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What is a Metabolic Syndrome Diet?

By M. J. Memon
Updated Jan 23, 2024
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A metabolic syndrome diet is an eating style meant to control the condition known as metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by the presence of all the following factors: high insulin levels, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Some of the factors that cause metabolic syndrome are obesity, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and stress. A changed diet, coupled with exercise and moderate weight loss, has been found to be effective in reversing metabolic syndrome.

The best diet for metabolic syndrome will depend upon the individual preferences and needs of the dieter. Many suitable diets will have three features. First is the restriction or elimination of any foods containing refined grains and sugar. Second is the elimination of any food with high fructose corn syrup or trans fats. Third is the consumption of foods which will moderate insulin levels.

Refined grains like white rice should be avoided because of their effect on insulin levels. It is best to eat mostly whole unprocessed grains, which cause a lower rise in blood sugar than whole grain flours. Whole grain flour products such as whole wheat pasta can be eaten in moderation. Fruit juice or foods with added sugar should also be avoided or consumed in small quantities. Whole fruit is preferable to fruit juice, because the whole form contains fiber and does not raise blood sugar as much.

High fructose corn syrup and trans fats should be eliminated entirely from any diet for metabolic syndrome. Some studies have found that corn syrup can increase insulin resistance and the accumulation of visceral fat. Excess visceral fat is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome. Trans fats raise cholesterol and may also negatively affect insulin sensitivity.

The required foods on a metabolic syndrome diet plan are usually lean protein, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, legumes, and fruits. Amounts and combinations of these required foods vary among diets. Some dieters find they do best on a very low carbohydrate metabolic syndrome diet; others can eat higher amounts of carbohydrates. The best diet will be one that provides enough food for satiation while causing weight loss and insulin stabilization.

Exercise should be partnered with any metabolic syndrome diet. It promotes weight loss and stabilizes insulin levels, which can prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome. Stress is also reduced by exercise. The intensity of the exercise also seems to be important; one study concluded that interval exercise is especially effective at addressing metabolic syndrome.

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Discussion Comments
By MrsWinslow — On Feb 03, 2012

@jholcomb - I think you've hit the nail on the head. I always tried to diet for weight loss doing the things you mention, like drinking diet soda. Now that controlling my PCOS is my diet goal, I've made much healthier changes.

It's hard because it takes a lot more effort, but it's worth it. I tried changing things gradually. I dropped my morning muffin and substituted a hard-boiled egg with a smidge of mustard, for instance. Instead of trying to eat a salad as my lunch, which left me famished so that I would then snack all afternoon, I begin lunch with a small salad (it does get you started filling up) and then eating something rich in protein and veggies, like a tuna salad that's way low on mayonaise and way high on celery and red peppers.

By jholcomb — On Feb 02, 2012

I think that the mistake a lot of people make when they first change their diet for any reason is they try to eat "healthier" versions of the same junk they're already eating. For instance, they switch to diet soda and low-fat cookies or crackers. Maybe they switch from butter to a lower-calorie table spread.

The problem is that it makes for a not very enjoyable diet! Things simply don't taste very good that way. You are better off eating whole foods. Instead of drinking diet soda, drink water or unsweetened tea, or perhaps flavored seltzer (which is generally calorie-free). Instead of a fat-free light yogurt with the aspartame aftertaste, try a banana. Or plain yogurt with blueberries.

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