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Diet for Insulin Resistance
This moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-protein and moderate-fat diet is focused on real foods as the solution to Insulin Resistance Syndrome (IR), sometimes called Metabolic Syndrome, Syndrome
X, or pre-diabetes. It is mainly refined foods, especially sweets and refined flour products, combined with deficient exercise that gets people into trouble. 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 recipe support than this handout provides, a popular diet that is close 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 handout as your main reference and refer to these books only for background and recipes.
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 a 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. 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. Do not avoid naturally fatty/oily foods, but limit saturated fats. And no hydrogenated oils and few fried 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
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.
(beans, peas, peanuts, soybeans, soy products, etc.) have a low glycemic index
so are OK.
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.
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 to
consume no more than 10 yokes 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.
moderate amounts of healthy oils. A low-fat diet is not healthy, nor is
it compatible with this diet.
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 and palm oils).
animal sources of saturated fats as found in dairy products (cheese, butter,
etc.) and most commercial red meats.
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.
hydrogenated or trans fats and limit fried foods. Some low-heat frying with natural palm
and coconut oil is okay.
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.
as many of these as possible for the best health.
to use in moderation.
(green and red)
(actually a legume)
(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.