Diet for Metabolic Syndrome

belly fat

Is there a diet for metabolic syndrome? Studies have shown that diet can affect metabolic syndrome, and there are dietary precautions you can take to avoid the syndrome and to help if you have it.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of metabolic risk factors in one individual that put them at higher risk of coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes. It is currently estimated that over 50 million Americans have metabolic syndrome.

The characteristics of metabolic syndrome include:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Abdominal obesity
  • Blood fat disorders such as high triglycerides, low HDL and high LDL
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Glucose intolerance
  • High fibrinogen or plasminogen activator inhibitor in the blood
  • Elevated C-reactive protein in the blood, indicative of inflammation

Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance can often lead to all of the above symptoms. It develops gradually over a lifetime as your body no longer is capable of producing a normal insulin response to the foods you eat. It often comes about by intake of foods that tax your body's pancreatic system, including refined grains and sugars. There are a number of other factors that may also cause insulin resistance, such as Vitamin D deficiency, Cushing's syndrome, excess fructose in the diet (usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup) and inflammation.

What Causes Metabolic Syndrome

Before discussing a diet to treat metabolic syndrome, it is beneficial to discover some of the causes and factors associated with the syndrome. These include:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Aging
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Diet
  • Genetic predisposition

Is There a Diet for Metabolic Syndrome?

Since dietary elements such as high fast food intake and diet soda seem to be associated with metabolic syndrome, reducing and/or avoiding intake of these foods can help with prevention and treatment of the syndrome. Additional dietary tips are proffered for management of the diseases and conditions that accompany metabolic syndrome, and are focused around lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and controlling inflammation and blood sugar.

Foods to Avoid

A 2008 study of metabolic syndrome implicated the following foods in its development:

  • Refined grains and sugars
  • Fast foods
  • Processed meat (hot dogs, sausage, bologna, etc.)
  • Fried foods
  • Red meat
  • Diet soda

Foods that Help Control Metabolic Syndrome

  • Dairy products
  • Whole grains
  • Lean meats

General Recommendations

There are several recommendations for those undergoing a diet to treat metabolic syndrome. These recommendations include:

  • Get more exercise.
  • Eat fewer calories by controlling portion size and selecting foods that are lower in fat and sugar.
  • Eat less saturated fats.
  • Instead of eating full-fat dairy, eat skim dairy.
  • Don't eat anything with trans-fats in it.
  • Have at least one meatless dinner each week.
  • Eat lean protein such as skinless white meat poultry and fish.
  • Limit your intake of eggs and cheese.
  • Eat more whole grains such as oatmeal, puffed-grain cereals and whole grain pastas.
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables - at least five servings per day.
  • Snack on fruit and veggies instead of traditional snack foods.
  • Incorporate fish into your diet at least three times per week in order to promote a healthy Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acid balance.
  • Supplement with a high-quality fish oil.
  • Make wiser carbohydrate choices that minimize the "white foods" such as white rice, potatoes and corn. Instead, substitute brown or wild rice, sweet potatoes and lentils.
  • Skip dessert and avoid processed sugars.
  • Drink water or decaffeinated tea rather than juice, soda and coffee.
  • Incorporate legumes like kidney beans into your diet.
  • Make sure you get adequate intake of vitamin D, either through supplementation, enriched dairy products or sun exposure.
  • Avoid foods containing fructose and high fructose corn syrup (also called HCFS). Read labels to determine all of the hidden sources of this ubiquitous ingredient.
  • Shop around the edges of the grocery store and avoid the aisles. The edges contain the least processed, healthiest foods such as lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy.

How Many Calories?

Caloric intake requirements are highly individual. A good way to calculate your own unique caloric needs is to use a good basal metabolic rate calculator that takes into account your activity levels. For best results, eat an amount of calories that falls between your basal metabolic calculation and your activity calculation each day.


Work with your doctor to see if supplementation can help to reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. There is some evidence that chromium picolinate and vanadium may help individuals suffering from metabolic syndrome. Before self-prescribing any supplements, always check with a qualified health care practitioner.

Metabolic syndrome is manageable with a combination of diet and exercise. Before undertaking any diet, including a diet for metabolic syndrome, always check with your health care practitioner.

Diet for Metabolic Syndrome