The Insulin Resistance Diet: A Healthy Eating Habit

Parul Dube

October 13, 2022

Insulin is an all-powerful hormone that allows cells to absorb glucose (a sugar-based energy source) from the foods consumed. Insulin resistance prevents cells from effectively utilising insulin. Or, in the case of type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not make any insulin at all. This lack of insulin spikes blood sugar levels and makes them higher than they should be. As a result, one might be at a higher risk for type-2 diabetes and other chronic health issues. The best way to manage insulin resistance is to regulate blood sugar daily, with every meal. A healthy insulin-resistance diet is not about cutting out a particular food group. Instead, it requires choosing the right foods from each food group that help keep your blood sugar in check. However, every individual is different. So there’s no fixed diet plan for reducing insulin resistance. For example, your capacity for metabolising a fruit might differ from someone else’s capacity. Hence, it is better to understand the basics of an insulin resistance diet and plan a customised meal plan.

Insulin Resistance and Diet

Insulin resistance is when your body no longer responds to insulin the way it ideally should. What you eat determines your level of insulin resistance. A study shows that modern eating habits of increasing the number of animal-based foods while reducing plant-based foods lead to insulin resistance.

Different foods show varying effects on insulin resistance. For example, foods with a high-glycemic index, often known as high-GI foods, rapidly increase your blood sugar and prompt the release of a large amount of insulin. And over time, the body becomes less sensitive to this extra insulin. So, it is better to customise a meal plan that can control insulin resistance and give you adequate nutrition to reach healthy blood sugar targets and weight management goals. It primarily includes foods that digest slowly and help you feel full for longer. 

Insulin Resistance Diet: What to Eat 

An insulin resistance diet plan is not too restricting. It is all about eating foods that generally fall low on the GI scale. Of course, you can still enjoy some dairy treats, but many kinds of cheese, sweetened yoghurts, and animal milk contain saturated fats. So it’s better to be careful. 

Here are some foods from various food groups that you can add to your meal plan.

  • Non-starchy vegetables: Kale, spinach, swiss chard, lettuce, radish, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, bell pepper, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and onions.
  • Fruits: Strawberries, blueberries, oranges, melon, apples, and grapes.
  • Beans and legumes: Lentils, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, and lima beans.
  • Lean protein: Salmon, tuna, sardines, skinless chicken breast, egg whites, tofu, tempeh, nutritional yeast, and white turkey meat.
  • Healthy fats: Extra virgin olive oil, nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts, seeds like flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds, almond and peanut butter
  • Whole grains: Brown rice, whole-wheat bread, quinoa, oats, and millets.
  • Dairy: Low-fat cheese, unsweetened yoghurts, plant-based milk, and other products rich in calcium and protein.

The HealthifyMe Note

Understanding and observing the GI values of various foods can help you make smart eating and purchasing decisions on an insulin-resistance diet. Furthermore, you must be aware that whole fruits and vegetables have a lot more fibre, which keeps your blood sugar balanced and you satiated for longer. Also, try swapping your saturated fats for healthier fats, such as fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados. 

Food to Avoid in Insulin Resistance Diet

While eating healthy foods to manage insulin resistance, it is equally important to cut down on certain foods that increase your risk of sudden sugar spikes. Some of them are

  • Refined grains: White rice, white bread, cakes, muffins, cookies, pasta, and flour.
  • Protein: Red meat, high-sodium meats, deep-fried fish, and processed meats rich in saturated fat and sodium.
  • Dairy: Whole milk, full-fat cottage cheese, ice cream.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Canned fruits, pickles, fruit juices, dried fruits, sugar syrup, jelly, and jams.
  • Trans fats and sugars: French fries, pastries, butter, mayonnaise, potato chips, doughnuts, and cakes.

The HealthifyMe Note

It’s essential to cut down on processed foods to manage insulin resistance. You should try to limit sugary drinks and cereals, refined grains like white rice and white bread, and snacks like chips and baked goods. Focusing on the quality of foods you eat rather than the quantity can help reduce your risk of insulin resistance. 

Reference Insulin-Resistance Diet Plan

The insulin-resistance diet does not necessarily require adding any special foods to combat insulin resistance. Instead, just focus on eating less unhealthy fats, sugar, red meat, and processed starches. Here’s a sample meal plan for an insulin resistance diet.

  • Breakfast: 2 egg white omelette + 1 slice of whole wheat bread + 1 tbsp peanut butter + 1 small glass of low-fat milk.
  • Mid-day Meal: 1 medium size fruit (except fruits like a ripe banana, mango, and jackfruit).
  • Lunch: Veg Pulao, Soya chunk curry, and Low-fat curd.
  • Evening snacks: 1 cup of green tea and two walnuts.
  • Dinner: 2 multigrain rotis with vegetable curry and cucumber salad.

Please Note: It is just a reference meal plan and may not suit everyone as every individual’s needs are different. Hence, it is best to consult an expert nutritionist to get a customised meal plan. 

Exercise Tips to Improve Insulin sensitivity

Diet and exercise are vital factors for increasing insulin sensitivity. Here are some exercise tips that you can incorporate into your routine.

Avoid Sitting for Long

Set your timer and get up every 50 minutes in between your work. Take stairs a few times or do press-ups. It will improve your insulin levels. 


Sprinting can deplete the stored carbs in muscles. However, as a powerful exercise mode, it will improve your metabolic adaptations and optimise your blood glucose responses. In the end, it will eventually enhance insulin sensitivity. 

Walk More

If you are more into walking, introduce it as your daily habit. Start with 30 minutes daily, splitting it up into two sessions. Walking after meals significantly improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and weight loss.

The More, the Better

Incorporating a wide range of intense physical exercises is best for reducing the effect of insulin resistance. For instance, try to couple a session of HIIT for a week and follow 2-3 weight training sessions with walking the next week.

Lift Heavy Things

Weight training can improve insulin sensitivity by allowing the glucose to move from the bloodstream into the muscles. Start with some push-ups and chin-ups. Then proceed to dumbbells and follow weighted lunges, squats, and more.

Ways to Reverse Insulin Resistance

Minor lifestyle modifications can go a long way in managing your insulin resistance. 

Keep Yourself Active

Regular physical activity will help your body to balance the blood glucose levels in a better way. High-intensity training is particularly effective in reversing insulin resistance.

Shed Excess Weight

The presence of excess fat, especially around the waist area, is one of the primary causes of insulin resistance. In addition, belly fat produces hormones that cause inflammation, which might trigger insulin resistance. Hence ensure to lose some weight with a regular exercise routine and balanced diet. 

Pay Attention to the Timings

Consuming more nutrient-dense foods in the first half of the day will aid in improving insulin resistance. Then, make a healthy combination of carbs, protein and fats to keep the body fully functioning and active throughout the day.

Stick to a Balanced diet

Research shows that consuming a nutrition-dense diet with vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fibre-rich products, dairy products, and healthy fats will positively influence insulin resistance.


An insulin-resistance diet is all about following the basic principles of healthy eating. Following insulin, resistance diet doesn’t mean you have to worry about missing out on delicious foods or not eating enough. Instead, ensure you’re eating plenty of high-fibre, plant-based foods. Also, avoid simple carbohydrates in the morning and early afternoon, as these are the times of day prone to an insulin spike. In addition to eating a balanced diet, it’s vital to embrace exercise and take your medication correctly. Even taking a stroll after a meal or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can make a big difference. 

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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