Low-Fat Versus Low-Sugar Diets

What are the best dietary strategies for improving insulin response?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read

low sugarQ. Is it more important to follow a low-fat or a low-sugar diet if you are insulin resistant?

A. Insulin resistance is when your cells become less sensitive to the effects of insulin, which normally works to regulate your blood sugar. If you're insulin resistant or have other risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, I think that limiting sugar and other refined carbohydrates would be a high priority. 

See also:  Can You Reverse Diabetes with Diet?

However, that doesn't mean that other aspects of your diet don't deserve your attention.  If you're overweight, losing weight can also help improve your insulin response  and lower your risks—and not just of diabetes but of all sorts of other things as well! 

I'm not a fan of low-fat diets. For one thing, extremely low-fat diets tend to be much higher in carbohydrates, which is not a great idea for those at risk of Type 2 diabetes.  But  monitoring the amount of fat in your diet can help you control your calorie intake and help you lose some weight. Switching from full fat dairy products  to reduced fat dairy products, for example, can be a relatively painless way to cut some calories from your diet.  

Foods that are rich in healthy fats, such as nuts, nut butter, avocados, and olive oil, should be enjoyed in moderation. Foods high in unhealthy fats, such as fried foods and things made with hydrogenated oils, are best avoided altogether.

In my opinion, the ideal diet for someone in your situation (and, really, for just about everyone) would be one that is low in sugar (less than 5% of total calories), moderate in fat (25-35% of calories), and which allows you to maintain (or make steady progress toward) a healthy weight.  If you're not losing weight, it's time to trim those portion sizes a bit further!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.