Insulin is a hormone that’s produced by the pancreas which is vital for blood glucose control. What it does is enable the transfer of the sugar from the blood into the cells where it’s used for energy.
But, if the cells are insulin resistant, they are not able to use the hormone properly, leaving the sugar in your blood.
When your pancreas detects high blood sugar levels, it produces more insulin to beat the resistance and lower the blood sugar. However, this can eventually lead to depletion of the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin, causing type 2 diabetes.
What’s more, constant high blood sugar can damage different organs and nerves in your body.
Common risk factors for insulin resistance include genetics, prediabetes, and obesity.
Insulin sensitivity indicates how responsive the cells are to this hormone. So, if you improve your insulin sensitivity, it means you’ll reduce your insulin resistance as well as the chances of developing diabetes and many other diseases.
But, how to improve your insulin sensitivity?
Tips to Improve Insulin Sensitivity Naturally
1. Manage Stress
Stress increases insulin resistance by stimulating the production of glucagon and cortisol. These stress hormones break down the form of stored sugar called glycogen into glucose which enters your blood.
This, in turn, increases the levels of glucose in your blood. Constant stress can reduce your insulin sensitivity, so it’s crucial that you avoid stressful events or at least learn how to deal with them.
For example, you can try meditation, yoga, deep breathing, exercise, or sleep and see what works best for you.
2. Exercise More
Exercising on a regular basis helps move sugar into the muscles, storing it, and increasing insulin sensitivity right away. Even though the duration depends on the exercise, it can last from 2 to 48 hours.
It’s best to combine resistance and aerobic training, according to studies.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep reduces insulin sensitivity over time, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. One study shows that getting just 4 hours of sleep at night can reduce your body’s ability to control blood glucose.
4. Consume More Soluble Fiber
This type of fiber helps reduce appetite and cholesterol levels. What’s more, studies relate it to higher insulin sensitivity and lower insulin resistance.
Great sources of soluble fiber are oatmeal, legumes, flaxseeds, fruits like oranges, and veggies like Brussels sprouts.
5. Lose Excess Pounds
Excess stomach fat promotes insulin resistance in the liver and muscles. In fact, research proves that stomach fat is related to lower insulin sensitivity. So, to lose some stomach fat and improve insulin sensitivity you should lose a few pounds.
This will help you prevent prediabetes from progressing into type 2 diabetes.
6. Use Herbs & Spices
Some herbs and spices can help improve insulin sensitivity. They include turmeric, fenugreek seeds, garlic, and ginger. Therefore, make sure you include as many of them as you can in your cooking.
7. Eat More Colorful Vegetables and Fruits
Colorful vegetables and fruits contain plant compounds that offer excellent antioxidant properties. They help prevent free radical damage and increase insulin sensitivity.
However, don’t overeat them. Eating 1-2 pieces per sitting and two to five servings a day is enough.
8. Add Cinnamon to Your Diet
This spice contains plant compounds that help increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar. According to studies, it does this by making the glucose receptors on muscle cells more available and better at transporting sugar in cells.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
This vinegar improves the effectiveness of insulin, thus increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar levels. What’s more, it gives the body more time to absorb the sugar. So, why not give it a try?
10. Green Tea
The research discovered that green tea improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood glucose levels. That’s because it contains the potent antioxidant EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which helps increase insulin sensitivity.
11. Avoid Trans Fats
According to animal studies, a high intake of trans fats leads to insulin resistance and poor blood glucose control. Also, they are a risk factor for developing diabetes and other diseases.
Still, some studies couldn’t prove the same results, so more research is needed to determine the exact effects on humans. Foods high in trans fats include doughnuts, pies, and fried fast foods.
12. Reduce Your Carb Intake
Crabs raise blood glucose levels by stimulating insulin production in the pancreas. Therefore, you can reduce and spread your carbohydrate intake evenly during the day to ease the job of insulin and improve insulin sensitivity.
Eat smaller portions of low GI carbs such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and some types of oatmeal.
13. Lower Your Intake of Added Sugars
Added sugar is different from natural sugars. They are found in highly processed foods, and the two most common types are table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. They contain around 50 percent fructose which can increase insulin resistance in those with or without diabetes.
Some of these foods include cakes, sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, pastries, and cookies.
The best supplements for improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar levels are magnesium, chromium, resveratrol, and berberine. However, consult your doctor before taking any of them, especially if you take medication.
Foods to Eat
Here are the best foods that will help you improve insulin sensitivity:
- Foods high in fiber, like whole grains and beans
- Non-starchy veggies, like peppers and broccoli
- Foods high in protein, including nuts, lean meats, and fish
- Foods rich in antioxidants, like berries
- Omega-3-rich foods, such as salmon
- Sweet potatoes, which have a lower glycemic index than other potatoes
- Teas, unsweetened
Foods to Avoid
Try to avoid the following foods:
- Alcohol – especially grain alcohol and beer in large quantities
- Sweetened beverages – such as soda, fruit juices, and fountain drinks
- Grains – in some people, both refined or whole grains might reduce insulin sensitivity
- Boxed foods and processed snacks
- Starchy veggies – like pumpkin, potatoes, yams, and corn
- White rice, bread, flour, and pasta
- Sugary sweets – like chocolate bars, ice cream, and cupcakes
- Dairy from cows, particularly milk
- Foods rich in saturated fats – such as butter, chocolate, and salt pork
- Any fried food.
Following these lifestyle and diet tips will help you improve your insulin sensitivity, thus controlling your blood sugar levels more efficiently and keeping you away from diabetes and diabetes complications.