“Food sequencing” can really help glucose levels. Here’s what the science says about eating salad before carbs

Biochemist and Glucose Revolution author Jessie Inhauspé says modifying your diet can change your life.

Among her recommendations in the mainstream media and on Instagram, the founder of the “Glucose Goddess movement” says that eating food in a particular order is key.

By eating the salads first, protein first, and finishing the meal with starchy carbohydrates, it says the blood glucose spikes will be flattened, which is best for you.

Scientifically speaking, does this make sense? It turns out, yes, in part.



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What is a glucose spike?

A spike in glucose occurs in the bloodstream about 30-60 minutes after eating carbohydrates. Many things determine the height and duration of the peak. These include what you ate with or before carbohydrates, how much fiber there is in carbohydrates, and your body’s ability to secrete and use the hormone insulin.

For people with certain medical conditions, any tactic to flatten the glucose spike is incredibly important. These conditions include:

  • diabetes

  • reactive hypoglycemia (a particular type of recurrent sugar crash)

  • postprandial hypotension (low blood pressure after eating) or

  • if you have had bariatric surgery.

This is because prolonged high glucose spikes have lasting and damaging impacts on many hormones and proteins, including those that trigger inflammation. Inflammation is linked to a number of conditions including diabetes and heart disease.



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Different foods, different peaks

Eat different types of food before carbohydrates affect glucose spikes? Turns out, yes. This is also not new evidence.

Scientists have long known that high-fiber foods, such as salads, slow gastric emptying (the rate at which food leaves the stomach). Hence, high-fiber foods slow down the delivery of glucose and other nutrients to the small intestine for absorption into the blood.

Salads slow down the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine.
Shutterstock

Proteins and fats also slow down gastric emptying. Protein has the added benefit of stimulating a hormone called glucagon-like-peptide 1 (or GLP1). When food proteins affect the cells of the intestine, this hormone is secreted, further slowing gastric emptying. The hormone also affects the pancreas where it aids in the secretion of the hormone insulin which absorbs glucose into the blood.

In fact, drugs that mimic the functioning of GLP1 (known as GLP1 receptor agonists) are a very effective new class of drugs for people with type 2 diabetes. They are making a real difference in improving blood sugar control.



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How about eating food in sequence?

Most of the scientific research that eating food in a particular order makes a difference for glucose spikes involves “preloading” fiber, fat, or protein before a meal. Typically, the preload is a liquid and administered approximately 30 minutes before the carbohydrate.

In one study, drinking a whey protein shake 30 minutes before (rather than with) a meal of mashed potatoes was more effective in slowing stomach emptying. Both options were better at lowering the glucose spike than drinking water before a meal.

While this evidence shows that eating protein before carbohydrates helps reduce glucose spikes, the evidence for eating other food groups separately and sequentially during an average meal is not as strong.

Steak on barbecue on the grill
A steak takes longer than mashed potatoes to become a size ready for the small intestine.
Shutterstock

Inhauspé says that fiber, fat and protein don’t mix in the stomach, but they do. But the nutrients do not leave the stomach until they have been baked in a fine grain size.

The steak takes longer than the puree to be baked into a fine particle. Given the additional fact that liquids drain faster than solids and people tend to complete the entire dinner in about 15 minutes, there is real evidence that eating a meal within a particular sequence will be more beneficial than eating the foods. , as you prefer, and all confused on the plate?

Yes, but it’s not very strong.

One small study tested five different meal sequences in 16 people without diabetes. Participants had to eat their meal within 15 minutes.

There was no overall difference in glucose spikes between the groups who ate their vegetables before meat and rice compared to the other sequences.

What is the take-home message?

Watching for those glucose spikes is especially important if you have diabetes or a handful of other medical conditions. If so, your doctor or dietician will advise how to change your meals or food intake to avoid glucose spikes. Ordering food can be part of that advice.

For the rest of us, don’t make knots trying to eat your meal in a particular order. But consider removing sugary drinks and adding fiber, protein, or fat to carbohydrates to slow gastric emptying and flatten glucose spikes.

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