Five top foods to boost insulin sensitivity

ee-blueberries-dreamMaintaining insulin sensitivity is key to promoting good health. In my last post,  I pointed to elevated insulin levels being a major culprit in disease development.

Lifestyle – both enlightened eating and active living – can  play a major role in keeping insulin readings in check.

In addition,  accumulating research  shows that low blood  levels of vitamin D  go hand in hand with insulin resistance so be sure to assess your vitamin D intake.

Here are five foods to add to your menu that can help with your sensitivity training.  Over time, this increased sensitivity can  lead to significantly lower   insulin readings and help to defend against disease.

•    Green tea
If you’re not a fan of green tea, the latest news may send you in search of a favourite brew – as assorted  varieties  have different flavour profiles. A recent review of  17 scientific investigations which looked at green tea and its effect on blood sugar and insulin readings  demonstrated   that  the beverage improved blood sugar levels and reduced fasting insulin levels. Both of these point to a positive impact on insulin sensitivity.

•    Blueberries
As if you need another reason to enjoy these purple beauties, especially at this time of year:  blueberries can now be added to the growing list of foods with insulin-sensitizing action.

Louisiana State University research on young obese subjects with insulin resistance, but who did not have diabetes, were randomly assigned a blueberry-rich or blueberry-free beverage twice daily for six weeks.  Those on the blueberry regime  showed   improved insulin sensitivity.  The good news is that this occurred without any changes in their caloric intake or their weight.

•    Nuts
Numerous studies have linked nut consumption to a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Back in 2002, in an ongoing investigation called the Nurses Health Study, Harvard University researchers showed that women  who consumed  peanut butter  or other nuts or five times per week or  more had a significantly reduced risk of  type 2 diabetes compared to  those who never or rarely ate them.

Other research, from Loma Linda University, assessed almonds and a variety of risk factors for heart disease including insulin sensitivity on two groups of individuals with insulin resistance. They were placed on a diet plan from the American Diabetes Association with only one containing almonds on a daily basis.  Not only did the almond eaters experience lower insulin readings but also reduced levels of the artery clogging LDL-cholesterol as well.

A recent Spanish study showed improved insulin sensitivity with mixed nuts including walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts.

•    Whole grains
If you haven’t switched to whole grains yet, here’s yet more to motivate you to make the change. While not all whole grains are equal when it comes to their impact on blood sugar readings, it’s safe to say that eating a variety of whole grains can boost your insulin sensitivity. And keep in mind, if you’re not a fan of these unrefined grains, tasting them on a regular basis can change your palate.

As with nuts, whole grains are rich in  magnesium, a mineral linked to a defense against diabetes.

•    Legumes
University of Toronto research compared the effect of  either eating pulses (yellow peas, chickpeas, navy beans and lentils) on a regular basis or  a reduced calorie regime for eight weeks on measures such as waist circumference,  high blood pressure and  blood sugar,  cholesterol and insulin readings in overweight or obese subjects.

While both groups decreased their waist measurements, had better blood pressure and blood sugar readings, the pulse group had better levels of the beneficial HDL-cholesterol. Their reduction in insulin readings were also appreciably lower which points to increased insulin sensitivity.


How many of the foods on this list are regulars on your menu? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Superfoods, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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16 Comments on “Five top foods to boost insulin sensitivity”

  1. Fatima kamal
    March 26, 2015 at 5:16 am #

    I have being diabetic since 2006 and i am still struggling to control my sugar. For six months now i started having a lots of pain in my colon they said my colon is very sensitive so i am more in trouble than ever cauz i dont know how can i control my suger and my IBS
    Can u please help to find out what kind of food especially protein cauz i dont eat meat and chicken that has more proteir that can help regulate my sugar and nt hurt my colon cauz i sufferred two weeks ago i had cramps and i was at the emergency 24/7 and i didnt get no help at all

    • December 20, 2015 at 10:32 am #

      Fatima, it’s very difficult to provide personal advice in this way. I would suggest discussing these issues with your family doctor and also asking for a referral to a registered dietitian who could help you. Best of luck!

  2. September 24, 2015 at 2:19 am #

    Thanks for your advice Rosie! We are struggling along with my Skoonpa, who is diabetic, has had a colon v section, and a number of strokes! At age 83 it must be virtually impossible to change your mind with regard to diet! His predilection to baked potatoes, cup of soup and oranges are a stumbling block, and in her attempts to stabilise her Dad’s stomach and bowel, my wife has to resort to blackmail! I quote: “Pa, we won’t be able to take you along on that holiday, if the car is full of chunder and poop!” “So please listen to your caregiver and eat all that she puts in front of you!” 🙂

  3. Ankur Sharma
    October 9, 2015 at 3:36 am #

    Hello, is there any availablity of fruits or vegetables or other circumstances which produce insulin in human body in cure of or useful in type1 diebetes.
    If any type of cure available pls email me.

    • November 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      Ankur, there are no foods which produce insulin. It can only be produced by the body or taken through injections/pumps etc. There are foods, though, for those with type 2 diabetes that can make the body more sensitive to insulin’s actions. To find out the latest in treatments, I would suggest both keeping in touch with physicians who deal with type 1 diabetes as well as your local diabetes association.

  4. sarat Acharya
    December 19, 2015 at 1:31 am #

    How i will come to know about type 01 or type 02

    • December 20, 2015 at 10:28 am #

      Sarat, if you are talking about yourself or a family member, the physician involved would discuss this issue. But if you simply want to know more about these types of diabetes, here’s a good reference: I hope you find this information helpful!

  5. December 25, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    hello doctor im temoor khan from pakistan i have nearly complete my pharmacy education my father is about 55 year old and he is type 2 diabetic patient since 3 years he is taking medicine regularly and sugar remain control but his body weight reducing day by day even now my father felling difficulty in walking i have meet many doctors but still now my father facing same problem so if you have any advice please help me.

    • December 26, 2015 at 11:13 am #

      Hello Temoor. Firstly, I would like to tell you that I am not a doctor. I am a registered dietitian and am very familiar with diabetes management and weight issues. Since your father’s blood sugar is well controlled, I would say that his weight loss is due to other reasons. It does sound as though there is something medically wrong so I would be insistent on having him checked by the appropriate doctor to get to the source of the problem. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of further help. Rosie

  6. Rabs
    March 24, 2016 at 9:32 am #

    Recently dr. Dignosed diabetes to me… n i m also 4 weeks pragnent… i m very tensed…i dnt knw what showd i do??
    My sugar z high… random z about 190…
    Dr. suggested me to take insuline levemir… bt me n my husband hv nt take decision ryt now…
    Kindly tell me what shld i eat…which z good for me n baby too.. please help me….
    Dr. Said it z 3-4 months old diabetes….
    Its my first pregnancy…

    • March 24, 2016 at 10:32 am #

      Rabs, I do understand your concern but my suggestion is that you follow your doctor’s directions. Many women can develop diabetes during their pregnancies and with proper care, can deliver a healthy baby. Keeping blood sugar levels under control is very important so please check with your doctor and if you’re having any problems with your diet, ask to be referred to a registered dietitian. I wish you the best!

  7. Amarjeet Singh
    May 5, 2016 at 8:38 am #

    Recently my son aged 15 years 7 months diagnosed diabetic. His blood Sugar level (f) 273. Blood examination shown Hemoglobin A1c Panel at 13. Doctor has injecting Insulin 8 units in the morning and 5 units in the evening. In just 3 doses level was 213 in the morning before injecting Insulin. Please let me know 1. Whether its type 1 or 2 diabetes. 2.Whether he will have to be injected Insulin throughout the life. 3. Upto what extent it effect human life. 4. Is there any alternative in comparison to Injection.

    • May 11, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

      Amarjeet, it certainly is difficult when your child is diagnosed with diabetes. But take heart, there are amazing advances happening in diabetes research. To answer your questions: his diabetes would be classified as type 1. As for how type 1 diabetes is treated, currently, the common treatment is insulin injections but I do believe that in the future, near future possibly, the treatment will be very different. With the research in areas such as stem cell research, there may indeed be a cure on the horizon. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, to decrease the health complications that can accompany diabetes, it’s very important to have good blood sugar control. I suggest you ask for a referral to a diabetes education program and to a dietitian so that you and your son can become more knowledgeable about how to live with diabetes and to help your son achieve good blood sugar control. You might also look into your local diabetes association for information and support.

      • Amarjeet Singh
        May 12, 2016 at 12:27 am #


  8. Vijendra
    August 12, 2016 at 8:11 am #

    25 Days back i was daily Alcoholic drinker and smoker also. but in last 25 days i have taken alcohol twice in week.Today i went for diabetes test and results are :
    129 at fasting.
    167 after 2 Hours of snacks.
    my questions are :
    1. am i diabetic ?
    2. this result because of Alcohol & Cigarette smoking ?

    Whats is the solution to revert into normal life with normal sugar consumption.

    • August 16, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

      Vijendra, I wish I could provide more specific answers to your questions but it would be best to talk to your healthcare provider. I can provide some general answers, though. Firstly, it’s usually recommended that there be two fasting blood sugar tests before making a diagnosis but the test results you mention are definitely in the range which would lead to a diagnosis of diabetes. In answer to your second question, excess alcohol and smoking can increase the risk of developing diabetes. As for the solution of reverting to a normal life with normal sugar consumption, from my perspective your daily eating pattern should be a healthy one, whether you have diabetes or not. As for normal sugar consumption, on average we consume too much sugar so your goal, as someone with or without diabetes, should be a low added sugar intake. If you are having difficulty in achieving these goals or you are unsure what you should be aiming for, I would suggest you seek out the services of a registered dietitian.

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