Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition that puts you at greater risk for heart attack, stroke and other serious diseases. An unhealthy lifestyle is the biggest contributor to metabolic syndrome, including eating a high amount of calories, physical inactivity and weight gain. Fortunately, metabolic syndrome can be managed and improved with lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity and eating a healthy, balanced diet. Take a look at our best tips to improve metabolic syndrome.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health conditions that occur together that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and other health problems related to fatty build-up in your artery walls. These conditions include:
- increased blood pressure
- high blood sugar
- excess body fat around the waist
- abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Metabolic syndrome is also known as Syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, and dysmetabolic syndrome.
What Are The Causes and Risk Factors?
Although the exact cause of metabolic syndrome is unknown, underlying causes include obesity, insulin resistance, physical inactivity, genetic factors, increasing age and a sedentary lifestyle. You’re also more likely to have metabolic syndrome if you had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
Many features of metabolic syndrome are associated with insulin resistance, which means the body doesn’t use insulin efficiently to lower glucose and triglyceride levels. Lifestyle factors such as poor dietary habits, inactivity and interrupted sleep patterns can result in insulin resistance.
How is Metabolic Syndrome Diagnosed?
You are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome when you have 3 or more of the following:
- High blood glucose (sugar) or are taking glucose lowering medications
- Low levels of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood
- Large waist circumference (40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women)
- High blood pressure or are taking blood pressure medications
How to Treat & Prevent Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition, but you can reduce your risks significantly by making certain lifestyle changes. These include:
- Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight
- Increasing physical activity to at least 30 minutes most days
- Eating a heart healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fish
- Not smoking
- Working with your doctor to monitor and manage your blood glucose, blood cholesterol and blood pressure
10 Foods to Eat and Avoid with Metabolic Syndrome
Foods to Eat
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood pressure and cholesterol in people who have metabolic syndrome. Sources of omega-3 are mostly found in fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel, and plant-based oils including flax seed oil, chia seeds and walnuts. You may also consider taking a high quality fish oil supplement.
2. Fibre-Rich Foods
Fibre has been found to reduce metabolic risk factors. Foods high in fibre include fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains. Whole grains are much healthier than refined grains because your body absorbs them more slowly, so they don’t cause a rapid spike in insulin.
3. Foods High in Potassium
The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through your urine, which helps lower blood pressure. Potassium is key to reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and obesity. Foods high in potassium include bananas, spinach, dates, edamame, mushrooms and lentils.
4. Foods with Vitamin E
People with metabolic syndrome have higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation. They require more antioxidants like vitamin E to combat those harmful effects. You can get a good dose of vitamin E from foods like almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, spinach and broccoli.
5. Healthy Fats
Healthy fats including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may help keep your heart healthy. They lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, and decrease bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. Healthy fats are found in nuts, sets, avocados, fatty fish, eggs, and oils like olive, safflower and canola.
Foods to Avoid
1. Foods High In Sugar
Sugar-sweetened foods and beverages can increase your risk for metabolic syndrome. Reduce your intake of foods high in refined sugar including cookies, cakes, baked goods, corn syrup, white bread, white rice, white flour, crackers and sweetened beverages like soft drinks, fruit juices and sports drinks.
2. Simple Carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates include candy, syrup and soda. They have less fibre and more sugar than complex carbohydrates and have been found to lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
3. Trans Fats
Trans fats are often added to processed foods to give them a longer shelf life. They may raise unhealthy cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Trans fat is also linked to type 2 diabetes. Reduce your intake of foods like packaged cookies, deep-fried foods, frozen pizzas, frozen pies, cake mixes, margarine, vegetable shortening, pies and pastries.
4. Foods High in Sodium
Foods high in sodium such as potato chips, pizza, salted nuts, frozen foods, canned soups and cold cuts have been linked to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. The less of these foods you eat, the better.
5. Artificial Sweeteners
Stay away from artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. They have been found to raise blood sugar levels and can increase your risk of diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is quite a serious condition, but it can be managed with lifestyle and diet changes. Use these tips to improve your daily life!