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What exactly is insulin resistance, and how can you manage it?

insulin resistance
Strawberries what is insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body fails to respond normally to insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Although it can be managed through lifestyle and dietary changes, it often left untreated, insulin resistance can lead to further health complications.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells of the body do not respond normally to insulin. When this occurs, glucose (sugar) levels in the blood rise, leading to hyperglycemia and potentially diabetes. Insulin resistance is typically caused by changes in diet or lifestyle, such as consuming too many processed foods and a lack of physical activity.

What causes insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is usually caused by lifestyle and diet factors such as obesity, lack of exercise, a high-fat diet, and eating too many processed or refined carbohydrates. Age is also a factor in insulin resistance, with people aged 45 and older at higher risk. Other potential causes include persistent stress, smoking, overuse of alcohol or drugs, and infections.

How can you diagnose and manage insulin resistance?

The most common way to diagnose insulin resistance is with a fasting blood glucose test. In general, a level higher than 126 mg/dL indicates insulin resistance and is an indication that lifestyle modifications will be necessary to manage the condition. Making changes to diet, such as limiting refined carbohydrates and added sugar, increasing physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are some of the key ways to manage insulin resistance. Additionally, medication may be recommended if lifestyle and diet changes are not enough to keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range.

Identifying risk factors for insulin resistance

Understanding the risk factors for insulin resistance can help you take preventative measures to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Common risk factors for insulin resistance include being overweight or obese, poor diet quality, physical inactivity, smoking, increasing age, a family history of diabetes or prediabetes, and certain medical conditions like PCOS or sleep apnea. By taking steps to reduce your risk factors and make healthy lifestyle choices, you can lower your risk of developing insulin resistance.

Making nutrition and lifestyle changes to manage insulin resistance

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential to managing insulin resistance. Reduce your sugar and refined carbohydrate intake, choose low-glycemic carbs like oats, sweet potatoes, and quinoa as opposed to white bread or rice, get enough fiber in your diet from fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, and include lean sources of protein in meals. Regular physical activity can help you manage your weight, lower inflammation levels in the body, manage stress levels and improve overall insulin sensitivity. Prioritize moderate intensity cardio exercises like walking or jogging for at least 30 minutes each day.

The best foods to incorporate into your diet if you experience insulin resistance

  1. Leafy Greens
    Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are high in fiber and low in calories, making them an excellent choice for those with insulin resistance. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, which has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
  2. Berries
    Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are low in sugar and high in antioxidants, making them an excellent choice for those with insulin resistance. They are also high in fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels.
  3. Nuts and Seeds
    Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein, making them an excellent choice for those with insulin resistance. They also contain magnesium, which has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
  4. Whole Grains
    Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread are high in fiber and low in sugar, making them an excellent choice for those with insulin resistance. They also contain magnesium, which has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
  5. Legumes
    Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans are high in fiber and protein, making them an excellent choice for those with insulin resistance. They also contain magnesium, which has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
  6. Avocado
    Avocado is high in healthy fats and fiber, making it an excellent choice for those with insulin resistance. It also contains potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity.
  7. Cinnamon
    Cinnamon has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels. It can be added to oatmeal, smoothies, or used as a spice in cooking.


3 insulin resistance-friendly low GI recipes you can try

We used the highlighted food and ingredients above to inspire three easy low glycemic recipes you can add into your diet. 

Berry Spinach Salad with Toasted Almonds

  • Combine fresh spinach leaves, mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries), and toasted almonds
  • Drizzle with a light vinaigrette made with olive oil, lemon juice, and a dash of cinnamon
  • Toss gently and serve as a refreshing and nutritious salad

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • Cook quinoa according to package instructions
  • In a separate pan, sauté chopped spinach, diced tomatoes, and black beans with olive oil and garlic
  • Mix the cooked quinoa with the sautéed vegetables and season with herbs, such as basil and oregano
  • Stuff the mixture into halved bell peppers and bake in the oven until tender
  • Serve the stuffed bell peppers as a satisfying and fiber-rich main course

Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal

  • Cook rolled oats in water or milk of your choice
  • Stir in a sprinkle of cinnamon, chopped walnuts, and a handful of fresh berries
  • Sweeten with a drizzle of honey or a natural sweetener like stevia, if desired
  • Enjoy a warm and comforting bowl of cinnamon walnut oatmeal for a low glycemic breakfast or snack


Remember to adjust the quantities of ingredients based on your preferences and dietary needs. These recipes provide a starting point, and you can modify them to suit your taste preferences while still incorporating the low glycemic ingredients mentioned.

Commonly asked questions 

Can insulin resistance be reversed?
Yes, insulin resistance can be reversed through lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, healthy diet, and weight loss. In some cases, medication may also be necessary to manage insulin resistance and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to develop a personalized plan for managing insulin resistance. If you've been told to follow a low glycemic diet, check out our Whole GI Protocol 28-Day program for a healthy start in the right direction.

What are the signs of insulin resistance PCOS?
Some common signs and symptoms of insulin resistance in PCOS include weight gain, difficulty losing weight, fatigue, increased hunger, cravings for sugary foods, and irregular menstrual cycles. Other potential symptoms may include acne, excess hair growth, and dark patches on the skin. It's important to talk to your doctor if you suspect you may have insulin resistance or PCOS.

What are the signs that insulin resistance is reversing?
Some signs that insulin resistance is reversing include improved blood sugar levels, increased energy levels, improved skin health, and weight loss. It's important to note that these changes may take time and require consistent lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise.


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