Is It Really Healthier To Eat Salad For Carbs? Here’s the science about it

Biochemist and author of the Glucose Revolution Jessie Inchauspé says changing your diet can change your life.

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

She says eating salads first, then protein, and finishing the meal with starchy carbs will smooth out blood glucose spikes, which is better for you.

Does this scientifically make sense? It turns out, yes, in part

Is It Really Healthier To Eat Salad For Carbs?  Here's the science about it

What is a glucose spike?

About 30-60 minutes after you eat a carbohydrate, a spike in glucose occurs in your bloodstream. Many things determine how high and how long the peak lasts. These include what you ate with or before the carbohydrate, how much fiber is in the carbohydrate, 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 type of recurrent sugar crash), Postprandial hypotension (low blood pressure after eating), Or if have had bariatric surgery.

That’s because high and prolonged glucose spikes have a lasting and damaging impact on many hormones and proteins, including those that cause inflammation. Inflammation is linked to various conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.

Different foods, different spikes

Does Eating Different Types of Carbohydrate Food Affect Glucose Spikes? Turns out, yes. Nor is this new evidence.

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

Proteins and fats also slow gastric emptying. Protein has the added benefit of stimulating the hormone glucagon-like-peptide 1 (or GLP1). When protein from your food reaches the cells in your gut, this hormone is secreted, further delaying gastric emptying. The hormone also affects the pancreas, where it helps secrete the hormone insulin, which draws up the glucose in your blood.

Drugs that mimic the action of GLP1 (known as GLP1 receptor agonists) are a new and highly effective medication for people with type 2 diabetes. They really make a difference in improving their blood sugar levels.

What about eating food in order?

Most scientific research on whether eating foods in a certain order affects glucose spikes involves giving a fiber, fat, or protein “preload” before meals. Usually, the preload is a liquid and is given about 30 minutes before the carbohydrates.

In one study, drinking a whey protein shake 30 minutes before (rather than with) a mashed potato was better at delaying gastric emptying. Both options were better at reducing the glucose spike than drinking water before meals.

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

Inchauspé says fiber, fat, and protein don’t mix in the stomach — they do. But nutrients don’t leave the stomach until churned to fine particle size.

Steak takes longer than mash to be churned into a fine particle. Considering that liquids empty faster than solids, and people tend to finish their entire dinner in about 15 minutes, there is some real evidence that consuming a meal in any particular order than eating the food, as you wish, and all mixed up on the board?

Yes, but it’s not very strong.

A small study tested five different meal sequences in 16 people without diabetes. The participants had to eat their meals within 15 minutes.

There was no overall difference in glucose peaks between groups eating their vegetables before meat and rice versus the other sequences.

What is the take-home message?

It’s especially important to watch for those glucose spikes if you have diabetes or other medical conditions. If so, your treating physician or dietitian will advise you on adjusting your meals or food intake to avoid glucose spikes. Ordering food can be part of that advice.

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

Leonie Heilbronn, Professor and Group Leader, Obesity & Metabolism, University of Adelaide

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