If you have metabolic syndrome—or just find yourself exhausted more often than not—it might be time to try the metabolic syndrome diet. This diet is designed to balance your cholesterol levels, control blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar and help people lose weight.
You don’t have to have metabolic syndrome to benefit from the diet, however. The goal is to replace processed foods high in sodium, sugar and fat with heart-healthy alternatives. Even patients on medication for metabolic syndrome are encouraged to eat better as part of their treatment.
Here’s an introduction to the metabolic syndrome diet and guidance to adopt it on your own.
What is metabolic syndrome?
To have metabolic syndrome is to have certain risk factors, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. If you have three or more of the following, you have metabolic syndrome: high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low levels of HDL cholesterol and a large waist or “apple-shaped” body.
Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of developing these serious conditions by adjusting your diet.
What is the metabolic syndrome diet?
The metabolic syndrome diet focuses on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, meat and low-fat dairy. For many people, this means overhauling their eating habits entirely. That can be tough at first, so experts recommend phasing out less desirable foods over time.
For example, you can cut out the following, one at a time:
- Refined carbs: White flour and sugary food or beverages are also low in nutrient content. You won’t get the same amount of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in the same amount of calories. Refined carbs contribute to overeating, obesity and blood sugar spikes.
- Saturated fats: You’ll find saturated fats in whole-milk dairy products, baked goods and red meat. Saturated fats increase the “bad” type of cholesterol levels (LDL), and can increase your risk of heart disease.
- Processed foods: Next, start phasing out processed foods like packaged snacks and fast food. These are loaded with refined carbs, extra added sugar, high levels of sodium and saturated fats.
- Cured meats: Finally, it’s time to give up the cured meats like deli meat, hot dogs and bacon. These are high in sodium and are linked to heart disease.
So what can you eat? If you’re used to relying on the foods above, you might wonder what’s left. Fortunately, there’s plenty to try. Lean proteins like chicken, fish, tofu and lentils are good choices, especially when paired with fruits and vegetables. When you want bread products, look for whole grains. These unprocessed grains haven’t been stripped of their nutritional content, so you’ll get more vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
Finally, focus on getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. They help raise your good cholesterol levels and lower your bad cholesterol. This lowers your risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Look for natural sources of omega-3s, like in nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon or mackerel.
It’s important to note that the metabolic syndrome diet is not synonymous with the keto diet, which focuses on lowering carbs while eating plenty of protein and fat in every meal. It can have similar effects, but if you don’t feel like you can keep up with the diet in the long term, it won’t be as helpful. Use the metabolic syndrome diet to address your health issues and keep your weight at a healthy level.
The bottom line
The metabolic syndrome diet is proven to help patients lower their risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes—but you don’t have to have metabolic syndrome to reap the benefits. By cutting out refined or processed foods, cured meat and lowering your saturated fat intake, you can enjoy more energy, better nutrition and even lose weight.
Before starting any diet, consult your medical doctor. While the metabolic syndrome diet is a healthy approach to eating regardless of your health conditions, your individual health factors may demand a different approach. It’s always best to get professional input before overhauling the way you eat.
Once you phase out the unhealthy foods, however, you’ll notice almost immediate results in terms of energy and overall well-being. That Double-Double might taste good now, but regularly eating processed food, fast food, cured meats and saturated fats can have devastating health effects. However you choose to approach the metabolic syndrome diet, we suspect you’ll never want to go back to those vices.