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Nutrients that Support Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is the primary hormone that controls blood sugar levels in the body. Insulin resistance is a condition where muscles and other tissues do not respond to insulin as expected. Insulin resistance causes the body to make more and more insulin to keep blood sugar in a healthy range. Over time, the body’s ability to produce higher amounts of insulin is exhausted, which can lead to the development of prediabetes and eventually type 2 diabetes.


Several things can increase the responsiveness of muscles and tissues to insulin, including regular cardio and resistance exercise, stress management, quality sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and nutrition.


Summarized here are several nutritional factors that support insulin sensitivity, especially when combined with an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.


STRATEGIES TO SUPPORT INSULIN SENSITIVITY:

  • Vitamin D

  • Magnesium

  • Zinc

  • Alpha-lipoic acid

  • Probiotics

  • Chromium

  • CoQ10

  • Omega 3s

  • Fiber

PLUS*

  • Physical activity

  • Quality sleep

  • Stress management


Vitamin D


Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that also acts like a hormone in the body -important for bone and immune health as well as calcium homeostasis. There are vitamin D receptors on many cells throughout the body, including eyes and insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells. Studies show that lower vitamin D levels are associated with insulin resistance.


Common vitamin D sources: sunlight exposure (without sunglasses and sunblock), wild seafood (salmon, sardines), organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised whole dairy (preferably raw) and whole eggs.


Magnesium


Magnesium is an essential mineral that supports bone health, blood pressure, and insulin function. It also participates in hundreds of metabolic reactions. Magnesium is essential for energy production, protein synthesis, and proper nerve and muscle function. Studies have shown that low levels of magnesium are associated with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.


Some individuals may have a higher functional need for magnesium, which may require supplementation. Supplemental magnesium comes in several forms, some of which have a laxative effect. Talk with us to determine which magnesium form is best for you.


Common magnesium sources: nuts and seeds (pumpkin, pistachio, flax, almonds, sunflower), avocado, garbanzo and black beans, leafy greens (spinach, swiss chard), broccoli, banana, dark chocolate/cocao.


Zinc


Zinc is an essential mineral involved in growth and development, immune system function, vision, fertility, and antioxidant production. Zinc is also essential for normal insulin function. Low levels of zinc are associated with impaired insulin secretion and decreased insulin sensitivity.


In multiple studies, zinc supplementation has been shown to improve insulin resistance. Supplementing with zinc may lead to deficiencies in other minerals though, like copper, so it’s important to work with your healthcare practitioner to determine the right dose and duration for you.


Common zinc sources: oysters, grass-fed beef, lamb, nuts and seeds (pumpkin, hemp), yogurt or kefir, mushrooms, spinach, avocado, whole eggs, legumes (chickpeas).


Alpha-Lipoic Acid


Alpha-lipoic acid, also called lipoic acid, is a substance made in the body and found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It is involved in cellular energy production and is an antioxidant that protects nerves and other tissues.


Some research shows that alpha-lipoic acid supports a healthy weight, which in turn helps insulin sensitivity. Multiple studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid also reduces symptoms of diabetic nerve pain.


Common alpha-lipoic acid sources: spinach, broccoli, peas, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, beets, and grass-fed beef and organ meats.


Probiotics


Probiotics are beneficial microbes that have a positive effect on your gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the collection of bacteria, yeasts, and viruses that live in your digestive tract.


Probiotics are associated with improvement in digestive symptoms, like gas and bloating. Emerging research shows probiotics may also have beneficial effects on reducing blood sugar, insulin, and hemoglobin A1c (average blood sugar), especially for those who have type 2 or gestational diabetes.


In fact, if there is an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the gut (high firmicutes to low bacteroides) you may actually extract more calories from foods, have an increased risk of insulin resistance and accumulate fat easier. (Is this you? Ask us about the GI Map testing)


Common probiotic sources: cultured whole fat or coconut yogurt, kefir, raw whole milk and cheeses (goat, sheep, A2 cow’s), fermented foods (e.g., kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, etc.), pickles, olives, apple cider vinegar.


Chromium


Chromium is a trace mineral that plays a vital role in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. It enhances insulin sensitivity, improves glucose tolerance, and decreases insulin resistance.


It plays a role in insulin-signaling pathways that allow our bodies to control the amount od sugar we take in, helping to balance blood glucose levels and giving us stable energy.


Common chromium sources: broccoli, organic turkey breast, green beans, grapes, oranges, apples, potatoes, garlic, basil, grass-fed beef and bananas.


CoQ10


Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a fat-soluble substance made by the body and found in food. CoQ10 is involved in cellular energy production. A form of CoQ10 called ubiquinol also acts as an antioxidant in the body. CoQ10 has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in individuals without diabetes and may modestly lower blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes.


The body’s production of CoQ10 can decrease with age. Certain medications, like statins, have been shown to deplete CoQ10 in the body and therefore you may wanted to consider supplementing.


Common CoQ10 sources: grass-fed beef, organic chicken, fish, sesame seeds, pistachios, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, strawberries, whole eggs, organ meats.


Omega-3 fatty acids


Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are found in seafood and sea veggies, as well as plant foods (to a lesser degree) like flaxseed, hemp, chia and walnuts. They have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation, which can contribute to insulin resistance - while keeping you full and satisfied.


Fiber


Fiber is found in carbohydrate foods (mostly fruits and veggies) and is not digested by the body. It slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.


Highest fiber foods include berries (raspberries and blackberries are the highest), artichoke hearts, chia, flax, hemp, almonds, walnuts, avocados, beans and hummus: navy, garbanzo, lima, black beans, kidney, lentils, pinto, squash (acorn is highest), peas, leafy greens: collards, swiss chard, turnip greens, cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, jicama, guava, quinoa, oats.


Tip: Physical activity, sleep, and stress management are powerful natural insulin sensitizers. Make sure to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night, take walks after meals and don’t ignore symptoms of stress. Taking a supplement without addressing these lifestyle factors is unlikely to address insulin resistance long term.


Overall, these nutrients and lifestyle factors can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and regulate blood sugar levels. If you need more support, we can help!


Nutrients to support insulin sensitivity
9 Nutrients to Support Insulin Sensitivity

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