Veri Logo

Nutrition for Metabolic Health

Eat These Foods for Metabolic Health and Weight Loss

Key takeaways:

  • You can eat your way to better metabolic health by choosing foods that promote stable blood sugar
  • Aim for a diet that’s higher in protein, fiber and fat, and lower in refined carbs (no need for keto or restrictive diets)
  • Time-restricted eating can improve blood sugar control and metabolic health
  • Nutrition hacks for glucose control include resistant starches, apple cider vinegar, and the herbal supplement berberine

A major aspect of metabolic health is the body’s ability to sustain normal blood sugar levels without large spikes or dips.

Having a stable glucose reduces stress on your mitochondria (the body’s metabolic engines), and it prevents insulin resistance – a major culprit in metabolic decline and weight gain.

You can find a thousand different supplements and diets that promise better blood sugar and metabolic health.

But there’s only one real solution:

🌽 FOOD 🥦

Since you’re spending money on food anyway, you might as well do what Hippocrates said and let that food be your medicine, too.

By making smart food choices (and practicing a few secret glucose hacks), you can maintain stable blood sugar levels, avoid blood sugar spikes, eat what you love, and enjoy the fruits of better metabolic health.

No calorie-counting or fat bombs required!

How Sugar and Processed Foods Hurt Your Metabolism

The fact that nearly 90% of Americans are considered metabolically unhealthy has a lot to do with how much sugar we consume as a society –

Nearly ten times what we did 100 years ago. [1, 2]

To make things worse, sugar’s gone rogue and is now attacking us from every angle. It’s in everything and under dozens of aliases:

Dextrose, maltose, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, sucrose, fructose, lactose…the list goes on.

Dr. Fatima Cody Standford, MD advisor at Veri, says that our health depends on knowing what these hidden sugars are and how they affect our bodies.

"Added sugar and processed food have contributed to a decline in our cardiometabolic health over time,” Dr. Cody Stanford said. “We’ve seen a continued rise in chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes” at the exact same time that sugar consumption has gone up.

Think that’s a coincidence? 

Here’s how your body responds to sugar and refined carbs

1 - For starters, a diet high in sugar and processed carbs causes blood glucose spikes.

2 - Your body converts the carbs into glucose quickly because there’s not enough fiber, protein, or healthy fat to slow the absorption.

3 - This dramatic spike in blood sugar puts your pancreas into overdrive to create more insulin so you don't go into a coma.

4 - Your body can manage all the processed foods for years without gaining weight or shooting up your blood pressure.

5 - But eventually your cells become numb to the excess insulin. (It's called insulin resistance.) Then your glucose takes a hike every time you eat processed and sugary foods, which causes even more insulin to be produced.

And that’s when your health spirals downward: weight gain, inflammation, chronic pain.

Not only does the presence of excess blood sugar destroy your health – it prematurely ages cells and gunks up mitochondria. [13]

But the extra insulin leads to fat gain and the wholesale disruption of your endocrine system. [14]

For the best metabolic health possible, here’s a list of foods you want to mostly avoid:

  • Soda and fruit juice
  • Anything with added sugar — even ‘healthy’ alternatives like honey and agave nectar
  • Food that comes in boxes/packages — again, even the so-called 'healthy' stuff
  • Candy

Which Foods Are Best for Metabolic Health?

Here at Veri, our food philosophy is simple:

Keep - it - real.

Our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vimal Ramjee says that metabolically healthy foods are usually unprocessed and in their most natural state.

“Our ethos at Veri is about balance,” Dr. Ramjee said, emphasizing that no one macronutrient or food is inherently bad.

The key, he says, is to eat “natural, minimally processed foods, with a strong emphasis on non-starchy vegetables, high quality meats (meaning grass fed/organic), and limited natural sugars in the form of whole fruits.”

But while it’s safe to say that Mountain Dew is a metabolic throat chop for pretty much anyone, we can’t say that for sure about foods like bread, potatoes, bananas, or even pasta. Because each person’s glucose response to the same foods will be unique.

Your body's blood sugar response depends on many factors:

Genetics, gut health, activity levels, and sleep all play a role.

That’s why CGMs are so important in finding the right foods for you.

Macro and Micronutrients That Support Metabolic Health

Fiber

You can think of fiber as healthy carbs. But unlike your traditional carbs, fiber isn’t broken down into glucose. Research shows that foods high in fiber actually improve metabolic health by improving insulin sensitivity, and have even been shown to aid in weight loss. [3]

Salads, chia seeds, flax seeds, avocados, vegetables like broccoli and carrots, grains like quinoa and brown rice, lentils, beans, chickpeas, fruit (keep the peel on for more fiber!), and whole grain breads are incredible sources of fiber.

Fat

Fats are essential for metabolic health in several ways. First, they slow the absorption of glucose in the intestines, which reduces blood sugar spikes. Second, fats are the best sources of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K – all of which minimize inflammation and promote blood sugar balance. [15]

Fearing fat is a no-go for metabolic health. So do your best to include healthy fats like grass fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. Avoid industrial oils (like corn and soy) that promote oxidation and inflammation.

Protein

Protein is an immune booster, muscle builder, and fat burner (due to its high thermogenic effect). It also boosts satiety so that you aren’t hungry an hour after you’ve eaten. If you want to be metabolically healthy and lose weight, eat more healthy protein – pasture raised meats, wild caught fish, plant proteins, etc.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 different enzymatic reactions, many of which are related to the extraction of energy from food. Modern soils are deficient in magnesium, so load up on good sources like leafy greens, and consider supplementing. [16]

Chromium

Chromium is a micro micronutrient. It dramatically improves blood sugar even in the tiniest amounts. Cinnamon and red meat are both good sources.

Iodine

Iodine is the thyroid nutrient, and the thyroid gland regulates your metabolism. You can get sufficient iodine from wild-caught fish, from seaweed, and from iodized salt.

Food Order and Metabolic Health

A study published in the Diabetes Care Journal found that the order you eat your food may help manage post-meal glucose levels. [4]

When vegetables and protein were eaten ahead of carbs during the study, researchers discovered that participants’ post-meal blood sugar was lower, compared with the carb-first cohort. Insulin was also much lower when subjects started with their veggies and protein.

What does this look like in real life?

It could be as simple as eating a salad before your main meal. Or you can try something like bell peppers and humus as an appetizer — a good combination of fiber, fat, and protein.

Even something so easy as having a handful of almonds or cashews before a carby meal could be beneficial in reducing blood sugar spikes.

Food Timing and Metabolic Health

Time-restricted eating is one science-backed strategy that can help manage blood glucose and improve metabolic health. Having a fixed eating window means fewer meals and snacks, which helps keep your blood glucose stable. [5] [6]

If you’re thinking about trying time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting, just know you don’t have to take it to the extreme.

One study showed that just pushing breakfast back and moving up dinner time by 1.5 hours each resulted in improved blood sugar. Bonus points: people in the study also lost weight. [7]

A good rule of thumb for better blood sugar control is fasting 14 hours from dinner to breakfast. This means having your last bite of food by 7:00pm, then having breakfast at 9:00am.

But lead researchers on food timing and metabolic health, including Satchin Panda, say that even 12 hours is enough of a fasting window to have good effects.

The easiest way to lengthen your fasting window?

Just commit to cutting off meals and snacks by 7:00pm.

Food Hacks

Changing your entire diet to purely unprocessed foods is so hard that we can just call it impossible. You’re going to eat processed foods every now and again – it’s just part of being human in the 21st century.

But even though we’ll all come up short in the diet department, we’ve got some hacks that can make up for it 😊

Here are a few you can use to improve your blood glucose:

Apple cider vinegar

Studies have found that vinegar can reduce post-meal blood glucose and improve insulin sensitivity. Just take 1-2 tablespoons in 10oz  water before or with meals [8,9]

Resistant starches

Eat twice cooked and cooled food like potatoes, rice, and beans to increase the amount of resistant starch and improve insulin sensitivity. You can even mix a tablespoon of unmodified potato starch in water to take with meals. [10,11]

Berberine

An herbal supplement, berberine has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and help regulate blood glucose after meals. [12]

Salads before meals

Eating salads before meals increases your satiety and slows down the absorption of glucose in the gut after meals.

Commonly Asked Questions

1 — What are the best foods for high blood sugar?

The best foods for glucose control are going to be high fiber, high protein, higher in fat, and lower in carbs.

2 — Can I get better metabolic health through diet?

Absolutely. Your nutrition is going to be a key factor in improving your metabolic health. But your healthy foods are different than anyone else’s, because your blood sugar response is different.

3 — Which foods should I avoid for better metabolic health?

  • Anything with added sugar
  • Foods high in processed carbs
  • Soda and fruit juices
  • Candy

4 — Do I have to go keto?

No, although a lower carb intake is recommended for improving your metabolic health and better managing your blood sugar.

A Final Word on Nutrition and Metabolic Health

Along with exercise, nutrition is one of the largest levers of metabolic health. By making smarter food choices and going with whole foods over processed ones, you’ll start to see benefits of improved blood glucose in both the long and short term –

  • Reduced hunger after meals
  • More energy
  • Better weight

But for those who want to know exactly which foods are best (and worst) for their metabolic health, you’ve got to try a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). Veri’s CGM app gives you instant feedback so you don’t have to guess about which foods are right for you.


About the Author:

Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. If he isn’t writing, you’ll most likely find Chad with a pair of dumbbells in his hand or scrolling through Netflix trying to find a new binge worthy show. 

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30484738/
  2. https://accelresearchsites.com/sugar-rush-how-sugar-consumption-is-changing-america-infographic/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8072595/
  4. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/38/7/e98/30914/Food-Order-Has-a-Significant-Impact-on
  5. https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(18)30253-5
  6. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634?journalCode=nutr
  7. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-nutritional-science/article/pilot-feasibility-study-exploring-the-effects-of-a-moderate-timerestricted-feeding-intervention-on-energy-intake-adiposity-and-metabolic-physiology-in-freeliving-human-subjects/9C604826401917A6CAD9CD10B72FEA32
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7796781/
  9. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/27/1/281/26582/Vinegar-Improves-Insulin-Sensitivity-to-a-High
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3301990/
  11. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/29/5/976/25244/Consumption-of-Both-Resistant-Starch-and-Glucan
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27076875/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5643203/
  14. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2021.736320/full
  15. https://journals.lww.com/co-clinicalnutrition/fulltext/2017/11000/fat_soluble_micronutrients_and_metabolic_syndrome.11.aspx#:~:text=Fat%2Dsoluble%20micronutrients%20could%20contribute,(vit%20D%20and%20E).
  16. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147323000703500301

Get started with Veri today

Shop
Shop

Further reading