You can definitely help yourself to a healthier you by taking simple measures to keep your insulin sensitivity in the correct ranges and reap the benefits of this important hormone.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone produced by our pancreas. This hormone is produced and used whenever sugar levels in our blood are too high. Insulin will gather the excess glucose in the blood and store it in different parts of the body for use when needed. The extra glucose can be stored in several ways but in general it can be broken down to:
Of course the ideal situation would be having insulin store the extra glucose in the first 2 areas, but if our diet causes regular – or worse – constant high blood sugar levels in our body insulin will store that excess as adipose tissue creating those extra curves in our bodies. High blood sugar levels, if not controlled, will eventually lead to exhausting insulin production from the pancreas causing insulin resistance in our body which can trigger type 2 diabetes not to mention damage to one’s nervous system and organs.
So what can be done to help ourselves control insulin sensitivity?
- Sleep – This might come as a no-brainer but it is surprising how difficult it has become for people to manage to put in those 6-8 hours of good rest. It is scientifically proven that proper sleep is essential towards good health in general, so make it a point to hit the sack on a regular basis
- Regular exercise – Again something that should be part of our lifestyle but unluckily is pushed down our priority ladder too many times. Especially if timed well, proper food intake with exercise will lead to insulin spikes that benefit transfer the extra glucose towards muscle areas promoting better function, recovery and regeneration of muscles
- Loose belly fat and weight – with less weight and especially less fat in the body – particularly visceral type fat, found around the organs – when insulin is put to work they will have less place to store the excess glycogen and therefore be more likely to store it in the areas we desire i.e. Muscles and liver
- Lower stress levels – high stress levels unfortunately release other hormones like cortisol and glucagon which in turn break down stored glycogen and release it in our blood therefore causing blood sugar levels to increase and cause undesired insulin production. Therefore trying to manage one’s stress levels can help into keeping insulin sensitivity in check
- Eat more fibre – Fibre is found in many foods but especially in vegetables, legumes, and fruits. It is recommended to focus on food high in soluble fibre, meaning more easily broken down and absorbed by our digestive system, which helps lower cholesterol and reduce appetite. Great options are legumes, oatmeal, flaxseeds, vegetables like Brussels sprouts and spinach.
- Maintain a varied intake of vegetables and fruit – It is well known that dark coloured vegetables and fruit are rich in nutrients and antioxidants
- Maintain low carbohydrate intake – This does not mean that carbs should be avoided like the plague, but consumed at the right time of the day can be beneficial in maintaining energy levels high and even essential in athletes trying to build muscle. Therefore consuming carbs with measure and spread across the day will keep healthy ranges of insulin levels promoting good health. Also low-glycemix (Low GI) type of carbs are recommended because they release sugar slower giving more time to insulin to work more efficiently. Examples would be sweet potatoes, brown rice, and quinoa
- Reduce intake of added sugar and artificial fats – If fat loss is your main goal, avoiding foods that are highly processed and contain elevated levels of corn syrup, artificial fructose, fats and sodium should be a priority in one’s diet. Therefore candy, sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies, pastries should be avoided
- Add herbs and spices to your cooking – Apart from the health benefits spices and herbs also add flavour to whatever you will be eating. Most popular herbs and spices known to promote good insulin sensitivity are fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, garlic and even cinnamon
- Drink more green tea – known to have strong antioxidant properties and highly recommended to diabetes patients
- Supplementation – Recently the idea of supporting one’s health through intake of natural supplements has grown. Popular supplements taken for health but that also promote good insulin sensitivity are chromium, magnesium (rich in spinach and almonds) , berberine (found in a variety or herbs), and resveratrol (Polyphenol found in red grapes and all types of berries)
Other tips that not only help insulin sensitivity but also promote healthy living are:
- Eating slowly will give time to the digestive system to activate better and give time to release hunger suppressing hormones that help in telling you when your body has been fed enough. Try drinking a glass of water or eat some form of protein before your meal to kick-start the digestive process
- Drinking apple cider vinegar is said to reduce carbohydrate absorption and therefore help keep insulin sensitivity in check
- Consumption of fish oil is also a popular recommendation due to its health benefits related to Omega-3 fatty acids
As you can see there are no extraordinary things to do for one to have good insulin sensitivity. All measures should be part of a healthy lifestyle to help your body and mind find homeostasis i.e. balance of the function of the body and mind. Keeping to such general measure will lead not only to healthy insulin sensitivity but good health in general.
Until next time Stay Strong Stay Focused Stay Safe!