Metabolic Syndrome Diet Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid

Metabolic Syndrome Diet Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid

Metabolic Syndrome Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

According to the American Heart Association, metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms characterized by having at least three or more of the following factors:

  • High blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • High triglycerides (a type of fat)
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol
  • Abdominal obesity (large waist size or an apple-shaped body)

Metabolic syndrome greatly increases the risk of type II diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.

What is the root cause of metabolic syndrome?

Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance occurs when cells become less sensitive to insulin.

Normally, the pancreas produces insulin in response to increased blood sugar levels post meals. Insulin signals the cells to pull sugar from the bloodstream, which can be used for energy or stored for later use.

With insulin resistance, cells become less sensitive to insulin, increasing blood sugar levels and eventually the risk of diabetes and other complications.


Obesity is a significant risk factor for metabolic syndrome, but adults at a healthy weight are also at risk.

A large study has reported that metabolic syndrome is seen in up to 8% of adults of normal weight (BMI lower than 25), up to 32% in overweight adults (BMI 25 to 30), and up to 71% in obese adults (BMI higher than 30).

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In addition, excessive fat tissue increases the production of certain harmful chemicals, including clusterin, a protein that plays a key role in cell death.


Some studies have linked chronic, low-grade inflammation with metabolic syndrome.

Obese people tend to have greater production of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines and C-reactive protein in fat cells, which has been linked to increased cardiovascular risk. Other risk factors for chronic inflammation include emotional stress, older age, and a Western diet.

Medical conditions

Some chronic medical conditions can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, including hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome, and abdominal obesity.

Who is at risk of metabolic syndrome?

Risk factors closely tied to metabolic syndrome include:

  • Age (more common in older people)
  • Ethnicity (African Americans and Mexican Americans are more likely to get metabolic syndrome)
  • Body mass index higher than 25
  • Personal or family history of diabetes
  • Being past menopause
  • History of heavy drinking
  • Smoking
  • High-fat diet
  • Stress
  • Sedentary lifestyle

What foods are good for metabolic syndrome?

  • Fiber-rich foods
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Dried beans
  • Lentils
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Bran
  • Whole-grain bread and pasta
  • Cinnamon
  • Bananas
  • Dates
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Edamame beans
  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Potato with skin
  • Tomatoes
  • Oat bran
  • Yogurt
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Navy beans
  • Avocados
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Trout

What foods are bad for metabolic syndrome?

  • Refined carbs
  • White flour, bread, and rice
  • Sugary snacks
  • Potato chips
  • Crackers
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Packaged cookies
  • Margarine
  • Frozen pizza
  • Frozen fries
  • Cake mixes
  • Pies and pastries
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What is the best diet for metabolic syndrome?

The best diet for metabolic syndrome is one that is healthy, balanced, and sustainable for your lifestyle. People with metabolic syndrome can lower their risk with any diet that promotes weight loss, although certain diets have shown to be especially helpful:

  • Mediterranean diet: The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats and has been shown to help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. In addition to aiding in weight loss, the Mediterranean diet can lower inflammation and improve endothelial function due to its richness in antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats.
  • Low-carb diet: Low-carb diets contain fewer than 30% of calories from carbohydrates. They promote weight loss and help reverse risks associated with metabolic syndrome by improving insulin sensitivity.
  • Vegetarian diet: Large studies have linked vegetarian diets to a lower risk of metabolic syndrome. Incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables in a plant-based diet can reverse metabolic syndrome in people who already have it.
  • Intermittent fasting: Intermittent fasting has become a popular eating pattern in recent years. Some protocols involve restricting food for several hours a day (consuming all meals within an 8-hour window), whereas others restrict calories several days a week. Studies have reported that intermittent fasting can lower insulin resistance and diabetes risk. If you are on any medications or have existing health concerns including pregnancy, consult your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet for metabolic syndrome. Choose the one that is easiest for you to stick with long-term.

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What is the best way to manage metabolic syndrome?

Here are some tips that can help you prevent or manage metabolic syndrome:

  • Consume a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Limit simple carb intake
  • Choose healthy fats
  • Eat high-potassium foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, beet greens, and bananas
  • Limit sodium intake
  • Limit or avoid alcohol
  • Avoid smoking
  • Get enough sleep and rest
  • Engage in regular exercise

7-day sample meal plan for metabolic syndrome

Table: 7-day sample meal plan for metabolic syndrome

Omelet with broccoli Cucumber and a canned salmon wrap Whole wheat pasta with peas, cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan cheese
Oatmeal with flax seeds, blueberries, and almond milk Lentil soup with whole wheat bread Polenta with cheese, peppers, and green beans
Scrambled tofu burrito Red beans and rice with chopped green peppers and a spinach salad Quinoa bowl with grilled chicken and green vegetables
Toasted oat cereal with low-fat milk, raspberries, and hard-boiled egg Salad with chicken, tomato, carrots, and cucumbers Grilled salmon, sweet potato, and Brussels sprouts
Whole wheat pancakes, turkey sausage, and banana Canned wild salmon, brown rice, and edamame Tuna casserole with green beans cheese, peppers, and plantains
Tomato and egg on an English muffin Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread
Oatmeal with vanilla, almonds, and banana Lean roast beef, tomato, and lettuce sandwich Chili with beans and vegetables

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