Beginner’s Guide to the Insulin Resistance Diet

Looking to improve your health? An insulin resistance diet might be the best choice you could make.

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Hailey Hudson
— Signos
Health & Fitness Writer
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Reviewed by

Hailey Hudson
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

April 23, 2024
August 10, 2021
— Updated:
March 12, 2022

Table of Contents

How to Balance Blood Sugar with Diet

Looking to improve your health? An insulin resistance diet might be the best choice you could make.

Insulin resistance can negatively impact your health, making your body less sensitive to insulin, affecting your metabolism, and potentially causing type 2 diabetes<sup>1</sup>. It’s up to you to take steps to improve your insulin resistance. Luckily, by following the insulin resistance diet, you can reverse insulin resistance and boost your health.


How Insulin Affects Your Body

Before you get started with the insulin resistance diet, it’s important to understand insulin and how insulin resistance works so you can grasp the concepts behind the diet.

Insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas, lets glucose from your bloodstream enter your cells so they can generate energy. Insulin also helps break down the fats and protein you eat.

Insulin resistance occurs when your cells don’t respond well to insulin and are unable to pick up glucose from your blood<sup>2</sup>. This causes your pancreas to make more insulin to help the glucose go into your cells. Over time, excess insulin can have a detrimental impact on your health and make it difficult to lose weight.

Insulin resistance differs from insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance means your body struggles to take up glucose. But if you have high insulin sensitivity, your cells can use glucose more effectively.

Insulin resistance, a common condition, can be diagnosed through a blood test. If left untreated, insulin resistance causes chronically high glucose levels and can be linked to diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease<sup>3</sup>.

You can help reverse insulin resistance through exercise, weight loss, and the insulin resistance diet.

What Is the Insulin Resistance Diet?

The insulin resistance diet emphasizes nutritious real foods, lowering the number of refined carbs and processed foods you consume. 

This diet limits highly processed carbs and focuses on some whole grains, a strategy to help support insulin sensitivity<sup>4</sup>.

The insulin resistance diet also helps with weight loss because it limits processed or sugary foods and refined carbs, promoting fruits, veggies, and lean proteins instead. Evidence has shown that weight loss reduces the chance of type 2 diabetes for adults who are overweight and struggle with impaired glucose tolerance<sup>5</sup>.

<p class="pro-tip">Learn about slow-digesting carbs and why you should avoid ultra-processed foods</p>

Main Principles of the Insulin Resistance Diet

The insulin resistance diet incorporates foods that will keep your insulin and blood sugar controlled. The foods on the insulin resistance diet are simple. You’ll focus on whole, unprocessed foods such as fruit, vegetables, and lean proteins (think chicken or fish) while avoiding any foods that are highly processed with lots of sugar or unhealthy fats. Make sure to eat consistent meals and consume high-quality calories in the form of nutritious foods.

Insulin Resistance Diet Foods

Your shopping list for an insulin resistance diet might look something like this:

<ul role="list"><li>Protein sources like seafood, fish, chicken, and turkey</li><li>Select whole grains like millet<sup>6</sup>, barley<sup>7</sup>, oats<sup>8</sup>, rye<sup>9</sup>, and sprouted-grain bread<sup>10</sup></li><li>Non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, green beans, broccoli, kale, peppers, spinach, collards, eggplant, cauliflower, artichokes, lettuces, celery, and mushrooms</li><li>High-fiber fruits like apples, green bananas, oranges, berries, kiwi, peaches, and pears</li><li>Elderberry extract<sup>11</sup> may help with insulin resistance, stress, and inflammation</li></ul>

Stay away from foods like white potatoes, refined grains, highly processed packaged goods, and sugar-sweetened desserts and drinks.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn more about </strong> <a href="/blog/turkey-metabolic-health">how turkey can support metabolic health</a>.</p>

Insulin Resistance Diet Meal Plan

A sample insulin resistance diet meal plan might consist of the following:

  • Breakfast: Plain cottage cheese with hemp and chia seeds, sliced green apple, and ground cinnamon
  • Snack: Hard-boiled eggs with a handful of almonds or walnuts
  • Lunch: Salad with quinoa, romaine lettuce, kale, bell peppers, and grilled chicken tossed with a vinaigrette made with avocado or olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt
  • Snack: Raw veggies with hummus
  • Dinner: Baked trout or salmon, millet, and green beans with apple slices dipped in melted dark chocolate for dessert

Try our one-day insulin resistance diet meal plan:

The insulin resistance diet doesn’t have to be boring to be effective! Speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have any questions about what you should eat if you are insulin resistant.

Insulin Resistance Diet Exercise Tips

In addition to following an insulin resistance diet plan, make a point to incorporate movement into your days. Regular exercise is beneficial in boosting insulin sensitivity<sup>12</sup>—and the higher your insulin sensitivity, the lower your insulin resistance.

Walking, swimming, or cycling are excellent choices for cardiovascular exercise. Aerobic exercise helps promote weight loss<sup>13</sup>, which can improve insulin sensitivity<sup>14</sup>. You’ll also want to add resistance training in a form you enjoy. This could mean bodyweight strength training, using resistance bands, checking out the free weights and machines at the gym, or a quick 10-minute at-home dumbbell workout.

The insulin resistance diet is a good choice for your health because it supports insulin sensitivity and promotes weight loss, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes. When paired with a consistent exercise program, this diet will help improve your insulin resistance and keep you healthy long-term.


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About the author

Hailey Hudson is a full-time medical, health, marketing, and pet writer. She's written for Heathline, Livestrong, Runner's World, Dell, and more.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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