Insulin sensitivity refers to how responsive your cells are to insulin. You may be able to improve it by getting more sleep and exercise and eating certain health-promotion foods.

Insulin is an essential hormone that controls your blood sugar levels. When your pancreas senses high blood sugar, it makes more insulin to overcome the resistance and reduce your blood sugar.

Over time, this can deplete the pancreas of insulin-producing cells, which is common in type 2 diabetes. Also, prolonged high blood sugar can damage nerves and organs.

If you have insulin resistance, you have a greater chance of developing prediabetes. Other risk factors include a family history of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Learn about insulin resistance versus sensitivity.

Here are 13 natural, science-backed ways to help boost your insulin sensitivity.

1. Get more sleep

Several studies link not getting enough sleep to reduced insulin sensitivity. Catching up on lost sleep can help reverse the effects of less sleep on insulin resistance (1).


A lack of sleep can increase insulin resistance. Getting more sleep can help reverse its effects.

2. Exercise more

Regular physical activity, such as exercising, helps move sugar into the muscles for storage. Working out for half an hour 3–5 days per week can help promote an immediate increase in insulin sensitivity. This can become more permanent after an exercise routine lasting at least eight weeks (2).

Many studies have also found that resistance training can increase insulin sensitivity among men and women with or without diabetes (3, 4, 5).

3. Reduce stress

Stress encourages the body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode, which stimulates the production of stress hormones that break down glycogen, a form of stored sugar, into glucose (6).

Ongoing stress keeps your stress hormone levels high, stimulating nutrient breakdown and increasing blood sugar (7). Many studies have found that high levels of stress hormones also reduce insulin sensitivity (8).

4. Lose a few pounds

Excess weight, especially belly fat, reduces insulin sensitivity and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by making hormones that promote insulin resistance in the muscles and liver (9, 10, 11).

Losing weight is an effective way to lose belly fat, increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce your chance of developing type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes (12).

That said, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor to see if weight loss is the best approach for your health. Even if it is, they may want to supervise your weight loss journey.

There are certain changes you can make to your diet that can help you increase your insulin sensitivity. This includes both adding and limiting various foods and supplements to your diet.

Eat more soluble fiber

Fiber can be divided into two broad categories — soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber helps feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, which have been linked to increased insulin sensitivity (14, 15).

Discover the top 20 foods high in soluble fiber.

Add more colorful fruit and vegetables to your diet

Many studies have found that eating a diet rich in plant compounds is linked to higher insulin sensitivity.

This is because colorful fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants bind to and neutralize molecules called free radicals that can cause harmful inflammation throughout the body (16, 17, 18).

That said, fruit also contains sugar.

Learn how much fruit you should eat per day and what to know about fruit as part of a diabetes eating plan.

Cut down on carbs

Reducing your carb intake could help increase insulin sensitivity because high carb eating patterns tend to lead to spikes in blood sugar (19).

Eating smaller portions of carbs regularly throughout the day provides the body with less sugar at each meal, making insulin’s job easier.

Eating regularly benefits insulin sensitivity, and eating low glycemic index (GI) carbs, in particular, is better because they slow the release of sugar into the blood, giving insulin more time to work efficiently (20, 21).

Learn more about the types of carbs.

Reduce your intake of added sugars

Added sugars, which are found mostly in highly processed foods, include primarily high fructose corn syrup and table sugar (sucrose). Both contain approximately 50% fructose.

Many studies have found that higher intakes of fructose can increase insulin resistance among people with diabetes (22, 23).

The effects of fructose on insulin resistance also appear to affect people who do not have diabetes, as reported in a review of literature showing that consuming a lot of fructose over less than 60 days increased liver insulin resistance, independent of total calorie intake (24).

Learn which foods contain lots of added sugar.

Add herbs and spices to your cooking

Herbs and spices, including fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and garlic, have shown promising results in increasing insulin sensitivity (25, 26).

Other herbs that may have this effect include basil, dill, fennel, parsley, cumin, nutmeg, oregano, and rosemary. Research has identified at least 900 compounds contained in a variety of herbs and spices that may contribute to reducing insulin resistance (25).

Drink more green tea

Several studies have found that drinking green tea can help increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar (27, 28).

These beneficial effects of green tea could be due to its powerful antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which helps increase insulin sensitivity (29).

Try apple cider vinegar

Vinegar could help increase insulin sensitivity by reducing blood sugar and improving the effectiveness of insulin (30).

It also appears to delay the stomach from releasing food into the intestines, giving the body more time to absorb sugar into the bloodstream (31).

Avoid trans fats

Unlike other fats, trans fats provide no health benefits and increase the risk of many diseases (32).

Evidence on the effects of high trans-fat intake on insulin resistance appears to be mixed. Some human studies have found it harmful, while others have not (33, 34).

Try a supplement

Many different supplements can help increase insulin sensitivity, including vitamin C, probiotics, and magnesium. That said, many other supplements, such as zinc, folate, and vitamin D, do not appear to have this effect, according to research (35).

As with all supplements, there is a risk they may interact with any current medication you may be taking. It’s always best to talk with a healthcare professional before you start taking them.

What does it mean to be insulin-sensitive?

Insulin is an important hormone that has many roles in the body. When your insulin sensitivity is low, it puts pressure on your pancreas to increase insulin production to clear sugar from your blood. Low insulin sensitivity is also called insulin resistance.

What are the symptoms of being insulin-sensitive?

Insulin sensitivity describes how your cells respond to insulin. Symptoms develop when your cells are resistant to insulin.

Insulin resistance can result in chronically high blood sugar levels, which are thought to increase your risk of many diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.

Is insulin sensitivity good or bad?

Insulin resistance is bad for your health, but having increased insulin sensitivity is good. It means your cells are responding to insulin in a healthier way, which reduces your chance of developing diabetes.

Why am I suddenly sensitive to insulin?

If you’ve become more sensitive to insulin, this can be a sign that you’re making good lifestyle changes such as engaging in regular exercise and eating a balanced diet.

The bottom line

It’s important to know that there are many things you can do to naturally increase your insulin sensitivity.

Consider trying some of the suggestions in this article to help increase your insulin sensitivity and lower your risk of disease but be sure to talk with a healthcare professional first before making changes, especially adding supplements to your treatment regimen.

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