Metabolic syndrome is a prevalent condition associated with symptoms such as increased weight, especially around the waist area, elevated blood pressure and spiked cholesterol. It’s also linked to other health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Managing metabolic syndrome doesn’t have to feel like navigating a maze. You can start with what you put on your plate. Here are six dietitian-approved vegetables to add to your diet and other ways to help manage and lower the risk of this condition.
Pictured Recipe: Charred Cabbage Steaks with Pesto & Burrata
What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome, also referred to as insulin resistance syndrome, is a cluster of conditions that heighten the risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease and other health issues, per the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
According to NHLBI, about one in three adults have this condition. While metabolic syndrome is prevalent in the U.S., fortunately, it may be preventable through making healthy lifestyle changes. Some of the best ways to support metabolic health include regularly exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and eating nutrient-dense foods.
Do Vegetables Help Reduce Metabolic Risk?
According to a review published in 2020 in Nutrients, vegetables, along with fruits, are the primary food source of antioxidants and polyphenols, which have been linked to better insulin, blood and glucose levels. Additionally, vegetables contain limited sodium and fat, mainly saturated fatty acids (SFA), which are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
6 Best Vegetables to Support Metabolic Health
Vegetables are beneficial for people with metabolic syndrome due to their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These foods are also rich in fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Derek Lipton, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSCC, a sports dietitian at Full Circle Sports, says, “The best vegetables are ANY vegetables that you like. While variety is key to getting adequate nutrients, focusing on the vegetables you like most will help increase your intake of fiber—which plays a massive role in reducing caloric intake and cholesterol levels.”
Rather than implementing a new eating plan, adding these vegetables to your rotation one day at a time can be easier. Explore these fiber-rich foods that support healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Broccoli can help improve insulin sensitivity, as stated in a 2021 study in the Frontiers in Nutrition. This vegetable is low in calories and contains nutrients that benefit your metabolic health. It contains sulforaphane, a chemical known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. What better way to reap the many health benefits associated with broccoli than by enjoying this delicious Broccoli-Feta Soup?
Artichoke hearts are a good source of manganese, a mineral that plays a role in the metabolism of glucose and carbohydrates. Additionally, they are also a good source of potassium, supporting a healthy blood pressure. Cooking artichokes is pretty easy—you can enjoy them steamed, grilled and even microwave-cooked. Enjoy this fiber-rich veggie with these lemony and fresh Smashed Artichokes with Lemon-Dill Aioli.
Cooked spinach contains impressive health benefits. In a 1-cup serving, you can acquire 19% of your calcium requirement, 33% of your daily iron and 17% of potassium. It may have impressive benefits, but fresh spinach can get slimy very easily. Knowing how to store spinach properly in your refrigerator is essential. You can also reap its benefits by using frozen spinach like in this mouthwatering Hearty Chickpea & Spinach Stew.
According to a 2022 study published in Antioxidants, metabolic syndrome is associated with oxidative stress, increasing the risk of other chronic diseases. Vitamin C, a known antioxidant, helps protect the body from the harmful effects of oxidative stress.
If you’re looking for a vegetable rich in this type of antioxidant, look no further than cabbage. This food is also high in fiber content, which aids blood sugar control and satiety. Consider whipping up this flavorful Cabbage Parmesan for a vitamin-C boost.
5. Chili Peppers
Chili peppers have capsaicin, which is the reason behind their intense and hot flavor. This compound is associated with many benefits, from helping increase HDL (known as “good” cholesterol) and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure to providing antioxidants. Looking for delicious ways to add this health-supporting veggie? Try these Turkey Enchilada Poblano Peppers.
Kale is also rich in vitamin C, helping fight oxidative stress. This vegetable is also a good source of fiber, helping avoid blood sugar spikes, a common consequence of metabolic syndrome. There are many ways to add this leafy green to your diet—eat them as chips, use them in your salad or mix them with your favorite fruit to create a smoothie.
According to Catherine Gervacio, RDN, “Kale is also rich in fiber and nutrients, but its vitamin K content makes it one of the best vegetables to eat. Vitamin K has anti-inflammatory properties associated with metabolic syndrome. Some studies associate this vitamin with insulin sensitivity.”
Other Tips to Manage Metabolic Syndrome
Aside from eating the vegetables for metabolic syndrome listed above, here are other ways to boost your metabolic function.
Get Adequate Sleep
Quality sleep is essential for overall health. A 2023 study in Nutrients suggests that sleep duration can affect metabolic systems. Metabolic syndrome severity scores (MSSS), used to assess the prevalence of metabolic syndrome, were higher among subjects who slept less than seven hours daily. Always aim to get seven to nine hours of rest at night.
Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is essential when managing metabolic syndrome. Being mindful of portions and food choices can help you reduce the risk of other related diseases.
Start by cultivating awareness of nutritional parameters. To help lower the risk of diabetes, strive for a moderate carbohydrate intake per meal—30-60 grams or three to four carbohydrate servings/counts.
Additionally, follow the recommendation of the American Heart Association to aim for a dietary pattern that achieves 5-6% of calories from saturated fat.
The Bottom Line
Sticking to a nutritious diet can be your ally against metabolic syndrome. Add these nutrient-packed vegetables to your rotation. Limit the amount of added sodium, which can elevate blood pressure and increase your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
Eating vegetables isn’t the only thing that can help manage and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. Remember to get plenty of quality sleep and practice mindful eating.