People who are insulin resistant typically benefit from eating foods with a lower insulin load which helps normalise insulin and blood glucose. Managing appetite is easier if you’re not on the blood glucose roller coaster.
However people who are obese but are also insulin sensitive seem to benefit even more by reducing energy density and maximising nutrient density as much as possible. The foods listed below have a very low 82 calories per 100g compared to the average of the USDA foods database of 231 calories per 100g which will make them very hard to overeat.
In terms of macronutrients these foods have:
- more protein (which will prevent loss of lean muscle mass),
- more fibre (which will make you full and slow digestion),
- less fat (thus allowing a contribution from body fat),
- less digestible carbohydrates (which will maintain stable blood glucose levels).
Once your blood glucose levels have been brought under control by reducing the insulin load of your diet, foods with a low energy density and high nutrient density will likely help you continue your journey towards optimum health and weight.
As shown in the chart below, these foods are very nutrient dense, with all nutrients other than the Omega 3 fatty acids meeting the recommended daily intake levels. These foods will provide a substantial improvement in nutrient density compared to the average of all the foods in the USDA food database.
The chart below is from a recent pilot trial by Christopher Gardner of Stanford (Weight loss on low-fat vs. low-carbohydrate diets by insulin resistance status among overweight adults and adults with obesity: A randomized pilot trial) which showed that the people who were insulin resistant generally did better on a higher fat low carbohydrate diet while people who were more insulin sensitive did better on a lower fat, lower energy density approach.
Everyone in the study did better by eating more more nutrient dense unprocessed foods regardless of the macronutrient composition!
These foods will enable you to minimise your energy intake (calories) without and minimise your chance of experiencing any nutritional deficiencies. For example, if you were fasting or dieting, focusing on these foods would maximise your chance of long term successes and minimising cravings.
The foods listed below represent the top 10% of the USDA food database prioritised for high nutrient density and low energy density. The highest ranking foods involve lean proteins, non starchy veggies and seafood. High fat dairy, processed grains and energy dense nuts and seeds don’t make the list.
The nutrient dense, high fibre, low energy density foods listed below will help you feel full with fewer calories, increase satiety and make it easier to control appetite. This approach is similar to a protein sparing modified fast which which reduces your dietary fat on the basis that it will be coming from your body. Adequate protein is also critical to building lean muscle mass which is critical to your metabolic health.
“A nourishing, balanced diet that provides all the required nutrients in the right proportions is the key to minimising appetite and eliminating hunger at minimal caloric intake.”
|yeast extract spread||11||185||2.3|
|ham (lean only)||9||113||1.9|
dairy and eggs
|cream cheese (low fat)||10||105||2.2|
|low fat milk||5||56||1.3|
The table below contains links to separate blog posts and printable .pdfs detailing optimal foods for a range of dietary approaches (sorted from most to least nutrient dense) that may be of interest depending on your situation and goals. You can print them out to stick to your fridge or take on your next shopping expedition for some inspiration.
If you’re not sure which approach is right for you and whether you are insulin resistant, this survey may help identify the optimal dietary approach for you.