The #1 food that helps with insulin resistance, according to dietitians who specialize in diabetes

By | March 3, 2024

Food, including avocado, which dietitians say is good for insulin resistance

You might think of insulin as a drug to help people control diabetes, and it certainly can. However, insulin is also a hormone that occurs naturally in the body and is vital to our well-being.

“Think of insulin as a key,” says Jocelyne Loran, RD, LDN, CDCES from UM Charles Regional Medical Center. “This key works to open the cells of our body and bring sugar into the cell that can be used for energy. Sugar fuels our body like gas fuels a car.”

However, the body can become resistant to this crucial hormone. When the lights in the body go out, it indicates that something is wrong.

“When you have insulin resistance, the key, insulin, stops working properly,” Loran explains. “So more keys are needed to do the same job. Eventually, over time, blood sugar levels will be high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.”

If you suffer from insulin resistance, have type 2 diabetes, or are generally hoping to engage in preventative self-care, diet is an excellent place to start.

“Knowledge is power,” says Loran. “Knowing about foods that can combat insulin resistance can help ensure you live your best life, especially if you’re at risk for developing diabetes.”

The good news? Foods that help are nutritious, versatile and taste good. And one popular food in particular is a favorite to help with insulin resistance.

Related: If You Want to Live to 100, This Is the Vitamin That Will Actually Make a Difference

The Best Foods for Insulin Resistance, According to Dietitians

Several foods help with insulin resistance, but one is a favorite of dietitians who specialize in diabetes: avocado. ‘As a source of both [monounsaturated] Fat and fiber, fresh avocado can be a great addition to a meal plan aimed at improving insulin sensitivity,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCESthe author of 2-day diabetes diet.

Palinski-Wade points out that 79% of the carbohydrates in an avocado come from fiber. Avocados contain three grams of these essential carbohydrates.

“High-fiber diets can help stabilize blood sugar levels while promoting gut health — two important components to improving insulin sensitivity,” says Palinski-Wade.

Fiber slows digestion, helps regulate blood sugar levels and helps people feel full longer so they don’t overeat.

Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, of Entirely Nourished, agrees that avocados are an excellent addition to meals due to their high fiber and healthy fat content. Another extra? They have a low carbohydrate content.

“Their micronutrient profile supports overall metabolic health and can aid in weight management, making them a valuable addition to a balanced diet for people with insulin resistance,” says Routhenstein.

A 2022 study linked avocado consumption to improved blood sugar levels in overweight or obese adults who suffered from insulin resistance. Additionally, a 2023 study of more than 14,000 Latin American people found that avocado was associated with better blood sugar levels, especially in participants with type 2 diabetes.

Ready to dig in? “A simple behavior such as replacing refined carbohydrates at a meal with avocado can go a long way in improving overall diet quality,” explains Palinski-Wade.Avocado can be enjoyed alone, sliced ​​and added to sandwiches and salads, or even blended into smoothies.”

Related: 110 Foods to Eat on the Mediterranean Diet—From Hummus to Beets to…Octopus? Use this list to help you find your grocery store

3 Other Great Foods for Insulin Resistance

1. Beans

This food is actually Loran’s top recommendation for insulin resistance. “Beans are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber,” says Loran. “An added benefit is that beans are also very rich in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure because potassium counteracts sodium or salt in our bodies.”

Potassium is especially important for people with insulin resistance, as they are at higher risk of developing hypertension. “Beans are a food that can help manage both high blood pressure and insulin resistance,” says Loran. “Beans have a relatively long shelf life and are very affordable compared to some other foods that reduce insulin resistance. They are also seen as a staple in a variety of cultural foods. Clearly, beans are the bomb.”

Loran suggests adding beans to chili or as a side dish for salmon and broccoli.

2. Barley

Routhenstein is a big fan of barley because of its insulin resistance. “Barley, rich in beta-glucan, increases GLP-1 production in the intestines,” says Routhenstein. “GLP-1 helps regulate blood sugar levels by promoting insulin release, slowing digestion and promoting metabolism.”

Not a regular consumer of this food? Maybe you’re looking for Routhenstein’s favorite barley-based breakfast.

“I enjoy preparing a hearty barley breakfast bowl, reminiscent of oatmeal but with a savory twist,” says Routhenstein. “I top it off with sautéed kale and a tomato omelet for a well-rounded and satisfying start to my day.”

3. Lentils

Palinski-Wade recommends lentils, largely because of their high fiber content. One cup of lentils contains 15.6 grams of fiber.

“Lentils can be enjoyed alone, on top of salads, added to stir-fries and soups, or even mixed into dishes as a meat extender,” says Palinski-Wade.

Related: 25 Foods That Are Good for Your Heart, From Fruits and Veggies to Heart-Healthy Nuts and Seeds

3 more tips to help with insulin resistance

Eating more avocado and beans can be helpful in the fight against insulin resistance, but other lifestyle factors can also be helpful. These include:

1. Exercise

Loran recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobics every week.

“Exercise works like a drug to lower blood sugar levels. It makes the body’s cells more likely to respond to insulin, which helps lower blood sugar levels,” says Loran.

You could try doing about 30 minutes five times a week (but you can break it down into smaller or larger increments). As for flexibility, “Any form of exercise is helpful,” says Loran. “Great examples are aerobics… dancing and walking.”

Loran also suggests adding strength training. Routhenstein agrees, adding that compound movements like squats, lunges and push-ups are great because they target multiple muscle groups at once. Bonus: They can be done with body weight alone or with weights, depending on what you have and desire.

2. Get enough sleep

Sleep is restorative and can help increase insulin levels. “Lack of sleep, even after just one night, can increase insulin resistance in the body,” says Palinski-Wade. “Practice healthy sleep habits by establishing a consistent wake and sleep routine, eliminating distractions and electronics before bed, and avoiding caffeine at least eight hours before bed.”

3. Prioritize your mental health

Life is stressful. And unfortunately, too much stress can have a negative impact on the body. “Stress releases hormones that also make our body more resistant to insulin,” says Loran.

Need help de-stressing? Routhenstein says meditation, deep breathing, yoga and tai chi can help. “Have a midday check-in where you take some time to reset from your stressful workday,” suggests Routhenstein. Mental health medications can also help, Loran says, although you should always talk to your doctor or psychiatrist before starting any new medication.

Next: The One Diet You Need to Try ASAP If You Want to Lose Weight and Lower Your Cholesterol


  • Jocelyne Loran, RD, LDN, CDCES of UM Charles Regional Medical Center

  • Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, the author of 2-day diabetes diet

  • Avocado consumption for 12 weeks and cardiometabolic risk factors: a randomized controlled trial in overweight or obese adults with insulin resistance. The magazine for nutrition.

  • Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, of Fully Fed

  • Associations between avocado intake and measures of glucose and insulin homeostasis in Hispanic individuals with and without type 2 diabetes: results from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL). Nutrition, metabolism and cardiovascular disease.

  • Lentils, ripe seeds, boiled, boiled, without salt. US Department of Agriculture.

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