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Metabolic syndrome is a precursor to a number of lifestyle-related chronic illnesses caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
Our experts explore causes, symptoms and lifestyle changes for metabolic syndrome. You can also use our Q&A service to ask a question about metabolic syndrome.
What is metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself; it’s a set of conditions that affect a growing number of people. Actually, it is so widespread that an estimate 1 North American in 6 has it and the numbers are rising. If the trend continues, it will become the number 1 risk factor for heart disease, worse scourge than cigarette smoking. It predominantly affects people from African, Hispanic, Asian and Native origins.
This set of conditions was identified relatively recently, less than 20 years ago. The more of these conditions you have, the more likely it is that you’ll suffer from heart disease, diabetes, a stroke, colorectal cancer, and so on. The conditions include
Causes of metabolic syndrome
While hereditary factors play a part, the syndrome is caused above all by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. However, it is also linked to insulin resistance, which prevents cells from responding normally to insulin.
When food in broken down during the digestive process, the pancreas releases an hormone called insulin, that allows glucose (sugars) to be used as a source of energy by the cells.
In insulin resistance, the release of insulin increases, but blood glucose level increases as well since the cells are not utilising the glucose.
Lifestyle changes for metabolic syndrome
Diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess weight all boil down to lifestyle.
If you’d like to improve your health quickly and perhaps cut down on the prescription medications you need to take to treat your conditions, you absolutely need to change your lifestyle.
First, you need to exercise at least a half-hour a day. Walking is a simple and enjoyable exercise, especially when you do it with friends.
Most people don’t get enough exercise—you’re certainly not alone in that respect—so it shouldn’t be hard to find someone to exercise with.
Diet for metabolic syndrome
Eliminate as many carbohydrates from your diet as possible. Limit yourself to one portion of grains per day—this includes bread, pasta and anything else containing flour. Avoid refined grains—that means no white flour—stick to whole grains instead. Keep in mind that store-bought “whole-wheat bread” is rarely “whole-grain” at all.
Examples of one portion of grains:
- Bread = 1 slice
- Pasta = 1 cup
- Bagel = ½
Avoid bananas and eat no more than two fruits a day (in portions the size of a pear). If you’re a dessert person, that’s when you should have your fruit. It’s a great option because fruits contain sugars that have less of an effect on blood sugar than refined sugars do.
Avoid aspartame and other artificial sweeteners—they’re just plain bad for you. If you need to sweeten something, try using stevia, a plant that basically tricks your taste buds into perceiving sweetness, though it contains no sugar at all. It isn’t bad for you and it’s ideal for diabetics. But be careful what you combine it with!
Your diet should be focused primarily on protein and a lot of vegetables. Ideally, you should eat one portion of protein at each meal (including breakfast) and as a snack between meals. It’s better to eat small amounts of protein regularly, about every three hours.
Examples of one portion of protein:
- Meat = 170–225 g (6–8 oz.)
- Eggs = 2
- Pulses (beans, peas and lentils) = ½–1 cup (if in soup form), ¼ cup for hummus. *** Pulses are very nutritious and particularly good for cholesterol. Eat at least one portion a day.
- Nuts = 10–12 almonds or the equivalent (always unsalted and raw to protect and preserve their good fats)
- Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, etc.) = 2 Tbsp. (always unsalted and raw to protect and preserve their good fats)
- Unsweetened, unsalted nut butters (natural) = 1 Tbsp.
- Cottage cheese (but not other cheeses, which are too high in fat) = ½ cup
Vegetables should account for at least half of the contents of your plate at lunch and dinner. Don’t include iceberg lettuce in your portions, as it has no nutritional value and even hinders proper digestions (other lettuces are much better for you). Limit your intake of potatoes, carrots and beets to one portion per day (one portion in all, not one of each), which is equivalent to the size of a small potato.
- Drink plenty of fluids between meals, at least two litres a day.
- Avoid juice, which contains a lot of sugar (even when none is added).
- Limit coffee to one cup a day.
- Drink herbal teas, which count toward your daily water intake.
- If you’re never thirsty, add a little fresh-squeezed lemon juice to your water to help you regain a normal thirst.
You’ll see that by making these few adjustments to your diet, you’ll feel more energized and your energy levels will be more stable. As a result, your health will improve, your blood sugar will be much easier to control and your cholesterol and blood pressure will gradually improve. By adopting a healthier lifestyle, you’ll take back control of your health!
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