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Therapeutic Diet for Insulin Resistance

This low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein and moderate-fat diet is focused on real foods as the solution to Insulin Resistance Syndrome (IR), sometimes called Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X. It is mainly refined foods, especially sweets, combined with deficient exercise that gets people into trouble so a program based on whole foods, not more refined food products, is the best long-term solution in IR, and a host of other health problems as well. It is also recommended to take a good multiple vitamin/mineral.

Based on human evolutionary history and physiology this should be your most natural and optimal diet. It reflects what our Paleolithic ancestors (i.e., before agriculture) evolved eating over a million years and, as such, has the highest potential of supporting healing and preventing disease. In addition, this diet is naturally alkalizing, which is considered by some people to be healthier than the typical American acidifying diet. 

If you need more dietary support than this webpage provides, the popular diet that is closest to this IR diet is The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston, M.D. We also recommended reading The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. It gives a good background on the problems of the modern diet and the advantages of the Paleolithic diet. However, use this webpage as your main reference and refer to these books only for recipes, background and support.

It will take at least 2 to 3 months to reestablish normal insulin sensitivity. If there is severe IR or obesity it could take much longer to stabilize. However, most people will experience some improvements early on in the program. After stabilization has been shown through lab values, blood pressures, improved energy, loss of weight (especially abdominal), loss of carbohydrate cravings and loss of hypoglycemic symptoms, then switching to the Maintenance Diet for Insulin Resistance is possible. However, it will be essential to continue to monitor the lab values, signs, symptoms and weight.

With this diet you should not be hungry until its time for the next meal. If this is happening try increasing the non-starchy vegetables, nuts, fats and/or protein intake in the meals. Do not avoid naturally fatty foods, but limit saturated fats. Avoid hydrogenated oils and fried foods. For hypoglycemia symptoms eat smaller more frequent meals. Try to eat for hunger and not emotional reasons. If you must eat for emotional reasons, eat non-starchy vegetables or lean protein. Snacks should be non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds or protein foods.

PROBLEM CARBOHYDRATES (refined and starchy) The cause of the problem!

    No potatoes or simple sugars/carbohydrates (common table sugar, fructose, sweets, cookies, candy, ice cream, pastries, honey, fruit juice, soda pop, alcoholic beverages, etc.). Anything that tastes sweet (including artificial sweeteners and Stevia) may raise insulin levels, thus aggravating IR and perpetuating the cravings for sweets. As IR improves, sweet cravings usually decrease.

    Almost no grain products (breads, pasta, cornbread, corn tortillas, crackers, popcorn, etc.) and no refined grains/carbohydrates (white flour products, white pasta, white rice, etc.).

    Whole grains (whole brown rice, wheat, rye, barley and buckwheat) only in very small amounts.

GOOD CARBOHYDRATES (non-refined and non-starchy)

    Small amounts of fruit are OK but eat it with protein meals and not alone. Berries are best. No dried fruit.

    Eat lots and lots of non-starchy vegetables. Raw or lightly cooked is best. These should be the main source of carbohydrates in the diet. Fresh vegetables are best, frozen is OK but canned is to be avoided except for canned tomatoes and tomato sauce.

   Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, soybeans, soy products, etc.) have a low glycemic index so are OK.

PROTEINS

    Consume moderate amounts of leaner meats, seafood and fish. The best are wild fish, wild game, free-range chicken & turkey, range-fed beef, lamb, buffalo and naturally grown pork. Grain-fed means more saturated fats and omega-6 oils. Wild and range-fed means less of these and more omega-3s. The more omega-3s the better. Feeding grain to animals, like cows, that were meant to eat grass is not healthy for the animal nor the person eating the animal.

    If you do not have a dairy allergy, some dairy is OK. Interestingly, the lower the fat in milk the more it raises the blood sugar, so low fat milk is worse than whole milk. But the best is no milk, it raises the blood sugar too much, plus cow's milk is for calves, not people. Other dairy products are okay. Use only unsweetened yogurt. Limit butter and no hydrogenated margarine.

    Eggs are fine unless you have allergies to them, but the best are eggs from free-range chickens and eggs grown to be high in omega-3 oils. Best is no more than 7 per week due to the high fat content.

    For most people: moderate amounts of nuts (walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, etc.) and seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, etc.). Raw are best. Walnuts are high in omega-3s. Nut and seed butters are good (almond, cashew, sesame). Peanut butter and peanuts are legumes.

FATS

    Consume moderate amounts of healthy oils. A low-fat diet is not healthy, nor is it compatible with this diet.

    Healthy oils are: Monounsaturated oils (olive, canola, nuts). Polyunsaturated oils that are high in omega-3 oils (canola, flax, fish oils, walnuts). Saturated fats from vegetable sources (coconut, palm, avocado).

    Limit animal sources of saturated fats as found in dairy products (cheese, butter, etc.) and most commercial red meats.

    Freely add healthy oils to salads, sauces for vegetables and when cooking lean meats. Natural palm and coconut oil are excellent for cooking and frying. Flax oil is high in omega-3 oils but goes rancid very easily so refrigerate and do not heat and add only after cooking.

    No hydrogenated oils and limit fried foods. Some low-heat frying with natural palm and coconut oil is okay.

MISC.
    Drink lots of pure water.
    Organic is always best when available.
    Cut down on salt but feel free to use other spices liberally.
    Except for non-starchy vegetables, the other carbohydrates should be limited to protein meals.
    It is usually safe to assume that most processed foods will interfere with this diet, even if low-carb.
    Finally, it must be emphasized that exercise is a very important component of success.

VEGETABLES

Highly recommended vegetables.
Eat as many of these as possible for the best health.

Vegetables to use in moderation.

Vegetables to avoid.

Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Beet greens
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussel sprouts
Cabbage (green and red)
Cauliflower
Celery
Chicory
Chinese cabbage
Chives

Collard greens
Cucumber
Dandelion greens
Endive
Escarole
Fennel
Garlic
Kale
Kohlrabi
Lettuce (avoid iceberg)
Mushrooms
Mustard greens
Onions

Parsley
Peppers(all kinds)
Purslane
Plantain
Radish
Seaweed
Spinach
Swiss chard
Tomatillos
Tomatoes
Turnips greens
Turnips
Watercress
Zucchini

Beets
Carrots
Green beans
Eggplant
Jicima
Peas (actually a legume)
Squashes
New potatoes
Taro
Yams

Potatoes
Parsnip
Pumpkin
Rutabaga
Sweet potatoes
Corn (actually a grain)

See our one day sample of home-cooked meals for one person on the Insulin Resistance Diet for ideas on what this diet can look like when in practice.

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Copyright 2014 R. S. Bradley, N.D. All rights reserved. Staff@HeartlandNaturopathic.com

Heartland Naturopathic Clinic
5003 Burt Street
Omaha, NE 68132
(402) 391-6714