Primal Starter: 10 Nutritional Actions To Enhance Insulin Sensitivity

Inline_Food_Nutrition_Live-Awesome-645x445-01What if a person secretes too much insulin in response to a glucose load? What if, for whatever reason (and there are dozens of possible culprits), a person’s cells are resistant to the effects of insulin? What if, to remove the same amount of glucose from the blood, a person secretes twice or thrice the amount of insulin? What happens when insulin stays elevated? Lipolysis is inhibited to an even greater degree. Body fat becomes even harder to burn. Susceptible brain, artery, and pancreatic cells are exposed to higher levels of blood sugar for longer. Muscle protein synthesis falls off a cliff. Glycogen is replenished at a diminished rate. And if cells are already full of glycogen and there’s nowhere else to put the glucose, it converts to fat for storage.

Obviously, we don’t want to be insulin resistant. We want to be insulin sensitive. Here are 10 nutrition-based actions.

1. Eat Cinnamon

Although cinnamon isn’t always effective against insulin resistance, it can reliably attenuate the insulin resistance resulting from sleep loss. Plus, cinnamon is delicious, so there’s that.

2. Sprinkle Some Vinegar On Your Food

Next time you plan on eating a high-carb meal, have a salad with a vinegar-based dressing beforehand. Vinegar has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in response to a carb-rich meal in type 2 diabetics.

3. Get More Magnesium

Magnesium figures into hundreds of physiological processes, many of which concern glucose disposal and insulin sensitivity. My favorite sources are leafy greens like spinach, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and halibut. If you hate spinach, nuts, fish, chocolate (what’s wrong with you?), and other magnesium-rich foods, oral supplementation of magnesium also works pretty well.

4. Drink Mineral Water

Mineral water—good, high-mineral content water—is rich in minerals commonly associated with insulin sensitivity, like magnesium. So it’s no surprise that high sodium-bicarbonate mineral waters have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in postmenopausal women and post-surgery breast cancer patients.

5. Drink Tea

Green tea lowers insulin resistance in subjects with type 2 diabetes. Pu-erh tea, a fermented black tea with a distinct and strong taste, also ameliorates insulin resistance. Gallic acid, an antioxidant compound found in tea leaves, also improves insulin sensitivity. Across the board, tea improves insulin sensitivity.

6. Eat Colorful and Bitter Plant Foods

Color and bitterness imply phytonutrients, the intangible plant compounds that don’t show up in standard nutrient databases but play huge roles in human health. Many, perhaps most, rich food sources of phytonutrients improve insulin sensitivity, like blueberries, strawberries, purple sweet potatoes, broccoli sprouts, and dark chocolate (even in healthy folks).

7. Eat Pungent Fermented Food From Asian Cuisines

I’ve been telling you guys to get on this stuff for awhile now. No more messing around, yeah? A natto (sticky stinky fermented soybeans) breakfast improves insulin sensitivity. Long-fermented kimchi also improves it; fresh kimchi does, too, but not as much as the sour stuff.

8. Use Turmeric

I love turmeric for its taste and pharmacoogical profile. I’ve outlined turmeric’s effects in the past, so it should come as no surprise to learn that it is a potent insulin-sensitizer. Be sure to include some black pepper when you cook with it to increase the bioavailability.

9. Get Some Vitamin K2 Through Food or Supplements

In a 2011 controlled trial, vitamin K2 supplementation improved insulin sensitivity. Maybe that’s partly why natto improved it in the breakfast study mentioned previously — it’s the richest source of vitamin K2 around. Other likely sources of vitamin K2 include goose and chicken liver, aged cheeses (especially gouda), grass-fed butter, pastured eggs, and fermented milk.

10. Eat Liver and Oysters Once a Week

Ruminant liver and oysters are some of the best sources of copper and zinc, two minerals that play essential roles in maintenance of insulin sensitivity. Serum zinc and copper have inverse relationships to insulin resistance, and increases in zinc status match up well with improvements to insulin sensitivity.  If you absolutely hate these foods, you can certainly find zinc and copper elsewhere. These are just the quickest way to obtain them (plus other important nutrients).

From “25 Ways to Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity”

TAGS:  hormones

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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13 thoughts on “Primal Starter: 10 Nutritional Actions To Enhance Insulin Sensitivity”

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  1. Great post. One stop blog for me. Thank you Mark for providing such useful steps to maintaining good health.

  2. Good article because it tells us what to eat versus just supplementing. I’m not insulin resistant. Never have been, possibly because I do enjoy most of these foods regularly. I don’t like liver but will eat chicken liver now and then, preferably as a pate. However, I have to draw the line at natto. You have to be a brave soul to want to put that stuff in your mouth.

    Turmeric capsules containing pepper work well if you don’t like the taste of it. It can also help ease stubborn joint pain. Bio-Schwartz is a good brand, available on Amazon, if Mark doesn’t sell it.

  3. Sounds like this is just good nutritional advice in general. Liver, oysters, green tea, fermented foods…all good stuff. I struggle with beef liver…wondering if chicken livers are ok?

    1. I think so! There’s a REALLY good chicken liver pate recipe in “The Keto Reset Diet”.

    2. Chicken livers are milder tasting than beef, and you can always wrap them in bacon!!

  4. Can you write about eating with type 1 and 1.5 diabetes? My husband was recently diagnosed. It’s definitely challenging.

    1. Hey, Carol, type1 here. After 30 years of experimentation with everything from vegan and fructarian to completely carnivorous, and everywhere in between. The absolute most successful and EASY diet I have found for steady levels and overall health is paleo-LCHF. If you haven’t yet, look into Dr Richard Bernstein. I wish someone would have introduced me to his work decades ago.

  5. While these are all great, and I know you were focusing on nutritional solutions, I have to say that I am amazed you did not put at least one sentence in here mentioning that the best thing to do to lower insulin resistance is to EXERCISE.

  6. I am new to this group and learning a lot. On another diet blog raspberry ketones were evaluated and it concluded they worked for short one-three month acceleration in weight loss. Anyone know about those supplements? If you’re already doing fairly strict Keto are they useful? Safe?

  7. Avoid carbs after having a workout. I have read that having carbs as post workout nutrition also depleted the striking insulin levels