Several studies over the last decade support that post-meal blood sugars can be improved by changing the order of the foods eaten. By starting with vegetables and protein foods, then moving to carbohydrates, participants across studies experienced a significant improvement in postprandial blood glucose levels. This simple adjustment of food order provides people living with diabetes with an easy tool to reach glucose targets.
In a 2015 study published in Diabetes Care, a dozen subjects were fed the same meal of grilled chicken, ciabatta bread, orange juice, lettuce, and tomato salad plus steamed broccoli with butter on two different days. The researchers measured glucose and insulin levels before food ingestion and 30, 60, and 120 min after the start of the meal.
When vegetables and protein were consumed first, before carbohydrates, compared with the reverse food order, there was a 28.6% decrease in average post-meal glucose. The authors concluded that “the temporal sequence of carbohydrate ingestion during a meal has a significant impact on postprandial glucose and insulin excursions”.
The simple action of eating veggies and protein leads to improvement in glycemia through optimal timing of carbohydrate consumption during a meal.
In a different study where researchers recruited 15 participants from Weill Cornell Medical College. Participants consumed the same meal for 3 days changing the three separate food-type orders: carbohydrate, protein, and vegetables.
As with the previous study, researchers found that “although all baseline fasting glucose concentrations were similar, glucose levels were decreased at 30 and 60 minutes after the protein and vegetable first order.”
In addition, the vegetable first meal order resulted in lower glucose levels at 30 and 60 minutes than the carbohydrate first meal order. Researchers found that the vegetable first meal pattern reduced insulin excursions and that incremental AUC for insulin was 43.8% lower than for the carbohydrate first meal order.
Researchers say the reason for improved glucose is complicated, but is probably due to a combination of factors. Eating protein and veggies first may stimulate the early release of GLP-1 hormones and consuming fiber-rich vegetables can slow down carbohydrate digestion.
Fiber Foods – the Unsung Heroes
The benefits of fiber have been supported by over 100 years of research. Studies reveal that eating more fiber can lower your risk of developing serious illness over time.
“When compared with those who consume very little fiber, people at the high end of the fiber-eating spectrum saw their risk for dying from heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and/or colon cancer plummet by 16 to 24 percent, investigators reported.”
Exciting enough, the more fiber a person consumed, the risk of developing those illnesses continued to decrease. The range of illnesses that a higher intake of fiber seemed to impact surprised scientists.
Researchers say that American’s on average, eat less than 15 grams of fiber per day. However, increasing intake to 25-29 gms per day is just “adequate.” The more fiber a person incorporates in their diet, the greater the decrease in the overall risk of early death.
Every additional 15-gram bump in daily whole grain intake was found to curtail an individual’s overall risk of early death — as well as their risk of early death from heart disease — by between 2 and 19 percent.
Researchers also found that increasing fiber intake had no risky health effects and that it is never too late to start embracing fiber every day!
“When considering all the trials of increasing fiber intakes, those participants that did reduce both their body weight and the total cholesterol in their blood, two important predictors of disease.”
Although none of these discoveries are surprising, scientists hope this will lead to changes in dietary recommendations. “This is just one more piece of evidence that supports and further solidifies the recommendations registered dietitian nutritionists have been making for years,” said Sandon.
It is never too late to start eating healthy and fiber may be a great starting point for many!
Here are some common foods and their fiber content:
Please see our Plant-Based Eating Resource Page for more info!
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