This diet mimics the effects of Ozempic—without the risks and side effects

By Frances Gatta | Fact-checked by Hale Goetz
Published July 2, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Foods that naturally increase GLP-1 levels could be an alternative to Ozempic and other semaglutide medications for weight management without the associated side effects, risk of overdosing, and barriers to access.

  • Foods high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats can promote weight loss by stimulating GLP-1 release.

  • Physicians can encourage patients to make healthier dietary choices to improve their weight by educating them on the other benefits of these foods for blood sugar control and cardiovascular health.

The surge in popularity of semaglutide drugs (such as Ozempic and Wegovy) for weight loss has been accompanied by a concerning rise in accidental overdoses. In 2023, poison control centers nationwide received nearly 3,000 calls involving semaglutide from January through November that year, with some cases leading to hospitalization—representing a 15-fold increase from 2019.[]

Aside from the risk of overdose, taking Ozempic may cause uncomfortable side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Along with barriers to access due to high prices and low inventory, semaglutide may not be a good fit for some of your patients looking to lose weight. 

Fortunately, physicians can advise their patients about diet changes and certain foods that can mimic the effects of the weight loss medication. Let’s take a closer look. 

Ozempic-mimicking foods

Glucagon-like peptide 1 agonists (GLP-1 agonists), including Ozempic and Wegovy, imitate the action of  GLP-1 released in the gastrointestinal tract in response to eating.[]

Consuming foods high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats can also stimulate the release of GLP-1, which then promotes weight loss, in addition to other health benefits, including regulating blood sugar, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improving cardiovascular function, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular events.[]

Foods that naturally increase GLP-1 levels include soluble fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

Soluble fiber

Water-soluble fibers primarily come from plants. In the body, they create a thick gel-like substance and are broken down by bacteria in the colon, producing gasses, short-chain fatty acids, and other by-products.[] They also slow down digestion and nutrient absorption, increasing satiety and decreasing appetite.[]

These fibers have been shown to stimulate GLP-1 secretion and benefit people with obesity and type 2 diabetes.[] They can help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. 

Foods rich in soluble fibers include:

  • Most fruits, including apples, bananas, pears, and oranges

  • Legumes like beans and lentils

  • Broccoli and other fibrous vegetables

  • Barley, oats, and other whole grains

  • Root vegetables, including carrots and potatoes


Researchers have long recognized the association between protein and weight loss, partly due to its ability to increase the levels of GLP-1 and other hormones that suppress appetite, including cholecystokinin (CCK) and peptide tyrosine-tyrosine (PYY). “Emerging evidence suggests that the synergy of protein and calcium could also act as a potent secretagogue of GLP-1,” write authors publishing in Advances in Nutrition.[]

A high-protein diet also helps the body burn more calories because of its elevated diet-induced thermogenesis, which requires more energy to digest compared to carbohydrates and fats.[] It also helps maintain resting energy expenditure by preventing a decrease in fat-free mass.

Food sources of protein include:

  • Dairy products like Greek yogurt 

  • Eggs

  • Lean meat like chicken breast

  • Salmon and other fish

  • Legumes

  • Nuts and seeds 

Healthy fats

Healthy fats, including monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids,  are another food group that can effectively trigger the release of GLP-1 from L cells.[]

Patients can consider replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats for weight loss and other health benefits, including improving blood cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.[]

Foods rich in healthy fats include:

  • Avocados

  • Seeds like pumpkin seeds

  • Olive and canola oils

  • Corn

  • Fish

  • Peanuts

  • Soybeans

What this means for you

Educating patients looking to achieve a healthier body weight about the impact of certain foods on GLP-1 levels can empower them to embrace healthier dietary choices and an active lifestyle before considering semaglutide medications like Wegovy and Ozempic. It's also essential for patients to learn that Ozempic use carries the risk of overdose and distressing gastrointestinal symptoms, including vomiting and abdominal pain.

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