You may think that receiving a diagnosis of insulin resistance or prediabetes is a guarantee you will develop Type 2 diabetes, but that’s not the case. Insulin resistance and prediabetes are very responsive to lifestyle and dietary adjustments. Things like weight loss, improved nutrition, and regular exercise can help your blood glucose levels considerably.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas. Insulin resistance occurs when cells in your muscles, liver, and body fat begin to resist (ignore) the signal that insulin sends out, alerting them to remove excess glucose from the bloodstream. These tissues depend upon insulin to stay properly nourished; they are limited in their ability to draw glucose from the bloodstream on their own. If all systems are working as they should, blood sugar stays in balance, and the body’s muscles and tissues are well fed by the excess glucose drawn from the bloodstream.
Prediabetes occurs when glucose in the bloodstream is high, but not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes. Insulin resistance, prediabetes, and Type 2 diabetes can be managed, and in many cases reversed, by the right lifestyle changes. Medication may also be prescribed.
Reversing Insulin Resistance
- Choose a Whole Foods Diet. Try to eat complex carbohydrates. Eliminate refined and processed starches, as well as industrially produced fats (trans fats) and processed foods, from your diet. Some good choices are vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Complex carbohydrates are more complex on a molecular level, and take longer for the body to break down. This means they absorb more slowly, helping to keep blood glucose levels stable. Complex carbs will also help you feel fuller longer, and help with weight and appetite control. Aim to eat a whole foods, plant-based diet whenever possible.
- Eliminate Sugary Drinks and Simple Carbohydrates. Simple sugars alone don’t cause diabetes, but they do contribute to insulin resistance and overall poor health. High fructose corn syrup is a particularly bad offender. Avoid simple carbohydrates that contain glucose, fructose, and sucrose, such as candies, cakes, soft drinks, and added sugars and sweeteners. Learn to read food labels — you’ll discover that processed foods and sweets tend to be loaded with added sugars.
- Increase Fiber Intake. Research shows that eating insoluble fiber along with whole grains and complex carbohydrates reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Aim to eat some insoluble fiber with each meal. Good sources include:
- Fresh fruits: pears, apples, prunes, dried figs
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetables like leafy greens, squashes, peas
- Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, oats
- Beans: Lentils, navy beans, kidney beans
Other Key Strategies
In addition to dietary changes, it is important to increase your activity and fitness level in order to manage and reverse insulin resistance and prediabetes. Choose a physical activity you enjoy doing, and commit to at least three days per week. Moderate exercise is best, such as a brisk 30-minute walk each day, yoga, or tai chi. Combine cardio exercise with strength training or weight-bearing exercise. Consider whether you prefer working out alone, with a partner, or if you’d enjoy a group sport. Also, add in some simple ways to get more active, like taking the stairs or including stretch breaks throughout the day.