"it’s also likely they’re timing their carb consumption"
In the pursuit of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we often focus on the types and quantities of food we consume. However, an often overlooked aspect is the order of eating food.
The sequence in which we enjoy our food can have a significant impact on our overall health and well-being.
Eating specific foods in a particular order has been around for years and is very popular in the diabetic world.
But if you are not diabetic, does eating food in a particular order matter? The answer is yes.
Understanding the implications of the order of food consumption can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their eating habits and optimise their nutritional intake.
By delving into the science behind nutrient absorption, blood sugar regulation, satiation, digestive health, and mindful eating, we can gain valuable insights into how our food choices and eating patterns impact our bodies.
We explore how it can impact your health and the benefits meal sequencing has.
Order of Eating & Glucose Spikes
It may not be obvious but the order in which we eat our foods has an impact on our health, specifically our glucose levels.
Glucose spikes occur in a person’s bloodstream between 30 and 60 minutes after eating carbohydrates.
Different things determine how high and long glucose spikes last.
These include what was eaten with or before the carbohydrate, how much fibre is in the carbs and the body’s ability to secrete and use insulin.
Any strategy to control the glucose peak is crucial for patients with specific chronic problems.
Circumstances include diabetes, reactive hypoglycemia, low blood pressure after a meal and weight loss surgery.
This is because sustained high glucose levels impair numerous hormones and proteins, including those that promote inflammation.
Diabetes and heart disease are two illnesses that have been associated with inflammation.
Eating high-fibre foods, such as salads, slow the rate at which food exits the stomach.
While proteins and fats trigger the secretion of a hormone that mops up glucose in the blood, which makes a huge impact on people with diabetes that want to improve blood sugar control.
Nutritionist Lovneet Batra says:
“Have you ever watched someone eat food off their plate in a particular order – tucking into their veggies first, then moving onto the protein part before even touching their side of rice – and think they’ve got some bizarre eating ritual?
“Possibly, but it’s also likely they’re timing their carb consumption, which, according to a study helps control blood sugar and, in turn, maintain your weight.
“So, the hierarchy in which the food plate is consumed has a big role in determining the post-meal glucose and insulin level.”
What are the Benefits of Meal Sequencing?
When you order your food the right way, you can experience a number of health benefits.
Here are the biggest health benefits when you sequence your meal.
How Order of Eating impacts Weight Loss
When it comes to losing weight, the satisfied feeling of being full – also known as satiety – is always a big factor.
In any weight loss journey, the goal is to feel satiated while also being able to lose weight.
Meal sequencing helps prevent large glucose swings. Not only is it beneficial for glucose control but it is also helpful for satiety.
An April 2021 study found that glucose dips after a meal was predictive of how soon a person ate again.
The study found that dips in glucose were a better predictor of subsequent hunger and energy intake.
The main thing to note is that glucose dips after a meal typically occur when there is a large influx of carbohydrates.
This leads to a larger amount of insulin production and subsequently a glucose spike and crash.
From this, it suggests that having a steady glucose level helps maintain hunger while reducing energy intake.
Eating fibre before carbohydrates often leads to reduced energy intake.
The reason is high fibrous foods are nutrient-dense, often require more chewing time which causes slower eating, and can slow down digestion.
This means these foods are filling, they have lots of nutrients and tend to be lower in calories.
Natural protein and fat sources are also nutrient dense and provide long-lasting energy for the body, leading to longer-lasting feelings of satiation.
Avoiding Blood Sugar Spikes
When carbohydrates such as plain oatmeal, fruit, or bread are eaten by themselves, the body absorbs the glucose quickly.
This means that glucose will be absorbed into the bloodstream at a faster rate.
Usually, this leads to a quick rise in glucose levels and a quick drop afterwards.
The rate at which glucose absorbs into the body can change when other nutrients such as fibre, protein and fats are added in.
Incorporating other food components such as fibre, protein or fat into the meal helps to slow down the digestion of glucose.
The body has to work harder to utilise glucose for energy, therefore it takes longer for glucose to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
This often helps blunt the rise of glucose and can prevent a glucose spike from happening.
When carbohydrates are eaten after protein, fibre, or fat, the digestion of carbs and the rise in glucose is much more gentle, making energy longer lasting as well.
When glucose is absorbed rapidly by the body, we are at risk for glucose spikes.
High glucose spikes could potentially cause microvascular and endothelial damage, as well as oxidative stress.
Atherosclerosis is caused when there is damage to the blood vessels, which leads to an inflammatory process.
Repeated exposure to high glucose values leads to cardiovascular disease. For this reason, sequencing meals can be great for preventing damage to the arteries.
Allows more Flexible Dieting
Eating in a specific order may provide more flexibility in your diet as well.
A July 2015 pilot study found that eating protein and fibre before carbohydrates resulted in significantly lower postprandial glucose and insulin levels compared to the same meal when the carbs were eaten first.
The decreased insulin secretion found in the study from meal sequencing suggests that meal patterns have the potential to improve insulin sensitivity.
These findings show that the order of eating food impacts the glycemic effect of food, providing a new perspective on restrictive diets.
While traditional diets focus on “how much” and “what should or should not be eaten”, adding this additional tool shows that glycemic responses can be improved with meal sequencing.
This means that finding optimal timing for carb ingestion during a meal is as important as the content of the meal itself.
Best Tips for Order of Eating Food
Ordering the sequence in which you eat your meal is simple and it can have a positive impact on postprandial glucose, energy consumption and weight loss.
For those wanting to try meal sequencing, here are some tips.
Begin with Vegetables
When eating a meal, it is important to consume the vegetables first.
This is because the fibre in the vegetables prevents the spike in glucose levels.
French biochemist Jessie Inchauspé says:
“That fibre will reduce the speed and quantity of glucose absorbed for later on in the meal.”
Eat the Protein Second
Your body can tolerate carbohydrates a lot better when you are not eating on an empty stomach.
Eating your protein before your carbs can help.
For example, in a Desi diet, eating daal before rice. Another tip is to eat several pieces of chicken before eating rice.
Try these snack protein/fat combinations:
- Boiled egg
- Roasted chana
- Moong Daal Idli
- Besan Chila
Begin Meals with a Salad
Eating fibre is a great way to help slow down the digestion of carbs.
This will help prevent glucose levels from fluctuating.
Eating a high-fibre diet may benefit digestion and help with weight loss. It is recommended that men consume at least 38 g/day and women consume at least 25 g/day.
Try incorporating these tips into your daily routine:
- Begin your meal with a salad
- Include non-starchy vegetables with your meals – Cauliflower, greens, aubergine, mushrooms, cabbage
- Include a natural source of fibre in every meal – raspberries, apples, strawberries, quinoa, lentils, black beans
Consume Nuts before Meals
Eating foods that contain both protein, fibre and healthy fats is the best way to fuel your body with long-lasting energy.
This helps maintain satiety and energy levels.
Include these foods, which contain fibre, protein and fat:
- Nuts – pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts
- Cold cuts and peppers
- Plain full-fat yoghurt
Eating food in a specific order can have huge health benefits and you do not even have to change what you are eating.
Not only does it help with weight loss and prevent blood sugar spikes but it also reduces other issues such as difficult menopausal symptoms and acne.
It is important to note that while the order of food consumption can have an impact on health, it is just one piece of the puzzle.
A holistic approach to nutrition, including overall dietary patterns, portion control, and food quality, remains essential for achieving optimal well-being.