You want to lose weight, but your insulin might not be working well. You’re not alone. Almost a third of our country is in the same boat.
Impaired insulin function is genetic. It’s the precursor to diabetes that may go undetected for years. It gradually damages the insulin-producing pancreas to the point it stops making enough insulin and blood sugars rise eventually to the diabetes range. In the early phase of impaired insulin function, the pancreas makes extra insulin. This extra insulin causes our body store more fat.
If you have a family history of diabetes, then there is a good chance your insulin levels are high. Diabetes is often not diagnosed. You may not think you have a family history of diabetes, however if you have a family history of stroke or heart attack, there was probably undiagnosed diabetes lurking in the background as well. Diabetes is a vascular disease, so strokes and heart attacks are complications of diabetes.
The best way to lose weight if you have high insulin levels
The best way to lose weight for people with high insulin levels, in addition to regular exercise, should focus on limiting carbs, getting adequate protein and fiber, and topping it off with good fat to keep you full between meals.
When it comes to eating this way, the best metaphor comes from a friend. If you’ve ever sat by a campfire and observed how different types of wood burn, you will understand.
If you don’t add any wood to a fire, the flames will fade away. Add soft wood like pine to the fire and “snap, crackle, pop” sparks will fly, the flames will roar and the wood will disappear in no time. Add hardwood like oak and you’ll get a nice even burn that will last much longer than soft wood.
Skipping meals is like not adding any wood to the fire. Your energy level will slowly fade away.
Eating a meal consisting of a heavy dose of simple carbs with little protein or fiber is like the soft wood fire. You may get a surge of energy but it will quickly flame out leaving you tired and ready for a nap. Examples of meals like this might be a few bowls of Corn Flakes or heavy portions of Chinese food with white rice or a bag of chips or pretzels with a soda.
But make your meals mostly “hardwood” and you will have more energy and stay fuller longer between meals. You will also keep your insulin levels lower which will aid in weight loss.
Getting your meal planning to burn like hardwood
Don’t worry, eating this way won’t taste like hardwood. You can still enjoy your favorite foods, just do so in moderation and plan for it in how you combine your foods.
The ADA recommends people with diabetes limit their carbs to 45-60 g of carbs per meal and carbs from snacks limited to 15 gm. Some of the people I worked with preferred eating even fewer carbs in order to avoid going on medicine to manage their blood sugars.
The 2015 Nutrition Guidelines recommend getting at least 130 g of carbs daily. Eating fewer carbs than this will zap your energy if you are trying to do any strenuous work or workout – carbs are the gasoline for your body, you just want to learn how to make them the premium carbs.
The Institute of Medicine recommends 10-35% of total daily calories come from protein. For a 2000 calorie diet that’s about 50 – 175 g.
The 2015 Protein Summit recommended a higher level of dietary protein, particularly in older adults, for improved muscle health and satiety and to aid in weight management. Furthermore, they suggest:
“Emerging science supports a protein intake for adults of 25–30 g/meal”
When you put all this information together your daily total of carbs, fiber, protein and fat should look like this:
Impaired insulin function? This is your meal goal
You want each meal to burn like hardwood. That means you want to get the right amount of carbs, fiber, protein and fat each time you eat. Most people fail on getting adequate protein and fiber at most of their meals. Each of these components is essential not only for health, but for satiety. The goal is to slow down digestion so you stay fuller longer and reduce the demand for insulin.
Each of your meals should contain just a serving or two of carbs, no more than 60 g per meal. Your carb choices should be high in fiber to slow down the rise in blood sugar, decreasing the need for insulin.
Your protein goal at each meal should be at least 25 g per meal. An ounce of meat, fish and even an egg is about 6-7 g.
Since dietary fat takes longer to digest and helps with satiety, you should also try to get about 10 g per meal with the focus being on heart healthy unsaturated fat.
The ideal goal for each meal should look something like this:
- 50 g of carbs
- 8-10 g of fiber
- 25 g of protein
- 10 g of heart healthy fat.
That’s the hardwood that will help you lose weight. Now, let’s look at the big picture at what kinds of foods will meet the “hardwood” criteria.
Some foods are combination foods. Quality carbs are also high in fiber. Whole grains, citrus fruit, and beans are all examples of quality carbs. Fatty fish is both an excellent source of protein and healthy fat. Other protein, like white chicken and fat-free Greek yogurt have little to no fat, so you will need to get your fat from other sources. And there are some foods that contain a small amount of protein, carbs, fiber and healthy fat. They are like “hardwood” bark mulch😊
This is how I breakdown food categories(it’s not a complete list – just some of my favorites). I compose my plate according to how much protein, fat and carbs a food offers. If one food is a combination of carbs or protein or fat, I would combine it accordingly. Most veggies, other than the starchy ones are free territory. Eating as much as you can will help blood pressure, brain function and health in general.
People with high insulin levels should stay away from cereal in my opinion. Cereal does not contain enough protein considering the carbs in a serving. Adding milk only increases the carbs – there are 12 g of carbs in a cup of milk. You are much better off eating your leftover dinner than eating a bowl of cereal. Here are a few suggestions:
- Smoothie made with 3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp chia or flax seed, 2 cups baby kale, ¾ cup frozen berries and enough water to blend.
- ¾ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup fresh chopped fruit, and 2 tbsp chopped walnuts or almonds.
- ¾ cup low-fat Greek yogurt sprinkled with ¼ cup Uncle Sam’s Cereal, 2 tbsp chia seeds and ¼ cup fresh blueberries.
- 2 eggs or egg white combination omelet with spinach and 1 slice of swiss cheese served with one piece of toast.
- ¾ cup bean salad with ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese.
- ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup chopped fruit and 2 tbsp chia seeds.
- Salad topped with chicken, beans and balsamic dressing and a piece of fruit.
- Turkey and arugula sandwich on whole grain bread with mayo and mustard along with celery and carrots and hummus.
- 6 oz Greek yogurt, apple and sliced cucumbers.
- Tuna and whole grain pasta salad mixed with chopped carrots, celery, cabbage, mayo, salt and pepper
- 1 cup lentil or some other bean soup with 2 celery and peanut butter.
Or make your plate look like this:
Emphasize vegetables and limit the carbs most of the time and you will lose weight. If you miss something sweet, then skip the carbs at dinner and have the dessert instead – ideally eating it right after your dinner so you can slow down the blood sugar rise with the fiber and protein from your dinner.
This is the hardwood that will help you lose weight by preserving your muscle mass and keep your metabolism at a steady even burn – even while you’re roasting marshmallows over a campfire.