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Diabetes is a serious condition that can develop in people whose insulin is too resistant, and therefore makes it harder for glucose to be absorbed. Insulin is a hormone which aids the body in absorbing glucose, and helps to keep blood sugar levels in balance. When the body is unable to absorb glucose, problems for muscles, fat and the liver occur because they require glucose to function properly. Over time, this can damage cells and lead to type 2 diabetes.

Diet and lifestyle choices can be to blame when it comes to increasing the risks related to insulin resistance. If one can actively change their diet, this can reduce insulin insensitivity.

First, it is important to understand how insulin resistance works. Glucose is a critically important source of energy for the body. The issue is, many of the body’s cells cannot absorb glucose on their own. The pancreas is what secretes insulin into the bloodstream. It joins up with glucose, travels around the body’s cells, where it then attaches itself to insulin receptors. Insulin is what allows the cells to then absorb glucose. In doing so, this ensures that blood sugar levels remain stable and safe, and also that muscle, fat, liver and other cells are able to be provided with energy.

Insulin resistance makes cells less sensitive to insulin, which means that the body subsequently has to produce even more to try and regulate the blood sugar levels. If the pancreas cannot keep up with this increased demand for insulin, the blood sugar levels rise. When this occurs, cells are unable to use all of the excess glucose in the blood; this, therefore, is what leads to type 2 diabetes.

There is a way to combat this, however. Following a healthful diet can help to improve insulin sensitivity. This can be achieved by eating plenty of seasonal plant-based foods, substituting cakes for dessert with fruit, and also using olive oil as the primary source of fat. Fish, poultry, and dairy products are advised to be eaten in moderation. It is also wise to to go easy on the red meat and have only a little wine during meals.

The number of calories a person consumes each day is completely dependent on how much a person weighs and also their size. Large people need more calories, whereas for smaller people, it is vice versa. On average, a 2000 calorie per day diet is recommended in order to maintain a healthy weight.

But what about a simple way to tackle insulin resistance? Eating foods with a low glycemic index (GI). These foods are digested slowly and don’t produce as many blood sugar spikes. The difference between low-GI foods and regular foods is obvious when it comes to carbohydrates. Carbs that have a high GI can cause blood sugar spikes and therefore, put more demand on the pancreas to make insulin. It is sensible as such that eating low GI foods is a good way to maintain balanced sugar levels.

What exactly do you eat then?

The trouble with Western diets is that they typically lack certain nutrients, such as magnesium, calcium, fiber, and potassium. As such, it is important to consume foods that are supportive of insulin sensitivity, such as non-starchy vegetables (broccoli and peppers come to mind), high-fiber foods like beans and whole grains, protein-rich foods such as lean meats, fish, and nuts, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, antioxidant foods like berries, sweet potatoes, water, and unsweetened teas.

And what do you avoid?

There are certain foods that should be avoided as they are more likely to raise blood sugar levels. These are sweetened beverages such as soda, fruit juices and fountain drinks, alcohol (particularly beer and grain alcohol), grains (refined or whole), which may worsen insulin sensitivity in some people, potatoes, pumpkin, corn, and yams, processed snacks and boxed foods, excessive sugary treats like cupcakes, ice-cream or chocolate bars, white bread, rice, pasta flour, dairy from cows, fried foods and also foods that are high in saturated fats such as chocolate, butter and salt pork.

As with any diet, finding a healthful balance is key. Even some of these foods that have been listed here may not necessarily improve insulin sensitivity. The key is to limit these foods and replace them with healthier options as frequently as possible. By keeping to a diet that is rich in fiber and plants while keeping low in added sugars, it is possible to steadily improve insulin sensitivity. Maintaining fitness and daily exercise is very important as this can also help with reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions. Because being overweight makes insulin resistance much more likely, it is highly important to maintain fitness levels so that any chance of having fat hormones interfering with insulin is reduced significantly.

As a last point, poor lifestyle factors which can affect insulin resistance include smoking, sleep issues, older age and use of steroids. At the end of the day, it is crucial to try and maintain good health in both fitness and in what you eat- being cautious now with your lifestyle can help your insulin resistance be boosted for later on in life when you might very well need it.

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