14 Natural Ways to Reverse Insulin Resistance & Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity

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14 Natural Ways to Reverse Insulin Resistance & Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is an essential hormone that controls your blood sugar levels.

It’s made in your pancreas and helps move sugar from your blood into your cells for storage. When cells are insulin resistant, they can’t use insulin effectively, leaving your blood sugar high.

When your pancreas senses high blood sugar, it makes more insulin to overcome the resistance and reduce your blood sugar.

Over time, this can deplete the pancreas of insulin-producing cells, which is common in type 2 diabetes. Also, prolonged high blood sugar can damage nerves and organs.

You’re most at risk of insulin resistance if you have prediabetes or a family history of type 2 diabetes, as well as if you are overweight or obese.

Insulin sensitivity refers to how responsive your cells are to insulin. Improving it can help you reduce insulin resistance and the risk of many diseases, including diabetes.

 

Here are 14 natural, science-backed ways to boost your insulin sensitivity.

 

 

1. Get More Sleep

A good night’s sleep is important for your health.

In contrast, a lack of sleep can be harmful and increase your risk of infections, heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Several studies have also linked poor sleep to reduced insulin sensitivity .

For example, one study in nine healthy volunteers found that getting just four hours of sleep in one night reduced insulin sensitivity and the ability to regulate blood sugar, compared to getting eight and a half hours of sleep

Fortunately, catching up on lost sleep can reverse the effects of poor sleep on insulin resistance .

 

2. Exercise More

Regular exercise is one of the best ways to increase insulin sensitivity.

It helps move sugar into the muscles for storage and promotes an immediate increase in insulin sensitivity, which lasts 2–48 hours, depending on the exercise

For example, one study found that 60 minutes of cycling on a machine at a moderate pace increased insulin sensitivity for 48 hours among healthy volunteers

Resistance training also helps increase insulin sensitivity.

Many studies have found it increased insulin sensitivity among men and women with or without diabetes

For example, a study of overweight men with and without diabetes found that when participants performed resistance training over a three-month period, their insulin sensitivity increased, independent of other factors like weight loss

While both aerobic and resistance training increase insulin sensitivity, combining both in your routine appears to be most effective

 

 

3. Reduce Stress

Stress affects your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.

It encourages the body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode, which stimulates the production of stress hormones like cortisol and glucagon.

These hormones break down glycogen, a form of stored sugar, into glucose, which enters your bloodstream for your body to use as a quick source of energy.

Unfortunately, ongoing stress keeps your stress hormone levels high, stimulating nutrient breakdown and increasing blood sugar

Stress hormones also make the body more insulin resistant. This prevents nutrients from being stored and makes them more available in the bloodstream to be used for energy

In fact, many studies have found that high levels of stress hormones reduce insulin sensitivity

This process may have been useful for our ancestors, who needed extra energy to perform life-sustaining activities. However, for people today who are under chronic stress, reduced insulin sensitivity can be harmful.

Activities like meditation, exercise and sleep are great ways to help increase insulin sensitivity by reducing stress

 

 

4. Lose a Few Pounds

Excess weight, especially in the belly area, reduces insulin sensitivity and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Belly fat can do this in many ways, such as making hormones that promote insulin resistance in the muscles and liver.

Many studies support the link between higher amounts of belly fat and lower insulin sensitivity

Fortunately, losing weight is an effective way to lose belly fat and increase insulin sensitivity. It may also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes.

For example, a study at Johns Hopkins University found that people with prediabetes who lost 5–7% of their total weight over six months reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 54% for the next three years

Luckily, there are many ways to lose weight through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.

 

 

5. Eat More Soluble Fiber

Fiber can be divided into two broad categories — soluble and insoluble.

Insoluble fiber mostly acts as a bulking agent to help stool move through the bowels.

Meanwhile, soluble fiber is responsible for many of fiber’s associated benefits, like lowering cholesterol and reducing appetite ble fiber intake and increased insulin sensitivity

For example, a study in 264 women found that those who ate more soluble fiber had significantly lower levels of insulin resistance

Soluble fiber also helps feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, which have been linked to increased insulin sensitivity

Foods that are rich in soluble fiber include legumes, oatmeal, flaxseeds, vegetables like Brussels sprouts and fruits like oranges.

 

 

6. Add More Colorful Fruit and Vegetables to Your Diet

Not only are fruits and vegetables nutritious, they also provide powerful health-boosting effects.

In particular, colorful fruits and vegetables are rich in plant compounds that have antioxidant properties

Antioxidants bind to and neutralize molecules called free radicals, which can cause harmful inflammation throughout the body

Many studies have found that eating a diet rich in plant compounds is linked to higher insulin sensitivity

When you’re including fruit in your diet, stick to normal portion sizes and limit your intake to two pieces or less per sitting and 2–5 servings per day.

 

7. Add Herbs and Spices to Your Cooking

Herbs and spices were used for their medicinal properties long before they were introduced into cooking.

However, it wasn’t until the past few decades that scientists began examining their health-promoting properties.

Herbs and spices including fenugreek, turmeric, ginger and garlic have shown promising results for increasing insulin sensitivity.

  • Fenugreek seeds: They’re high in soluble fiber, which helps make insulin more effective. Eating them whole, as an extract or even baked into bread may help increase blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity
  • Turmeric: Contains an active component called curcumin, which has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It seems to increase insulin sensitivity by reducing free fatty acids and sugar in the blood
  • Ginger: This popular spice is linked to increased insulin sensitivity. Studies have found that its active component gingerol makes sugar receptors on muscle cells more available, increasing sugar uptake
  • Garlic: In animal studies, garlic has appeared to improve insulin secretion and have antioxidant properties that increase insulin sensitivity

These findings for herbs and spices are promising. However, most research in this area is recent and was conducted in animals. Human studies are needed to investigate whether herbs and spices do indeed increase insulin sensitivity.

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8. Add a Pinch of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a tasty spice that’s packed with plant compounds.

It’s also known for its ability to reduce blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity

For example, one meta-analysis found consuming 1/2–3 teaspoons (1–6 grams) of cinnamon daily significantly reduced both short and long-term blood sugar levels

Studies suggest that cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity by helping receptors for glucose on muscle cells become more available and efficient at transporting sugar into the cells

Interestingly, some studies have found that cinnamon contains compounds that can mimic insulin and act directly on cells

 

 

9. Drink More Green Tea

Green tea is an excellent beverage for your health.

It’s also a great choice for people with type 2 diabetes or those who are at risk of it. Several studies have found that drinking green tea can increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar

For example, an analysis of 17 studies investigated the effects of green tea on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.

It found that drinking green tea significantly reduced fasting blood sugar and increased insulin sensitivity (61Trusted Source).

These beneficial effects of green tea could be due to its powerful antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which many studies have found to increase insulin sensitivity

 

 

10. Try Apple Cider Vinegar

Vinegar is a versatile liquid. You can clean with it or use it as an ingredient in foods, in addition to many other uses.

It’s also a key ingredient in apple cider vinegar, an extremely popular beverage in the natural health community.

Vinegar could help increase insulin sensitivity by reducing blood sugar and improving the effectiveness of insulin

It also appears to delay the stomach from releasing food into the intestines, giving the body more time to absorb sugar into the bloodstream

One study found that consuming apple cider vinegar increased insulin sensitivity by 34% during a high-carb meal in people who were insulin resistant and by 19% in people with type 2 diabetes

 

 

11. Cut Down on Carbs

Carbs are the main stimulus that causes insulin blood levels to rise.

When the body digests carbs into sugar and releases it into the blood, the pancreas releases insulin to transport the sugar from the blood into the cells.

Reducing your carb intake could help increase insulin sensitivity. That’s because high-carb diets tend to lead to spikes in blood sugar, which put more pressure on the pancreas to remove sugar from the blood (

Spreading your carb intake evenly throughout the day is another way to increase insulin sensitivity.

Eating smaller portions of carbs regularly throughout the day provides the body with less sugar at each meal, making insulin’s job easier. This is also supported with research showing that eating regularly benefits insulin sensitivity

The type of carbs you choose is also important.

Low-glycemic index (GI) carbs are best, since they slow the release of sugar into the blood, giving insulin more time to work efficiently

Carb sources that are low-GI include sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa and some varieties of oatmeal.

 

 

12. Avoid Trans Fats

If there’s anything worth removing from your diet completely, it’s artificial trans fats.

Unlike other fats, they provide no health benefits and increase the risk of many diseases

Evidence on the effects of high trans fat intake on insulin resistance appears to be mixed. Some human studies have found it harmful, while others haven’t

However, animal studies have provided strong evidence linking high trans fat intake to poor blood sugar control and insulin resistance

Because the findings are mixed for human studies, scientists can’t clearly say that eating artificial trans fats increases insulin resistance. However, they are a risk factor for many other diseases, including diabetes, so they are worth avoiding.

Foods that typically contain artificial trans fats include pies, doughnuts and fried fast foods. Artificial trans fats are typically found in more processed foods.

Fortunately, in 2015 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared trans fats unsafe to eat. It gave food manufacturers three years to either gradually remove trans fats from their food products or apply for special approval

 

 

13. Try a Supplement

The idea of taking natural supplements to increase your insulin sensitivity is fairly new.

Many different supplements may increase insulin sensitivity, but chromium, berberine, magnesium and resveratrol are backed by the most consistent evidence.

  • Chromium: A mineral involved in carb and fat metabolism. Studies have found that taking chromium picolinate supplements in doses of 200–1,000 mcg could improve the ability of insulin receptors to reduce blood sugar
  • Magnesium: A mineral that works with insulin receptors to store blood sugar. Studies have found that low blood magnesium is linked to insulin resistance. Taking magnesium may help increase insulin sensitivity

 

  • Berberine: A plant molecule extracted from a variety of herbs including the plant Berberis. Its effects on insulin are not exactly known, but some studies have found it increases insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar
  • Resveratrol: A polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes and other berries. It may increase insulin sensitivity, especially in those with type 2 diabetes, but its function is poorly understood

As with all supplements, there is a risk they may interact with your current medication. If you are ever unsure, it’s best to check with your doctor before you start taking them.

 

 

14. Reduce Your Intake of Added Sugars

There’s a big difference between added sugars and natural sugars.

Natural sugars are found in sources like plants and vegetables, both of which provide lots of other nutrients.

Conversely, added sugars are found in more highly processed foods. The two main types of sugar added during the production process are high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar, also known as sucrose.

Both contain approximately 50% fructose.

Many studies have found that higher intakes of fructose can increase insulin resistance among people with diabetes

The effects of fructose on insulin resistance also appear to affect people who don’t have diabetes, as reported in an analysis of 29 studies including a total of 1,005 normal and overweight or obese participants.

The findings showed that consuming a lot of fructose over less than 60 days increased liver insulin resistance, independent of total calorie intake

Foods that contain lots of added sugar are also high in fructose. This includes candy, sugar-sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies and pastries.

 

 

18 Foods and Drinks That Are Surprisingly High in Sugar

Eating too much sugar is really bad for your health.

It has been linked to an increased risk of many diseases, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer

Many people are now trying to minimize their sugar intake, but it’s easy to underestimate how much you’re actually consuming.

One of the reasons is that many foods contain hidden sugars, including some foods that you wouldn’t even consider to be sweet.

In fact, even products marketed as “light” or “low fat” often contain more sugar than their regular counterparts

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women limit their added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day, while men should limit their intake to 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams)

Here are 18 foods and drinks that contain way more sugar than you’d think.

woman holding a small container of yogurt and a spoon
1. Low fat yogurt

Yogurt can be highly nutritious. However, not all yogurt is created equal.

Like many other low fat products, low fat yogurts have sugar added to them to enhance flavor.

For example, a single cup (245 grams) of low fat yogurt can contain over 45 grams of sugar, which is about 11 teaspoons. This is more than the daily limit for men and women in just a single cup of “healthy” yogurt

Furthermore, low fat yogurt doesn’t seem to have the same health benefits as full fat yogurt

It’s best to choose full fat, natural, or Greek yogurt. Avoid yogurt that has been sweetened with sugar.

2. Barbecue (BBQ) sauce

Barbecue (BBQ) sauce can make a tasty marinade or dip.

However, 2 tablespoons (around 28 grams) of sauce can contain around 9 grams of sugar. This is over 2 teaspoons worth

In fact, around 33% of the weight of BBQ sauce may be pure sugar

If you’re liberal with your servings, this makes it easy to consume a lot of sugar without meaning to.

To make sure you aren’t getting too much, check the labels and choose the sauce with the least amount of added sugar. Also, remember to watch your portions.

3. Ketchup

Ketchup is one of the most popular condiments worldwide, but — like BBQ sauce — it’s often loaded with sugar.

Try to be mindful of your portion size when using ketchup, and remember that a single tablespoon of ketchup contains nearly 1 teaspoon of sugar

4. Fruit juice

Like whole fruit, fruit juice contains some vitamins and minerals.

However, despite seeming like a healthy choice, these vitamins and minerals come with a large dose of sugar and very little fiber.

It usually takes a lot of fruit to produce a single glass of fruit juice, so you get much more sugar in a glass of juice than you would get by eating whole fruit. This makes it easy to consume a large amount of sugar quickly.

In fact, there can be just as much sugar in fruit juice as there is in a sugary drink like Coke. The poor health outcomes that have been convincingly linked to sugary soda may also be linked to fruit juices

It’s best to choose whole fruit and minimize your intake of fruit juices.

5. Spaghetti sauce

Added sugars are often hidden in foods that we don’t even consider to be sweet, such as spaghetti sauce.

All spaghetti sauces will contain some natural sugar given that they’re made with tomatoes.

However, many spaghetti sauces contain added sugar as well.

The best way to ensure you aren’t getting any unwanted sugar in your pasta sauce is to make your own.

However, if you need to buy premade spaghetti sauce, check the label and pick one that either doesn’t have sugar on the ingredient list or has it listed very close to the bottom. This indicates that it’s not a major ingredient.

6. Sports drinks

Sports drinks can often be mistaken as a healthy choice for those who exercise.

However, sports drinks are designed to hydrate and fuel trained athletes during prolonged, intense periods of exercise.

For this reason, they contain high amounts of added sugars that can be quickly absorbed and used for energy.

In fact, a standard 20-ounce (591-mL) bottle of a sports drink will contain 37.9 grams of added sugar and 198 calories. This is equivalent to 9.5 teaspoons of sugar

Sports drinks are therefore categorized as sugary drinks. Like soda and fruit juice, they’ve also been linked to obesity and metabolic disease

Unless you’re a marathon runner or elite athlete, you should probably just stick to water while exercising. It’s by far the best choice for most of us

7. Chocolate milk

Chocolate milk is milk that has been flavored with cocoa and sweetened with sugar.

Milk itself is a very nutritious drink. It’s a rich source of nutrients that are great for bone health, including calcium and protein.

However, despite having all the nutritious qualities of milk, an 8-ounce (230-mL) glass of chocolate milk comes with an extra 11.4 grams (2.9 teaspoons) of added sugar

8. Granola

Granola is often marketed as a low fat health food, despite being high in both calories and sugar.

The main ingredient in granola is oats. Plain rolled oats are a well-balanced cereal containing carbs, protein, fat, and fiber.

However, the oats in granola have been combined with nuts and honey or other added sweeteners, which increases the amount of sugar and calories.

In fact, 100 grams of granola contain around 400–500 calories and nearly 5–7 teaspoons of sugar (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).

If you like granola, try choosing one with less added sugar or making your own. You can also add it as a topping to fruit or yogurt rather than pouring a whole bowl.

9. Flavored coffees

Flavored coffee is a popular trend, but the amount of hidden sugars in these drinks can be staggering.

In some coffeehouse chains, a large flavored coffee or coffee drink can contain 45 grams of sugar, if not much more. That’s equivalent to about 11 teaspoons of added sugar per serving

Considering the strong link between sugary drinks and poor health, it’s probably best to stick to coffee without any flavored syrups or added sugar.

10. Iced tea

Iced tea is usually sweetened with sugar or flavored with syrup.

It’s popular in various forms and flavors around the world, and this means the sugar content can vary slightly.

Most commercially prepared iced teas will contain around 35 grams of sugar per 12-ounce (340-mL) serving. This is about the same as a bottle of Coke

 

If you like tea, pick regular tea or choose iced tea that doesn’t have any sugars added.

 

11. Protein bars

Protein bars are a popular snack.

Foods that contain protein have been linked to increased feelings of fullness, which can aid weight loss

This has led people to believe that protein bars are a healthy snack.

While there are some healthier protein bars on the market, many contain around 20 grams of added sugar, making their nutritional content similar to that of a candy bar

When choosing a protein bar, read the label and avoid those that are high in sugar. You can also eat a high protein food such as yogurt instead.

 

 

12. Vitaminwater

Vitaminwater is marketed as a healthy drink that contains added vitamins and minerals.

However, like many other “health drinks,” Vitaminwater comes with a large amount of added sugar.

In fact, a bottle of regular Vitaminwater typically contains around 100 calories and 30 grams of sugar (35, 36).

As such, despite all the health claims, it’s wise to avoid Vitaminwater as much as possible.

You could opt for Vitaminwater zero, the sugar-free version. It’s made with artificial sweeteners instead.

That said, plain water or sparkling water are much healthier choices if you’re thirsty.

 

 

13. Premade soup

Soup isn’t a food that you generally associate with sugar.

When it’s made with fresh whole ingredients, it’s a healthy choice and can be a great way to increase your vegetable consumption without much effort.

The vegetables in soups have naturally occurring sugars, which are fine to eat given that they’re usually present in small amounts and alongside lots of other beneficial nutrients.

However, many commercially prepared soups have a lot of added ingredients, including sugar.

To check for added sugars in your soup, look at the ingredient list for names such as:

The higher up on the list an ingredient is, the higher its content in the product. Watch out for when manufacturers list small amounts of different sugars, as that’s another sign the product could be high in total sugar.

 

 

14. Breakfast cereal

Cereal is a popular, quick, and easy breakfast food.

However, the cereal you choose could greatly affect your sugar consumption, especially if you eat it every day.

Some breakfast cereals, particularly those marketed at children, have lots of added sugar. Some contain 12 grams, or 3 teaspoons of sugar in a small 34-gram (1.2-ounce) serving

Check the label and try choosing a cereal that’s high in fiber and doesn’t contain added sugar.

Better yet, wake up a few minutes earlier and cook a quick healthy breakfast with a high protein food like eggs. Eating protein for breakfast can help you lose weight.

15. Cereal bars

For on-the-go breakfasts, cereal bars can seem like a healthy and convenient choice.

However, like other “health bars,” cereal bars are often just candy bars in disguise. Many contain very little fiber or protein and are loaded with added sugar.

16. Canned fruit

All fruit contains natural sugars. However, some canned fruit is peeled and preserved in sugary syrup. This processing strips the fruit of its fiber and adds a lot of unnecessary sugar to what should be a healthy snack.

The canning process can also destroy heat-sensitive vitamin C, although most other nutrients are well preserved.

Whole, fresh fruit is best. If you want to eat canned fruit, look for one that’s been preserved in juice rather than syrup. Juice has a slightly lower amount of sugar.

 

17. Canned baked beans

Baked beans are another savory food that’s often surprisingly high in sugar.

A cup (254 grams) of regular baked beans contains about 5 teaspoons of sugar

If you like baked beans, you can choose low sugar versions. They can contain about half the amount of sugar found in regular baked beans.

 

18. Premade smoothies

Blending fruits with milk or yogurt in the morning to make yourself a smoothie can be a great way to start your day.

However, not all smoothies are healthy.

Many commercially produced smoothies come in large sizes and can be sweetened with ingredients like fruit juice, ice cream, or syrup. This increases their sugar content.

Some of them contain ridiculously high amounts of calories and sugar, with over 54 grams (13.5 teaspoons) of sugar in a single 16-ounce or 20-ounce serving

For a healthy smoothie, check the ingredients and make sure you watch your portion size.

 

 

 

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