14 Ways to Lower Your Insulin Levels

Insulin is an extremely important hormone that’s produced by your pancreas. It has many functions, such as allowing your cells to take in sugar from your blood for energy.

However, living with chronically high levels of insulin, also known as hyperinsulinemia, can lead to excessive weight gain and serious health problems like heart disease and cancer (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source3Trusted Source).

High blood insulin levels can also cause your cells to become resistant to the hormone’s effects. This condition, known as insulin resistance, leads your pancreas to produce even more insulin, creating a precarious cycle (4Trusted Source).

If your doctor has advised you to lower your insulin levels, here are 14 things you can do.

1. Follow a lower-carb eating plan

Of the three macronutrients — carbohydrates, protein, and fat — carbs raise blood sugar and insulin levels the most. Even though carbs are an essential part of most balanced, nutritious diets, lower-carb diets can be very effective for losing weight and managing diabetes (5Trusted Source6Trusted Source).

Many studies have confirmed the effectiveness of lower-carb eating plans for lowering insulin levels and increasing insulin sensitivity, especially when compared with other diets.

People living with health conditions characterized by insulin resistance, such as metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), may experience a dramatic lowering of insulin with carb restriction (6Trusted Source7Trusted Source8Trusted Source).

In a smaller study from 2009, people with metabolic syndrome were randomized to receive either a low fat or low carb diet containing 1,500 calories (9Trusted Source).

Insulin levels dropped by an average of 50{9cb4cb5d2821f2b1413370fa30275c09bf4c340afdba846fc3517d6c4ad3deb7} in the low carb group, compared with 19{9cb4cb5d2821f2b1413370fa30275c09bf4c340afdba846fc3517d6c4ad3deb7} in the low fat group. Those on the low carb diet also lost more weight (9Trusted Source).

In another small study from 2013, when people with PCOS ate a lower-carb diet containing enough calories to maintain their weight, they experienced greater reductions in insulin levels than when they ate a higher-carb diet (10Trusted Source).

2. Consider supplementing with apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) may help prevent insulin and blood sugar spikes after eating, particularly when consumed with high carbohydrate foods (11).

One review found that consuming 2–6 tablespoons of vinegar daily appears to improve glycemic response to carbohydrate-rich meals. It’s important to note, however, that this review incorporated studies that used other forms of vinegar in addition to ACV (12).

Another review of studies found that consuming vinegar with meals affects both blood glucose and insulin levels. Individuals consuming vinegar with meals had lower blood sugar and insulin levels than those who didn’t consume it. But again, this review did not specify ACV (13Trusted Source).

A third review of studies from 2021 specifically targeted ACV analyzed its effect on glycemic control in adults (14Trusted Source).

The researchers found that consuming ACV significantly decreased fasting blood sugar and HbA1C (a measure of blood sugar over time). However, ACV did not seem to affect fasting insulin levels or insulin resistance (14Trusted Source).

3. Keep an eye on portion sizes

Your pancreas releases different amounts of insulin depending on the type of food you eat, but eating a large amount of foods that cause your body to produce extra insulin can eventually lead to hyperinsulinemia.

This is of particular concern for people who are already living with obesity and insulin resistance (15Trusted Source).

In one small 2017 study, otherwise healthy people classified as having either a “normal” BMI or a higher BMI each ate meals with different glycemic loads for a few days.

Researchers found that while the meals with a higher glycemic load (those with more sugar and carbs) spiked everyone’s blood sugar, the blood sugar of individuals with BMIs in the “obese” category stayed elevated longer (16Trusted Source).

Consuming fewer calories has consistently been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin levels in people living with excess weight and obesity, regardless of the type of diet they consume (17Trusted Source18Trusted Source19Trusted Source20Trusted Source).

One small study from 2012 analyzed different weight loss methods in 157 people living with metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that include a larger waist circumference and high blood sugar (19Trusted Source).

The researchers found that fasting insulin levels decreased by 16{9cb4cb5d2821f2b1413370fa30275c09bf4c340afdba846fc3517d6c4ad3deb7} in the group that practiced calorie restriction and 12{9cb4cb5d2821f2b1413370fa30275c09bf4c340afdba846fc3517d6c4ad3deb7} in the group that practiced portion control (19Trusted Source21Trusted Source).

Even though calorie restriction has been shown to ease excess insulin levels, It’s a good idea to seek the help of a nutritionist or doctor before making any dietary changes to be sure you aren’t missing out on any important macro or micronutrients.

4. Lower your intake of all forms of sugar

Sugar may very well be the most important ingredient to keep an eye on if you’re trying to lower your insulin levels. Diets high in added sugar are associated with insulin resistance and may promote the development of metabolic disease (22Trusted Source).

In a small study from 2009, otherwise healthy people were tasked with eating an increased amount of either candy (sugar) or peanuts (fat). The candy group experienced a 31{9cb4cb5d2821f2b1413370fa30275c09bf4c340afdba846fc3517d6c4ad3deb7} increase in fasting insulin levels, while the peanut group had a 12{9cb4cb5d2821f2b1413370fa30275c09bf4c340afdba846fc3517d6c4ad3deb7} increase (23Trusted Source).

In another small study from 2014, otherwise healthy adults consumed jams containing varying amounts of sugar. The adults who consumed high sugar jams saw their insulin levels rise significantly as compared with those who ate the lower-sugar jams (24Trusted Source).

Fructose is a type of natural sugar found in table sugar, honey, fruit, corn syrup, agave, and syrup.

While some studies have singled out fructose as particularly harmful for blood sugar control and insulin resistance, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest fructose is more harmful than other types of sugars when consumed in moderate amounts (25Trusted Source).

Indeed, one study found that replacing glucose or sucrose with fructose actually lowered peak post-meal blood sugar and insulin levels, especially in people with prediabetes or type 1 or type 2 diabetes (26Trusted Source).

5. Prioritize physical activity

Engaging in regular physical activity can have powerful insulin-lowering effects.

Aerobic exercise appears to be very effective at increasing insulin sensitivity in people living with obesity or type 2 diabetes (27Trusted Source28Trusted Source29Trusted Source).

One study looked at the effect of sustained aerobic exercise versus high intensity interval training on metabolic fitness in men with obesity (29Trusted Source).

Although both groups experienced improvements in fitness, only the group that performed sustained aerobic activity experienced significantly lower insulin levels (29Trusted Source).

There’s also research showing that resistance training can help decrease insulin levels in older adults and people who are more sedentary (30Trusted Source31Trusted Source).

And lastly, combining aerobic and resistance exercise may be the best choice when it comes to positively affecting insulin sensitivity and levels (32Trusted Source33Trusted Source).

6. Try adding cinnamon to foods and beverages

Cinnamon is a delicious spice loaded with health-promoting antioxidants.

Recent studies suggest that both individuals living with insulin resistance and those with relatively normal insulin levels who supplement with cinnamon may experience enhanced insulin sensitivity and decreased insulin levels (34Trusted Source35Trusted Source36Trusted Source).

In one small, well-designed study, women with PCOS who took 1.5 grams of cinnamon powder daily for 12 weeks had significantly lower fasting insulin and insulin resistance than women who took a placebo (35Trusted Source).

In another small, well-designed study, individuals living with type 2 diabetes who took 500 mg of cinnamon powder twice daily for 3 months had lower fasting insulin and insulin resistance than those who took a placebo (34Trusted Source).

Improvements in insulin and insulin sensitivity were most pronounced for individuals with higher BMIs (34Trusted Source).

It’s important to note that there is no recommended dose of cinnamon that has been tested across the board, and not all studies have found that cinnamon helps lower insulin levels or increases insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon’s effects may vary from person to person (37Trusted Source38Trusted Source).

7. When eating carbs, choose complex carbs

While complex carbs are an important part of a nutritious diet, refined or “simple” carbs don’t usually contain a lot of fiber or micronutrients and are digested very quickly.

Refined carbs include simple sugars as well as grains that have had the fibrous parts removed. Some examples are cereal with added sugar, highly processed fast foods, foods made with refined flour like certain breads and pastries, and white rice (39Trusted Source).

Regularly consuming refined carbs can lead to several health problems, including high insulin levels and weight gain (40Trusted Source41Trusted Source).

Furthermore, refined carbs have a high glycemic index (GI). The GI is a scale that measures a specific food’s capacity to raise blood sugar. Glycemic load takes into account a food’s glycemic index and the amount of digestible carbs contained in a serving (42).

Some studies comparing foods with different glycemic loads have found that eating a high-glycemic-load food raises insulin levels more than eating the same portion of a low-glycemic-load food, even if the carb contents of the two foods are similar (43Trusted Source44Trusted Source).

However, other studies comparing high-glycemic-load and high-glycemic-index diets with low-glycemic-load and low-glycemic-index diets have found no difference in their effects on insulin levels or insulin sensitivity (45Trusted Source46Trusted Source).

8. Increase your overall activity level

Living an active lifestyle can help reduce insulin levels.

A 2005 study of more than 1,600 people found that the most sedentary people (who didn’t spend free time engaged in moderate or vigorous activity) were nearly twice as likely to have metabolic syndrome as those who did at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (47Trusted Source).

Other studies have shown that getting up and walking around, rather than sitting for prolonged periods, can help keep insulin levels from spiking after a meal (48Trusted Source).

One study looked at the effect of physical activity on insulin levels in men with extra weight who were at risk for type 2 diabetes. Those who took the most steps per day had the greatest reduction in insulin levels and belly fat compared with those who took the fewest steps (49Trusted Source).

9. Consider intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting (an eating plan where you have set hours for eating and set hours for fasting during a 24-hour period) has been popping up in headlines recently, specifically around its possible weight loss benefits.

Research also suggests intermittent fasting may help reduce insulin levels as effectively as or more effectively than daily calorie restriction (50Trusted Source51).

A 2019 study compared alternate-day fasting with calorie restriction in adults with extra weight or obesity and insulin resistance (52Trusted Source).

Those using alternate-day fasting for 12 months had greater reductions in fasting insulin and insulin resistance than those who restricted their calorie intake, as well as those in the control group (52Trusted Source).

Although many people find intermittent fasting beneficial and enjoyable, it doesn’t work for everyone and may cause problems in some people. A doctor or nutritionist can help you figure out whether intermittent fasting is right for you and how to do it safely.

10. Increase soluble fiber intake

Soluble fiber provides a number of health benefits, including aiding in weight loss and reducing blood sugar levels.

After you eat, the soluble fiber in food absorbs water and forms a gel, which slows down the movement of food through your digestive tract. This promotes feelings of fullness and keeps your blood sugar and insulin from rising too quickly after a meal (53Trusted Source54Trusted Source).

One observational study from 2013 found that individuals assigned female at birth who ate the most soluble fiber were half as likely to be insulin-resistant as individuals assigned female who ate the least soluble fiber (55Trusted Source).

Soluble fiber also helps feed the friendly bacteria that live in your colon, which may improve gut health and reduce insulin resistance.

In a 6-week controlled study of older women with obesity, those who took flaxseed (which contains soluble fiber) experienced greater increases in insulin sensitivity and lower insulin levels than women who took a probiotic or placebo (56Trusted Source).

Overall, fiber from whole foods appears to be more effective at reducing insulin than fiber in supplement form, although results are mixed. One study found that insulin decreased when people consumed black beans but not when they took a fiber supplement (57Trusted Source).

11. Concentrate on weight loss, if advised

The distribution of fat throughout your body is determined by age, sex hormones, and genetic variation (58Trusted Source).

An overabundance of belly fat — also known as visceral or abdominal fat — in particular is linked to many health issues. Visceral fat can promote inflammation and insulin resistance, which drives hyperinsulinemia (59Trusted Source60Trusted Source61Trusted Source).

A small study from 2013 suggests that losing visceral fat can lead to increased insulin sensitivity and lower insulin levels (62Trusted Source).

Interestingly, another small study from 2013 found that people who lost abdominal fat retained the benefits for insulin sensitivity even after regaining a portion of the belly fat (63Trusted Source).

There is no way to specifically target visceral fat when losing weight. However, visceral fat loss is linked to subcutaneous fat loss, so when you lose weight in general, you’ll likely also lose visceral fat.

Furthermore, studies show that when you lose weight, you lose a higher percentage of visceral fat than fat throughout the rest of your body (64Trusted Source).

If your doctor has advised you to lose weight, talk with them about the best weight loss program for you.

12. Incorporate green tea into your diet

Green tea contains high amounts of an antioxidant known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which may help fight insulin resistance (65Trusted Source66Trusted Source67Trusted Source).

In a 2016 study, postmenopausal individuals living with obesity and high insulin levels who took green tea extract experienced a small decrease in insulin over 12 months, while those who took a placebo had increased insulin levels following the intervention (66Trusted Source).

In a 2013 review, researchers reported that green tea appeared to significantly lower fasting insulin levels in high quality studies (67Trusted Source).

However, there are other high quality studies on green tea supplementation that have not shown a reduction in insulin levels or increased insulin sensitivity (68Trusted Source).

13. Eat more fatty fish

There are many reasons to consume fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and anchovies. They provide high quality protein and are some of the best sources of long-chain omega-3 fats, which offer many health benefits (69Trusted Source).

Studies have shown that the omega-3s in fatty fish may also help reduce insulin resistance in people living with obesity, gestational diabetes, and PCOS (70Trusted Source71Trusted Source72Trusted Source).

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Dietary Guidelines for AmericansTrusted Source, adults can safely consume at least 8 ounces of seafood per week (based on a 2,000-calorie diet). Young children should eat less.

People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should eat 8–12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week, choosing options that are lower in mercury (73Trusted Source).

While eating fish is typically recommended over taking supplements for a variety of reasons (more omega-3s aren’t always better, and fish has additional nutrients and vitamins), fish oil supplements are sold widely in stores and are often used in studies.

These supplements contain the same long-chain omega-3 fats as the fish itself, but the effective dosage has not yet been determined (74Trusted Source).

Despite the need for more research, fish oil has been shown to support healthy blood sugar.

One small 2012 study in individuals with PCOS found a significant 8.4{9cb4cb5d2821f2b1413370fa30275c09bf4c340afdba846fc3517d6c4ad3deb7} decrease in insulin levels in a group who took fish oil, compared with a group who took a placebo (71Trusted Source).

Another study from 2013 found that children and adolescents with obesity who took fish oil supplements significantly reduced their insulin resistance and triglyceride levels (72Trusted Source).

Finally, a review of 17 studies found that taking fish oil supplements is associated with increased insulin sensitivity in people living with metabolic disorders (75Trusted Source).

14. Get the right amount and type of protein

Consuming adequate protein at meals can be beneficial for controlling your weight and insulin levels.

In a small study from 2015, premenopausal individuals living with obesity had lower insulin levels after consuming a high protein breakfast compared with a low protein breakfast. They also felt fuller and ate fewer calories at lunch (76Trusted Source).

However, protein stimulates insulin production so that your muscles can take up amino acids. Therefore, eating very high amounts over a prolonged period may lead to higher insulin levels in otherwise healthy individuals (77Trusted Source).

A larger study from 2018 sheds some light on these diverging results: When it comes to protein, dietary patterns are important.

For instance, researchers found that individuals who ate a majority of plant proteins were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while individuals who ate a lot of protein in the form of red meat had a greater likelihood of living with or developing type 2 diabetes (78Trusted Source).

So while protein is important, eating a variety of protein that isn’t overly processed and is nutrient-dense is even more important.

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