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How To Improve Insulin Sensitivity

- By Jessy Hamawi
steve cookInsulin sensitivity is defined as the relationship between how much insulin needs to be produced by the pancreas in order to deposit a certain amount of glucose in the bloodstream. If a person is insulin-resistant, the muscles, liver cells and fat don’t respond properly to insulin, which causes the body to produce more.

According to the National Diabetes Clearinghouse, this causes glucose to increases in the bloodstream which makes a person more susceptible for diabetes. Along with regular physical activity, here are few dietary changes that can help improve insulin sensitivity.
 

Low-Glycemic Carbohydrates

The glycemic index provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food. It estimates how much each gram of carbohydrate (minus the fiber) in a food raises a person’s blood glucose level following consumption of the food, relative to consumption of pure glucose.

On the glycemic index scale, each food is assigned an index number from 1-100, with 100 as the reference score for pure glucose. Typically, foods are rated high (greater than 70), moderate (56-69), or low (less than 55). Examples of low GI foods include: 100% stone-ground whole wheat, Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli, barley, bulgar, sweet potato, corn, yam, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes and lentils.
 

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are natural sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which help the body fight and prevent disease. They also contain fiber, which is recommended for healthy weight management and improved digestive health.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces one’s risk for insulin resistance. Fruits and vegetables particularly rich in nutrients and fiber include berries, citrus fruits, apples, pears, kiwi, broccoli, cabbage, dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, carrots and eggplant.
 

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats are healthy substitutes for saturated or Trans fats which are associated with increased risk for heart disease. These fats include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, avocados, peanut butter and many nuts and seeds.

According to a study published in the journal of the American Diabetes Association, the intake of monounsaturated fats is linked with decreased fat distribution in those who are insulin resistant. Replace saturated fats, such as butter, whole milk, cream and deep-fried foods with healthier fat alternatives.

Grilled, baked and steamed dishes are preferred cooking methods over deep-fried foods.
 

Whole Grains

Whole grains, such as spelt, oats, bulgur, whole wheat and barley, provide a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber. According to studies published in the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2007, consumption of whole grains is associated with reduced risk for insulin resistance.

Substitute enriched breads, cereals, pasta, rice and snack foods with whole grains. Whole grain breads, long-grain brown rice, oats and snack foods featuring whole grain ingredients support healthy blood sugar management and overall physical health.
 

Cold-Water Fish

Cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring and halibut, provide rich amounts of protein and omega-3 fatty acids which are healthy fats associated with healthy heart and brain function. According to a study published in the “New England Journal of Medicine”, increasing your protein and healthy fat intake may improve your blood sugar levels and overall health.

During this study, adults with excess body weight, heart disease or type 2 diabetes consumed a low-fat diet, a Mediterranean-style diet, which emphasizes fish and healthy fats. Researchers found significantly improved fasting blood sugar levels and also lost more weight than those who ate the low-fat diet.
 

Beans And Legumes

Beans and legumes provide both protein and fiber and are excellent additions to or substitutes for meat and fish. Garbanzo, pinto and kidney beans as well as peas and lentils are great choices to keep your body healthy and in balance.
 

Sample Diet

Men and Women can safely lose weight following a 1,500- to 1,800-calorie high protein, low fat diet.
 

Breakfast

The breakfast meal should range between 450 and 550 calories. A healthy breakfast meal may include 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese with 1 cup of strawberries, and a small whole wheat bagel with 1 tbsp. of peanut butter. Another breakfast sample meal may include an omelet made with two egg whites and one whole egg filled with 1/2 cup of spinach and peppers and 1 oz. of low-fat cheese, served with two slices of whole wheat toast with 1 tsp. of margarine and a medium apple.
 

Lunch

The lunch meal should also range between 450 to 550 calories. A sample lunch may include 3 cups of mixed collard greens with 3 oz. of grilled tuna, nine walnut halves chopped, 2 tbsp. of raisins and 2 tbsp. of fat-free salad dressing with 2 cups of diced melon. Another lunch meal might include 2 cups of low sodium vegetable soup with five whole grain crackers, 1 oz. of low-fat cheese, a small orange and 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt.
 

Dinner

A healthy dinner meal may include a 3-oz. hamburger made with extra lean ground meat and served on a whole wheat hamburger roll with 1/2 cup of roasted red potatoes, 1 cup of steamed broccoli and 1 cup of mixed greens with 1 tbsp. of fat free salad dressing. Another sample dinner meal may include 4 oz. of grilled chicken breast with 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice, 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas and a medium banana.
 

Snack

The daily snack should not exceed 150 calories. Healthy snack choices would include a large apple with 1 oz. of low-fat cheese, one slice of whole wheat toast with 1 tbsp. of peanut butter, 1/2 cup of whole grain cereal with 1/2 cup of nonfat milk and a 4-oz. banana or 1/4 cup of hummus with 1 cup of mixed carrot and celery sticks.
 
Sources:

MyPyramid.gov: Inside the Pyramid

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