- Metabolic syndrome can be treated or even reversed through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
- The best foods for a metabolic syndrome diet are vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains.
- People with metabolic syndrome should avoid foods high in sugar, simple carbohydrates, and sodium.
- Check out Insider’s Insider Reference Library for more advice.
Up to a third of adults in the United States have metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that increase chances of development
, Stroke and type 2 diabetes.
However, you can reduce the progression of metabolic syndrome – and even reverse it – by eating healthily and getting physically active most days.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome relates to a group of five risk factors. To be diagnosed with the disease, you must have three or more of the following symptoms:
Several factors can cause the condition, including:
However, some lifestyle changes, including exercise and diet, can reverse these risk factors.
“The goal is to make sure these changes are possible for the rest of your life, and not just short-term,” says Jerlyn Jones, RDN, spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Foods to eat when you have metabolic syndrome
The foods we eat are directly responsible for insulin sensitivity and elevated triglycerides, says Corinne Bush, CNS, director of nutrition and education at the American Nutrition Association.
Here are some foods that you should eat more to treat metabolic syndrome.
6 Health Benefits Of Fiber, And How To Add More To Your Diet
A 2008 study found that fiber reduced metabolic risk factors. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains.
Whole grains are better than refined grains because “your body absorbs them more slowly, so they don’t cause rapid spikes in insulin that can trigger hunger and cravings,” says Jones.
Some of the best high fiber snacks are:
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Omega-3 fatty acids
6 Science-Based Benefits Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids And How To Add More To Your Diet
According to a small study from 2008, omega-3 fatty acids lowered blood pressure and cholesterol in people with metabolic syndrome.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids are mainly oily fish or some vegetable oils. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA, DHA, and ALA. The body can produce EPA and DHA by consuming ALA.
Foods that are rich in these nutrients include:
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Yuqing Liu / Insider
According to Bush, most people don’t consume enough omega-3s, so she recommends eating these foods or taking a good quality fish oil supplement.
A 2016 review found that adequate daily potassium intake may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and obesity. “The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through your urine,” which helps lower blood pressure, says Jones.
Sources of potassium are:
Foods To Avoid When You Have Metabolic Syndrome
Some foods can worsen the risk factors for metabolic syndrome. Here are some to avoid or limit.
A large 2019 study of middle-aged Korean men found that consuming 20% of the calories from total sugar intake was significantly associated with metabolic syndrome. Another 2020 review found that sugary drinks are linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
Some examples of sugary foods to avoid include:
- Sweetened drinks such as soft drinks, sweetened teas, and sports drinks
3 Simple Tips To Reduce Your Sodium Intake – And How Much Per Day To Consume
A 2013 study found that high sodium intake in adults ages 18 to 85 was linked to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
Some high sodium foods to limit include:
- Potato chips and other salty snacks
- Cold cuts and sausages
A 2019 review of obese patients with insulin resistance found that simple carbohydrate intake lowered HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
Simple carbohydrates have less fiber and more sugar than complex carbohydrates, says Jones. Most of your carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates like whole grain bread and other whole grain products.
Some sources of simple carbohydrates that need to be reduced include:
7 Day Sample Meal Schedule for Metabolic Syndrome
All people’s nutritional needs and eating habits are different, so one size is not suitable for all. Eating timing can also come into play, Bush says. So it is best to work with a registered dietitian. Here is an example of a Jones menu:
Frittata with broccoli, peas and avocado.
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breakfast: Omelette with broccoli
Having lunch: Pack of canned cucumber and wild salmon
dinner: Whole wheat pasta with peas, cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes and parmesan
Lentil soup with wholemeal bread.
Brian Hagiwara / Getty Images
breakfast: Oat flakes with flax seeds, blueberries and almond milk
Having lunch: Lentil soup with wholemeal bread
dinner: Polenta with cheese, pepper and green beans
Quinoa bowl with grilled chicken and vegetables.
wmaster890 / Getty Images
Breakfast: Scrambled Egg Tofu Burrito
Having lunch: Red beans and rice with chopped green peppers and a spinach salad
dinner: Quinoa bowl with grilled chicken and green vegetables
Salad with grilled chicken and tomatoes.
kajakiki / Getty Images
breakfast: Toasted oatmeal with low-fat milk, raspberries and hard-boiled egg
Having lunch: Salad with chicken, tomato, carrots and cucumber
dinner: Grilled salmon, sweet potato and Brussels sprouts
Whole grain banana pancakes.
happy_lark / Getty Images
breakfast: Whole grain pancakes, turkey sausage and banana
Having lunch: Canned Wild Salmon, Brown Rice, and Edamame
dinner: Black bean burrito with cheese, peppers and plantains
Grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich.
LauriPatterson / Getty Images
breakfast: Tomato and egg on an English muffin
Having lunch: Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread
dinner: Tuna casserole with green beans
Oatmeal with bananas, almonds and raspberries.
Arx0nt / Getty Images
breakfast: Oatmeal with vanilla, almonds and banana
Having lunch: Lean sandwich with roast beef, tomatoes and lettuce
dinner: Chili with beans and vegetables
Insider to take away
Eating a diet high in fiber, healthy fats, and vegetables can reduce various risk factors that contribute to metabolic syndrome. Along with adequate exercise, a heart-healthy whole foods diet can help improve or even reverse metabolic syndrome. However, it is best to work with a registered dietitian to find the right plan for you.