Written by: Alex C.
Reviewed by: Emily J., MSc RD
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Discover how food can improve your metabolic health, with tips and food hacks you can implement during your next meal.
Arguably the most important way to improve your metabolic health is through the food you eat — and both how and when you eat it. Best of all, you don't need to buy expensive supplements or completely overhaul your fridge and pantry to implement some of the most powerful shifts in your diet to see results.
Metabolism isn’t just “how quickly you process the food you eat,” but all the ways your body produces and uses energy to keep you alive.
Metabolic health is how well this process works.
Glucose plays a key role in the equation because it is your body's preferred energy source, which is exactly why monitoring it matters, even for non-diabetics. Stable blood sugar levels can improve your health in several surprising ways.
So, how can you use food to stabilize your blood sugar levels and improve your health?
We’re glad you asked.
Not all starches are created equal. Some are known as “resistant starches” because they don’t easily break down when you digest them. The result is a smaller impact on your glucose levels.
Research shows that resistant starches decrease post-meal blood glucose and insulin response, and can help to lower cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and insulin resistance. They can also help you lose fat .
While resistant starches can include seeds, some whole grains, and legumes — you can get a similar effect from preparing some of your favorites like potatoes and rice.
Try this: The next time you feel like potatoes or rice, cook them the night before and cool them in the fridge. The cooking and then cooling allows for a chemical reaction process called retrogradation, where the fast-absorbing starches are turned into resistant starches. Just reheat when you’re ready to eat and enjoy a lower blood sugar response.
We are full supporters of eating carbs. But eaten on their own, they can drive a rapid spike and crash in your blood sugar, leaving you hungry and tired. Pairing with fats and or protein calms down your hunger hormones, slows digestion, and leads to a more even glucose response .
Try this: Eat carbs! Just give them a buddy. Put some avocado on your sourdough toast and add chicken or tofu to your rice bowl.
Habit change is easiest when the bar is low, and you don’t have to overthink it. Rather than throwing out all the recipes you know, simply swap the processed carbs for glucose-friendly ingredients.
Try this: When you feel like making a pasta dish, swap the pasta for zucchini, like this delicious lasagna recipe.
You already know that eating fruits and vegetables is essential, but did you know it’s because they’re packed with phytonutrients ? Not only that, fruits and vegetables contain different phytonutrients — all with distinct benefits — depending on their color. Eating foods high in phytonutrients can reduce the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and premature death .
Greens, reds, blues, and yellows all have different phytonutrients to offer, plus antioxidants, which fight inflammation in the body. Inflammation can drive up levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and lead to high blood glucose and insulin resistance, so eating foods high in antioxidants can help keep bodily stress at bay .
Try this: Fill your grocery cart with as many different colors as possible so you can, quite literally, eat the rainbow and enjoy all they have to offer.
It’s not just about what you eat. When you eat matters too. Time-restricted eating (TRE) has a number of benefits, including setting your circadian rhythm and improving metabolic health .
Try this: While there are many ways to try TRE, the simplest is to just delay your first meal until a few hours after waking and stop eating a few hours before bed. For most people, that will make an 8-hour window to eat - without the pain of having to skip a meal.
There is plenty more that goes into nutrition and metabolic health, but with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to conquering your health goals. Pick one to start with that you think will be the easiest to implement.
Remember, improving your health doesn’t happen overnight. It’s small changes like these, done consistently, that compound over time into big results.
For other tips on improving your metabolic health, learn what you can change about your exercise routine, stress levels, and sleep habits.