How to Reduce Insulin Resistance [Practical Things to Do Today]

How to Reduce Insulin Resistance [Practical Things to Do Today]

Video | IR Basics | Low-Carb/Healthy-Fat Diet | Fasting | Exercise | Stress & Sleep | Takeaway

Insulin is an important hormone for regulating the movement of nutrients into and out of your cells. If your cells resist its effects, insulin cannot do its job, creating inflammation and making it hard to lose weight. 

Insulin resistance is a common condition, but you can do things to make your cells more sensitive. Instead of just telling you to sleep better, eat better, and move better, this blog post shares practical things you can start doing today to reduce insulin resistance. And, the best thing is, it won’t cost you a dime. 

Reduce Insulin Resistance – At-A-Glance


  • Eat a low-carb/healthy-fat diet. For example, follow a Mediterranean-style Keto diet, eating a salad for lunch and lean protein with cooked vegetables for dinner.
  • Practice intermittent fasting, starting with 12-16 hours of fasting. Work up to an early time-restricted pattern where you finish eating for the day by 3 pm. 
  • Move more. Any form of exercise helps your cells take in glucose. 
  • Destress and improve sleep with a good audiobook. The Libby app allows you to download free audiobooks from the library. 

How to Reduce Insulin Resistance [Practical Things to Do Today] [Video]

In this video, you’ll learn…

  • What insulin resistance is and signs of it.
  • Recipes to help you improve your diet.
  • Practical steps you can take in order to reduce insulin resistance.

Insulin Resistance Basics

You may have come to this article because you were told that you had insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or you have trouble losing weight and suspect that insulin resistance may be a root cause. 

This post will show you how to reduce the condition. If you need some background information, I will point you to two of my previous blog post. The first provides an explanation of insulin resistance. The second shares the signs of insulin resistance.

Low-Carb/Healthy Fat Diet

We know that insulin resistance increases with increasing fat mass, especially when visceral or belly fat is present. That is because visceral fat is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat that you can pinch under your skin. As a result, belly fat releases more free fatty acids into the bloodstream, promoting insulin resistance (1).

Of the strategies for reducing this condition, improving your diet will have the biggest payoff. And that involves changes to your food choices, not just the amount you eat. When your body is insulin resistant, blood insulin levels run high, which is a state that encourages fat storage. 

Therefore, if you are insulin resistant, just eating less of the same foods will lead to frustration because that internal fat-storing state is still in place. To work toward insulin sensitivity, you want to focus your food choices on those that naturally keep your blood sugar low because less sugar in the blood means less insulin is needed. 

Carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to rise the most, and fats cause the least impact. Therefore, low-carb/high-fat diets, like the keto diet, naturally stabilize blood sugar, an effect that has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity (2) (3) (4).

Low-Carb/Healthy Fat Diet

Not all carbs, however, are created equal. A cupcake and romaine lettuce are both classified as carbohydrates. However, only the cupcake will spike your blood sugar. So, while you want to go low-carb to reduce insulin resistance, you do not need to go no-carb. 

Not all fats are created equal. For instance, mass-produced vegetable and seed oils, like soybean oil, create inflammation in the body, worsening insulin resistance. Healthy fats are a hallmark of the Mediterranean diet, and as with low-carb diets, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity (5) (6) (7)

When you marry these two eating styles, you give insulin resistance a one-two punch because you reduce inflammation and lose weight. 

Mediterranean Keto Diet

With a Mediterranean-style Keto diet, your main source of calories come from fish and seafood, low-carb veggies, and extra virgin oils. Poultry and eggs provide additional sources of protein. Meat, cheese, yogurt, nuts, seeds, and low-carb fruits are also a part of the diet in moderation.

To follow a Mediterranean Keto diet, think salad for lunch and lean protein with cooked vegetables for dinner. 

You can start eating this way tonight. Below, you’ll find printable recipes for my Low-Carb/High-Fat Salad, Baked Salmon with Dill Sauce, and Garlic Green Beans with Pine Nuts.

Low-Carb/High-Fat Salad

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

500-Calorie Low-Carb/High-Fat Salad

courtesy of Dr. Becky Fitness

Course: Salad
Servings: 1
Calories: 504kcal

Ingredients

  • 2-4 cups (2-4 cups = about 128g) Mixed Salad Greens choose spring mix or other greens
  • 1/2 medium Avocado sliced
  • 3 tablespoons Feta Cheese Crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons Walnuts chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Raw Sunflower Seeds
  • 1.5 tablespoons Full-Fat Salad Dressing I recommend Primal Kitchen brand or make your own with oil and vinegar

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
500-Calorie Low-Carb/High-Fat Salad
Amount Per Serving (254 g)
Calories 504 Calories from Fat 408
% Daily Value*
Fat 45.3g70%
Carbohydrates 18.3g6%
Fiber 9.3g39%
Protein 13.3g27%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Baked Salmon with Dill Sauce

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Baked Salmon with Dill Sauce

courtesy of Dr. Becky Fitness

Course: Main Course
Servings: 4
Calories: 410kcal

Ingredients

Salmon

  • 1 pound Salmon Fillets
  • 2 tablespoons Avocado Oil (substitute coconut oil)
  • 1 tablespoon Dried Basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt

Dill Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 4 tablespoons Full-Fat Mayonnaise preferably made with avocado oil
  • 1 clove Garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Prepared Horseradish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Dill Weed
  • 1 dash Salt
  • 1 dash Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 small Lemon cut into four wedges

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Salmon

  • Rinse salmon fillets under cool water, and pat dry with paper towels. Place fillets in baking dish.
  • In a small saucepan heat the oil over low heat until it melts. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil, garlic powder, and salt.
  • Brush the herb mixture over the fillets.
  • Bake in preheated oven until the fish flakes when pulled apart with a fork, about 30 minutes.

Dill Sauce

  • In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, horseradish, dill weed, salt, and pepper.

Notes

Equally divide the dill sauce and lemon among the four servings.

Nutrition Facts
Baked Salmon with Dill Sauce
Amount Per Serving (166 g)
Calories 410 Calories from Fat 281
% Daily Value*
Fat 31.2g48%
Carbohydrates 3.4g1%
Fiber 0.6g3%
Protein 29.7g59%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Garlic Green Beans with Pine Nuts

Garlic Green Beans With Pine Nuts

courtesy of Dr. Becky Fitness

Course: Side Dish
Servings: 4 note: metric units will not change
Calories: 128kcal

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds (680g) Green Beans trimmed
  • 1.5 tablespoons (20g) Avocado Oil substitute coconut oil or butter
  • 3 cloves (9g) Garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons (17g) Raw Pine Nuts substitute walnuts
  • 1 dash Salt
  • 1 dash Ground Black Pepper

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat saute the garlic in one-half tablespoon of coconut oil, stirring, for about 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the nuts and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  • Drain the green beans and transfer them to the skillet. Add remaining oil, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Cook for a few minutes until the beans are crispy tender.

Nutrition Facts
Garlic Green Beans With Pine Nuts
Amount Per Serving
Calories 128 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Carbohydrates 13.4g4%
Fiber 5.1g21%
Protein 3.7g7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

As for breakfast, you have options including eggs, full-fat yogurt, or skipping it to utilize intermittent fasting.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a valuable and easy-to-implement tool in your strategy to reduce insulin resistance. During your fasting hours, when no food comes in, there is no rise in blood sugar or insulin, making your body more insulin sensitive over time and reducing your risk of obesity and diabetes.

Intermittent fasting will meet you where you are at. If you’ve never fasted before, I encourage you to start with an overnight fast of 12 hours and work up to a 16:8 fast, meaning that you fast for 16 hours and consume calories during an 8-hour eating window. For instance, you can skip breakfast, have lunch at 11 am, and finish dinner by 7 pm. 

You don’t have to skip breakfast to perform intermittent fasting. In fact, once you are comfortable with 16:8 fasting, consider moving your eating window to earlier in the day. For instance, start eating by 7 am and finish eating for the day by 3 pm. This form of fasting, referred to as early time-restricted eating, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and improve the function of the pancreas, which is the organ that produces insulin (8).

Intermittent Fasting

Exercise (& Enjoy It) 

Regular exercise makes it easier for your cells to take in glucose, reversing the resistance they once had. What type of exercise is best? As it turns out, the best one is the one you are willing to do. It has been found that all forms of exercise help, so whether you enjoy aerobic-style exercises like walking or riding a bike or prefer lifting weights at the gym, you will benefit (9) (10).

Move More

Escape Stress and Sleep Better

Improvements in the way you eat and exercise will improve insulin sensitivity. You can further your progress with better sleep and stress control. Those two pieces of advice are often handed out but rarely linked to a practical tool that makes a difference. 

I have found that an overactive mind ramps up stress and makes it hard to sleep. There are apps out there geared toward calming your thoughts. One that I’ve found helpful is Libby. The nice thing is that it is free because it is an app that allows you to download audiobooks from your local library. All you need is a library card, which you can get online. 

Simply find Libby in the app store on your phone, attach your library card number, and search for audiobooks. In my opinion, the distraction of a good book is a thing from our past that we need to revive. The app also has a sleep timer, so your story automatically pauses as you fall asleep. 

Escape Stress and Sleep Better

Takeaway

Here is what your plan for reducing insulin resistance looks like. 

  • You’ll start by focusing your food choices on foods that stabilize your blood sugar. This can be accomplished by eating a salad topped with healthy fats for lunch and fish with cooked vegetables for dinner. 
  • To further improve insulin sensitivity, eat within a shortened eating window, working up to an early time-restricted eating pattern where you finish eating for the day by 3 pm. 
  • Make a concerted effort to move more, as any form of exercise helps your cells take in glucose. 
  • Let technology help you control stress and improve sleep. Utilize the free Libby app and decompress with a good audiobook. 

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!

References:

(1) Wilcox, Gisela. “Insulin and insulin resistance.” Clinical biochemist reviews 26.2 (2005): 19.

(2) Krebs, Jeremy D., et al. “Improvements in glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity with a low-carbohydrate diet in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 32.1 (2013): 11-17.

(3) Yancy, William S., et al. “A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes.” Nutrition & metabolism 2.1 (2005): 1-7.

(4) Westman, Eric C., et al. “The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Nutrition & metabolism 5.1 (2008): 1-9.

(5) Ryan, M., et al. “Diabetes and the Mediterranean diet: a beneficial effect of oleic acid on insulin sensitivity, adipocyte glucose transport and endothelium‐dependent vasoreactivity.” Qjm 93.2 (2000): 85-91.

(6) Mirabelli, Maria, et al. “Mediterranean diet nutrients to turn the tide against insulin resistance and related diseases.” Nutrients 12.4 (2020): 1066.

(7) Sleiman, Dana, Marwa R. Al-Badri, and Sami T. Azar. “Effect of mediterranean diet in diabetes control and cardiovascular risk modification: a systematic review.” Frontiers in public health 3 (2015): 69. Link title to

(8) Sutton, Elizabeth F., et al. “Early time-restricted feeding improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and oxidative stress even without weight loss in men with prediabetes.” Cell metabolism 27.6 (2018): 1212-1221.

(9) Koopman, René, et al. “A single session of resistance exercise enhances insulin sensitivity for at least 24 h in healthy men.” European journal of applied physiology 94.1 (2005): 180-187.

(10) Borghouts, L. B., and H. A. Keizer. “Exercise and insulin sensitivity: a review.” International journal of sports medicine 21.01 (2000): 1-12.

About the Author

Becky Gillaspy, DC, is the author of The Intermittent Fasting Guide and Cookbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991. 

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