diet high in fiber. Fiber, sometimes called "roughage," is a type of plant-based undigestible carbohydrate. Because your body cannot fully process fiber, it slows digestion and stops your body from being able to produce glucose too quickly. Harvard's Joslin Diabetes Center says that people following a high-fiber diet have lower glucose levels and better insulin control. Fiber also promotes satiety --- helping you feel full faster and stay full longer. This can lead to an overall reduction in caloric intake and weight loss.
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess fat interferes with how effectively your body uses insulin. The more weight you lose, the better control you will have over your insulin levels. Limiting added sugars --- which tend to be high in calories, but low in nutrients --- and adding fiber will help you lose weight. The American Diabetes Association also recommends choosing lean proteins such as skinless poultry or fish and choosing nonfat or low-fat dairy products. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and consume whole grains rather than refined grains. Practice portion control. Overeating --- even healthy foods --- will stall weight-loss efforts.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity helps your body use insulin more efficiently and burns calories, which will lead to weight loss. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, "regular, sustained, moderate increases in physical activity, such as daily walking, can substantially decrease insulin resistance." Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week.
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC): Insulin Resistance and Pre-Diabetes
- Joslin Diabetes Center: How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?
- "American Family Physician"; Insulin Resistance Syndrome; Goutham Rao, M.D; March 2001
- American Diabetes Association: Making Healthy Food Choices