By Joy Pape, FNP-C CDE CILC
There’s a saying that goes: You can’t be too rich or too thin. Well, this article won’t tell you how to make more money, nor will it teach you how to become thin. However, it can help you make some healthier choices, just by switching something around in the way you eat. It may help you when eating out, over the holidays, and every day.
A study recently conducted by my team, led by endocrinologist Alpana Shukla, MD, MRCP and obesity medicine specialist, Louis J. Aronne, MD, FACP, a Sanford I. Weill Professor of Metabolic Research at the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medical College, has shown that by changing the order in which you eat food, one can lower blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels. That can help your blood sugar as well as your appetite and weight.
You may think, “I don’t have diabetes, so how does this affect me?” You don’t need to have diabetes for this to impact you. When you understand the effect of different foods on your health numbers, such as lipids (cholesterol), glucose levels, blood pressure, and weight, you can grasp how it influences your health.
- The foods we eat are, for the most part, made up of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They each impact blood glucose levels in a different way.
- Carbohydrates raise glucose levels the most out of the three. They are best known as starches, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, sweets, and rice. Sugar-sweetened beverages are also considered carbohydrates as are some dairy products, including milk and yogurt. There are other carbohydrates that don’t affect your glucose as much, including green vegetables such as: broccoli, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, and cabbage.
- Proteins have little impact on blood glucose levels. Examples of protein foods include: poultry, beef, pork, eggs, seafood, and cheese. Tofu is another source of protein for vegans, but it is a bit higher in carbohydrates.
- Fats don’t really raise blood glucose levels. Examples of fats include: olive oil, salad dressings, nuts, seeds, and nut butters.
So, why does this matter? It is important for your body to maintain normal glucose levels. When everything is working normally, when glucose rises, another hormone, insulin, is released by your pancreas to lower glucose levels. People who have diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or their bodies aren’t able to use the insulin they make, so glucose levels don’t return to normal. Sometimes this happens even before you develop diabetes because your body can compensate by releasing a lot of insulin. High insulin levels can increase your appetite, how much you eat, your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and more. That doesn’t mean that insulin is not a healthy hormone. It is needed for life but it should remain in a healthy range—not too much and not too little.
The medical team was well aware of previous studies conducted on different types of foods, but it was interested in the following: whether eating them in a certain order makes a difference. They found that eating protein and vegetables before carbohydrates did not cause as much of a rise in glucose and insulin levels as when eating carbohydrates before eating protein and vegetables.
Dr. Shukla said, “Eating carbs at the end of the meal resulted in 53.8% lower blood sugar levels than eating carbs before the rest of the meal.”
My advice: Eat your protein and vegetables first! If you are going to have carbs, have some at the end of your meal.
Joy Pape is an internationally known, board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, author, writer, and presenter. She believes that every person is an individual and deserves personalized medical, integrative care, and hope for a healthy and full life. She can be reached at: (212) 933-1756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.