Can the order you eat your food alter blood glucose?

Eat protein before carbohydrates to lower post-meal glucose

Can the order you eat your food alter blood glucose?

In a new study, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, NY, found that the order in which different types of food are consumed has a significant impact on post-meal glucose and insulin levels in obese people. Writing in the journal Diabetes Care, the authors suggest their findings may have dietary implications for diabetic and other high-risk patients.

Share on PinterestEating protein, vegetables and fat before carbohydrates in a meal may help to keep glucose and insulin levels low.

For people with type 2 diabetes, it is important to maintain normal glucose levels after eating, because if their blood sugar level spikes then they are at increased risk of complications, including hardening of the arteries and heart disease, which can eventually lead to death.

Some previous studies had found that eating vegetables or protein before carbohydrates could be an effective way to lower post-meal glucose levels. The researchers behind the new study wanted to see whether this association applied to a typical Western diet, with meals consisting of a mix of vegetables, protein carbohydrates and fat.

In the study, 11 patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes who were taking metformin – a drug that helps control glucose levels – ate the same meals in different orders 1 week apart, so that the researchers could observe how their glucose levels were affected.

The set meal consisted of ciabatta bread, orange juice, chicken breast, lettuce and tomato salad with low-fat dressing and steamed broccoli with butter.

The researchers first took the patients’ glucose levels in the morning, 12 hours after they last ate.

On the first day of the study, the participants were told to consume the carbohydrates in their meal (ciabatta bread and orange juice) first, and to follow this 15 minutes later by the protein, vegetables and fat in the meal. The participants’ glucose levels were checked 30, 60 and 120 minutes after eating.

The experiment was then repeated 1 week later, except this time the food order was reversed – the protein, vegetables and fat were eaten first, with the carbohydrates consumed 15 minutes later.

When the vegetables and protein were eaten before the carbohydrates, the researchers found that glucose levels were 29%, 37% and 17% lower at the 30, 60 and 120-minute checks, compared with when carbohydrates were consumed first. Also, insulin was found to be significantly lower when the participants ate vegetables and protein first.

“ this finding, instead of saying ‘don’t eat that’ to their patients, clinicians might instead say, ‘eat this before that,'” says senior author Dr. Louis Aronne, the Sanford I. Weill Professor of Metabolic Research and a professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Aronne acknowledges that follow-up work is required – the findings are from a pilot study with a very small sample group – but says that “ this finding, patients with type 2 might be able to make a simple change to lower their blood sugar throughout the day, decrease how much insulin they need to take, and potentially have a long-lasting, positive impact on their health.”

“Carbohydrates raise blood sugar, but if you tell someone not to eat them – or to drastically cut back – it’s hard for them to comply. This study points to an easier way that patients might lower their blood sugar and insulin levels,” Dr. Aronne concludes.


Food Order Has Significant Impact on Glucose and Insulin Levels

Can the order you eat your food alter blood glucose?

Eating protein and vegetables before carbohydrates leads to lower post-meal glucose and insulin levels in obese patients with type 2 diabetes, Weill Cornell Medical College researchers found in a new study.

This finding, published June 23 in the journal Diabetes Care, might impact the way clinicians advise diabetic patients and other high-risk individuals to eat, focusing not only on how much, but also on when carbohydrates are consumed.

]”We're always looking for ways to help people with diabetes lower their blood sugar,” said senior author Dr. Louis Aronne, the Sanford I.

Weill Professor of Metabolic Research and a professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, who is the study's principal investigator. “We rely on medicine, but diet is an important part of this process, too.

Unfortunately, we've found that it's difficult to get people to change their eating habits.

“Carbohydrates raise blood sugar, but if you tell someone not to eat them — or to drastically cut back — it's hard for them to comply,” added Dr. Aronne, who is also director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell. “This study points to an easier way that patients might lower their blood sugar and insulin levels.”

Patients with type 2 diabetes typically use a finger prick test to check their glucose levels throughout the day.

Maintaining normal levels, specifically after meals, is of the utmost importance, because if a diabetics' blood sugar level is consistently high or frequently spikes, they risk complications of their disease, including hardening of the arteries and eventually death from heart disease.

This study looked to validate and advance previous research that showed eating vegetables or protein before carbohydrates leads to lower post-meal glucose levels. This time, though, investigators looked at a whole, typically Western meal, with a good mix of vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and fat.

They worked with 11 patients, all of who had obesity and type 2 diabetes and take an oral drug that helps control glucose levels, called metformin.

To see how food order impacted post-meal glucose levels, they had the patients eat a meal, consisting of carbohydrates (ciabatta bread and orange juice), protein, vegetables and fat (chicken breast, lettuce and tomato salad with low-fat dressing and steamed broccoli with butter) twice, on separate days a week apart.

Dr. Louis Aronne. Photo credit: Carlos Rene Perez

On the day of their first meal, researchers collected a fasting glucose level in the morning, 12 hours after the patients last ate. They were then instructed to eat their carbohydrates first, followed 15 minutes later by the protein, vegetables and fat.

After they finished eating, researchers checked their post-meal glucose levels via blood test at 30, 60 and 120-minute intervals.

A week later, researchers again checked patients' fasting glucose levels, and then had them eat the same meal, but with the food order reversed: protein, vegetables and fat first, followed 15 minutes later by the carbohydrates. The same post-meal glucose levels were then collected.

The results showed that glucose levels were much lower at the 30, 60 and 120 minute checks — by about 29 percent, 37 percent and 17 percent, respectively — when vegetables and protein were eaten before the carbohydrates.

Insulin was also significantly lower when protein and vegetables were eaten first.

This finding confirms that the order in which we eat food matters, and points to a new way to effectively control post-meal glucose levels in diabetic patients.

” this finding, instead of saying ‘don't eat that' to their patients, clinicians might instead say, ‘eat this before that,'” Dr. Aronne said.

“While we need to do some follow-up work, this finding, patients with type 2 might be able to make a simple change to lower their blood sugar throughout the day, decrease how much insulin they need to take, and potentially have a long-lasting, positive impact on their health.”


The relationship between blood sugar level and GI | Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd

Can the order you eat your food alter blood glucose?

When you eat rice, bread, or any other typical food high in carbohydrates, it is digested by the stomach and small intestine, where it is absorbed into the blood as glucose. Figure 1 shows how it is absorbed into the body.

  1. 1The sugar in food is absorbed into the blood as glucose.
  2. 2The pancreas secretes insulin in reaction to the increase in glucose.
  3. 3Because the glucose is absorbed into the liver, muscle, adipose (fat) tissue and other cells, the blood sugar level drops to the level it was before anything was eaten.
    This is the mechanism found in healthy people.

When glucose enters the bloodstream, insulin facilitates its uptake into the body's cells. When an excess of glucose is ingested, insulin over secretion occurs. Insulin increases the biosynthesis of fat and suppresses its breakdown. Thus, it becomes easier for fat to accumulate in body tissues.

Blood sugar level will not drop if the sugar in the blood is not properly processed due to, for example, too little insulin being secreted, or resistance to the action of insulin.

If blood sugar levels have not decreased several hours after eating on a regular basis, this indicates a susceptibility to diabetes.

To avoid this and stay healthy, we should eat types of foods that will not cause a sudden, extreme rise in blood sugar levels.

BMI = weight (kg) ÷height (m)2
BMI is a measure of body fat your weight in relation to your height. BMI less than 18.5 = low body weight, BMI 18.5 to 25 = ordinary body weight, BMI 25 or more = obese.
  • Fasting blood sugar level 99mg/dL (Japan Society of Ningen Dock)
  • Postprandial blood sugar level (2 hours after eating) 7.8mmol/L (140mg/dL) (International Diabetes Federation)

Chart: Meals and increases in blood sugar level

Your blood sugar level rises immediately after eating a meal or snack (Figure 2). In a healthy person, insulin then starts working, and the blood sugar level returns to the pre-meal level 2 hours after eating.

In untreated diabetes patients, the blood sugar level does not return to the pre-meal level of its own accord. Some people's blood sugar level remains high two hours after eating, even though on an empty stomach it would be at a normal level.

As a result, the risk of developing diabetes increases as insulin is not properly secreted, or does not work properly in the body.

In order to make sure insulin works properly, it is important not to overeat and to avoid becoming obese. Knowing which foods will not cause a sudden and extreme spike in blood sugar level and using this knowledge in your daily life will help you to prevent obesity and diabetes, and maintain good health.

Many people think that all high-calorie foods raise blood sugar level, but this is not always the case.

In general, foods that cause blood sugar level to rise the most are those that are high in carbohydrates, which are quickly converted into energy, such as rice, bread, fruits and sugar. Next are foods high in protein, such as meats, fish eggs, milk and dairy products, and oily foods.

However, even though carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels, if you don't eat them your diet will be unbalanced and you won't feel satisfied after your meal, which can lead to excessive consumption of foods rich in protein and fat.

Carbohydrates(Sugars and dietary fiber) Protein Fat
Rice, bread, noodles, potatoes, beans, vegetables, mushrooms, seaweeds, fruits, sugar etc.
Meats, fish and shellfish, eggs, soybeans and soy products, milk and dairy products etc.
Oil and fats

Carbohydrates do raise blood sugar levels quickly.

However, recent studies have shown that even amongst foods that have the same amount of carbohydrates, there are two categories: those that cause a sudden rise in blood sugar levels and those that cause a more moderate rise, depending on the amount of dietary fiber contained.
Taking bread as an example, whole grain rye bread and pizza crusts are low GI foods, while French bread and bagels are high GI foods.

The University of Sydney has defined foods with a GI value of over 70 as “high GI foods,” foods with a GI value of between 56 and 69 as “mid-range GI foods,” and foods with a GI value of 55 or under as “low GI foods”, when using glucose as the reference food (where glucose = 100).

Because high GI foods cause a sudden spike in the blood sugar level, large amounts of insulin are secreted in order to process the sugar in the blood, causing a spike in insulin secretion to handle the sugar.

When low GI foods are eaten, the sugar is gradually absorbed into the body so the blood sugar level rises gradually. Thus, an appropriate amount of insulin is secreted and sugar is promptly taken up by the tissues.

Thus, knowing which foods are low GI foods (causing moderate amounts of sugar to be absorbed) is very important to living a healthy life.
Making sure that carbohydrates, an essential type of nutrient, are absorbed by the body in moderate amounts is related to blood sugar levels, obesity, and of course a healthy diet.

Category Food GI Grain Vegetables Fruits Beans Dairy Products Snacks Processed Food
Barley 22
Boiled rolled barley 46
Boiled soybeans 15
Glutinous rice 87
Rice cake 48
Croissant 67
Bagel 69
Rye bread 50
White bread 71
Burger bun 61
English muffin 77
Baguette 57
Boiled carrot 33
Potato 66
Boiled potato 49
Fried potato 70
Mashed potatoes 83
Boiled sweet potato 44
Grapefruit 25
Prune 29
Dried apricot 30
Apricot 34
Apple 40
Plum 24
Strawberry 40
Orange 40
Peach 28
Marmalade 40
Grapes 43
Mango 51
Blueberry 53
Kiwi fruit 58
Dried fig 61
Banana 47
Cherry 63
Raisins 64
Pineapple 66
Watermelon 72
Dried peas (boiled) 22
Dried red peas (boiled) 29
White kidney beans (boiled) 31
Quail beans (steamed) 33
Chick peas (boiled) 33
Baked beans (canned) 40
Skimmed milk 32
Milk 34
Greek yoghurt with honey 36
Condensed milk 61
Blueberry muffin 59
Bran muffin 60
Pancake 66
Doughnut 75
Scone 92
Shortbread 64
Peanuts 13
Popcorn 55
Chocolate 49
Lasagne 28
Salmon sushi 48
Spaghetti bolognaise 52
Hamburger 66
Cheese pizza 60
Minestrone 48
Tomato Soup 52
Honey 58

Source: University of Sydney Food GI search


Foods for stabilizing insulin and blood sugar levels

Can the order you eat your food alter blood glucose?

The diet can play an essential role in managing diabetes. Understanding how certain foods affect insulin and blood sugar levels can help a person make informed choices about what to eat and when.

A person with diabetes can eat a balanced, healthful diet without giving up the foods they enjoy. The important factors in an effective diabetes diet include moderation and careful food choice to maintain healthful blood sugar levels.

In this article, we identify some of the best foods for stabilizing insulin and blood sugar levels. We also look at certain foods a person with diabetes should avoid or eat only in moderation.

However, it is important for a person with diabetes to speak to a doctor or dietician before making any significant dietary changes.

These vegetables are an excellent addition to almost any diet, including those suitable for people with diabetes.

There are two main types of vegetables: starchy and non-starchy. Starchy vegetables are rich in carbohydrates, which can raise a person’s blood sugar levels.

The American Diabetes Association recommend eating a minimum of 3–5 servings of non-starchy vegetables each day. They define a serving as:

  • half a cup of cooked vegetables
  • 1 cup of uncooked vegetables

Some examples of non-starchy vegetables include:

  • carrots
  • bean sprouts
  • baby corn
  • cucumber
  • squash
  • cabbage
  • salad greens, such as arugula, spinach, and lettuce

The vegetables are available frozen, canned, or fresh. If a person is not eating them raw, the best way to prepare vegetables is by roasting or steaming them and adding zero or minimal fat and salt.

Also, pay attention to the types of preservatives in prepackaged vegetables. Check ingredients lists for added salt, sugar, fats, and oils, for example.

Whole grains offer a more healthful alternative to highly processed or refined grains. They contain the endosperm, bran, and germ of a grain. Refined grains contain only the endosperm, offering less nutritional benefit.

The main difference is that whole grains have more vitamins and minerals, whereas refined grains only include the starchy part of the grain, which contains fewer nutrients.

Look for products with 100% whole-grain ingredients. Some popular examples include:

  • crackers
  • breads
  • popcorn
  • brown rice
  • pasta
  • cereals
  • quinoa
  • whole oats or oatmeal
  • cornmeal

A person can incorporate whole-grain products into meals or snacks to help control blood sugar levels.

According to an umbrella review from 2017, consuming whole grain may help prevent cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer, including gastric, pancreatic, and colorectal cancer.

Share on PinterestHealthful fats are an essential part of a balanced diet.

Some people incorrectly associate all fat content with poor health. However, some fats help preserve health.

Healthful fats may be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Omega-3, a fatty acid abundant in oily fish, is one example.

Trans and saturated fats increase levels of harmful cholesterol in the blood. This can contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease

Eating more healthful fats and fewer unhealthful fats may help lower levels of harmful cholesterol, improve heart health, and provide better blood sugar control.

Many foods are rich in unsaturated fats. Some examples include:

  • avocados
  • olive oil
  • nuts and seeds
  • canola oil

A 2013 review suggests that avocados offer a range of health benefits. They may improve cardiovascular health, promote weight management, and support good health during the aging process.

However, the authors noted that confirming these conclusions will require more research.

Avocados taste great in salads and dips. They can even add creaminess to deserts.

Also, try replacing butter with olive oil or coconut oil in recipes.

Here, learn about healthful and unhealthful fats.

Fatty fish, such as salmon, tend to have high amounts of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Protein content is particularly healthful for people who have diabetes, as it does not impact blood sugar. It is filling and provides essential nutrients to help the body grow and repair.

People who have diabetes should try adding fatty fish to the diet on at least one day per week. For people with type 1 diabetes who are underweight, healthful proteins are an excellent option for safe weight gain.

As with other foods, preparation is key. Avoid sugary marinades and try grilling instead of frying the fish.

Cacao is a bean- seed. Grinding these seeds produces a powder that is bitter and full of nutrients, Manufacturers use it to create chocolate.

Cacao contains the flavonoid epicatechin, which may help regulate blood sugar levels. A 2017 review pointed to the findings of several small studies, which suggest that cacao may help slow the progression of type 2 diabetes and reduce insulin resistance.

An easy way to add cacao to the diet is by eating dark chocolate, although too much might still cause a spike in blood sugar. Consume dark chocolate in moderation. Dark chocolate contains more cacao than milk chocolate.

When choosing between brands, people should check the sugar contents. While dark chocolate tends to contain less sugar than milk chocolate, many well-known manufacturers add more sugar.

People with diabetes should limit their chocolate intake to one or two small squares of dark chocolate per day.

Share on PinterestBlack beans are high in protein and fiber.

Protein is an essential nutrient in meats, fish, and certain vegetables, such as nuts, beans, and legumes.

Research suggests that protein does not increase blood sugar levels, and it can help a person feel fuller for longer.

However, a 2017 study found that high protein intake can have mixed results for people with type 2 diabetes depending on the type of protein.

Earlier short-term studies indicated that a high-protein diet may decrease blood sugar levels.

However, on a longer-term basis, a diet that contains too much animal protein may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A diet with plenty of plant-based proteins, on the other hand, may modestly decrease this risk.

A person with diabetes should favor foods with lots of protein but little animal fat. Some examples include:

  • fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna
  • poultry, such as chicken and turkey
  • beans, such as lima, kidney, or black beans
  • lentils
  • nuts and seeds
  • soybeans and tofu

A person can easily add protein to a meal. For example, beans are an excellent addition to salads, as are roasted, topping-free chicken breasts.

There are several foods that a person with diabetes should either avoid or eat only in moderation.

The following can cause blood sugar and insulin levels to spike:

  • sugary drinks, such as soda, juices, and sports drinks
  • processed foods and baked goods, which often contain trans fats
  • white rice, bread, and pasta
  • breakfast cereals with added sugar
  • yogurts with added sugar
  • honey and maple syrup
  • flavored, sugary coffee drinks
  • french fries
  • dried fruit, which often has added sugar

A person with diabetes can eat these foods but in limited amounts.

Here, learn about important considerations for people with diabetes who want to prepare dinner.

Diabetes can cause a range of symptoms and health issues.

Maintaining regular insulin and blood sugar levels can have a range of benefits, including:

  • improved mood
  • reduced fatigue
  • increased energy levels
  • improved brain and blood vessel health
  • reduced risk of complications, such as nerve and kidney damage

Effective blood sugar level management can also reduce the risk of diabetes’ more severe complications, including:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • nerve damage
  • vision loss and blindness
  • slow wound healing
  • recurrent infections

To stay healthy, people with diabetes need to manage their blood sugar and insulin levels.

In addition to medications, lifestyle and dietary changes are an essential part of diabetes management. Certain foods can help promote stable blood sugar levels, while others can make them less stable.

By eating a balanced diet, and avoiding foods rich in sugar, simple carbohydrates, and unhealthful fats, a person can better control their blood sugar and insulin levels.


Order of food during a meal may influence blood sugar

Can the order you eat your food alter blood glucose?

(Reuters Health) – Overweight and obese people with type 2 diabetes may feel better after a meal if they start it off with vegetables or proteins and end with the carbs, suggests a new study of 11 people.

Finishing the broccoli and chicken before tucking into bread and fruit juice was tied to a lower rise in blood sugar levels over the next two hours, compared to eating the same foods in the opposite order, researchers report in Diabetes Care.

“When we saw the result, we were really encouraged that this is something that could potentially benefit people,” said Dr. Louis Aronne, the study’s senior author from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

Approximately 29 million Americans – about 9 percent of the U.S. population – have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 30 percent of those people are undiagnosed.

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes and is often linked to obesity. In type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells are resistant to the hormone insulin, or the body doesn’t make enough of it. Insulin helps the body’s cells use glucose in the blood for fuel.

Drinking whey protein shakes before meals has been linked to lower blood sugar levels after eating, but little was known about the influence of foods, and the order in which they’re consumed, on blood sugar levels following a meal, the researchers write.

Blood sugar normally rises after eating, but for people with diabetes it can spike dangerously. Diabetics are often told to avoid foods high on the glycemic index – a measure of how rapidly a food gets converted to glucose in the blood – white breads and sugary drinks.

The new research suggests that people may benefit from timing their consumption of carbohydrates during a meal instead of simply avoiding certain foods.

The researchers recruited 11 people with type 2 diabetes who were all overweight or obese. They were also taking a drug called metformin, which helps to control blood sugar.

The participants all fasted for 12 hours overnight before consuming a 628 calorie meal with protein, carbohydrates and fat.

One week, they consumed the carbohydrates (ciabatta bread and orange juice) first. Then they ate skinless grilled chicken, a small salad and buttered steamed broccoli 15 minutes later.

The participants ate the same meal a week later, but the order of the foods was reversed, with the salad and broccoli first, then the chicken, then the carbs.

The researchers also took blood samples before the meals and 30, 60 and 120 minutes afterward.

When the participants ate vegetables and proteins first, their blood sugar levels were about 29 percent lower 30 minutes after starting the meal, compared to when they ate the carbs first. At 60 and 120 minutes after participants began eating, blood sugar levels were 37 percent and 17 percent lower, respectively, compared to when the carbs came first.

“It’s possible what this is doing is delaying or tempering how fast the carbohydrates get absorbed,” said Dr. Sethu Reddy, chief of the Adult Diabetes Section at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

“I think certainly it’s an interesting study that says eating a good salad before your meal may help with glucose absorption,” said Reddy, who was not involved with the new study.

The new study may not be the full story, Reddy told Reuters Health. For example, he said, it will be important to see what happens beyond two hours, and what’s happening to the carbohydrates.

The researchers also say more studies with longer follow-up times are needed.

“We’re doing the next study,” Aronne told Reuters Health. “We’re doing a longer study and we’re looking at some of the other key hormones.”

As of now, he said, the theory is that the absorption of the carbohydrates is somehow slowed down by eating vegetables, which are low on the glycemic index.

“This shows that the highly desired foods can be a part of a diet if we sneak them in there,” Aronne said.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, online June 23, 2015.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Does the sequence of food affect blood glucose levels?

Can the order you eat your food alter blood glucose?

This study examined whether meal sequence affects blood glucose levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The authors concluded that meal sequence affects blood glucose levels after a meal and nutritional therapy may be important in managing type 2 diabetes.

Postprandial blood glucose levels are the levels of sugar in the blood after a meal. High postprandial blood glucose levels can occur in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D). High blood glucose over time can result in damage to small blood vessels, leading to further complications. Therefore, it is necessary to reduce postprandial high blood glucose.

Glucagon- peptide-1 (GLP-1) is a hormone that stimulates the release of insulin (hormone needed to break down glucose). There are currently drugs available to mimic the effects of GLP-1, however, it is not clear whether certain foods are capable of increasing GLP-1.

It is believed that protein and fats, particularly fish oils, may increase GLP-1 secretion.

It is possible that the sequence of a meal, such as by ingesting meat or fish (sources of protein) before rice (source of carbohydrate), may stimulate GLP-1 and reduce postpradial blood glucose.

This study aimed to determine whether ingesting meat or fish before rice leads to a reduction in postprandial blood glucose.

This study included 22 participants. 12 participants had T2D and 10 participants were healthy volunteers. Both the T2D participants and healthy participants altered their morning meal over three days. Participants ate rice 15 minutes before fish one morning and fish 15 minutes before rice on another morning. On the third morning, all participants ate meat 15 minutes before rice.

Blood levels of glucose, insulin and GLP-1 were measured. The rate of stomach emptying was also measured.

In comparison to eating rice first, the change and variation in blood glucose over time was lower when T2D participants ate fish or meat before rice.

GLP-1 levels were higher when T2D participants ate fish or meat first rather than rice. Participants had a greater increase in GLP-1 levels when meat was eaten first. The gastric emptying rate was lower after eating fish or meat first compared to rice first.

This study concluded that meal sequence is important in controlling postprandial blood glucose levels.

Participants ingested the second food 15 minutes after the first food. It is not known whether extending this interval may result in a greater reduction in blood glucose levels. In addition, this study did not include an additional meal of rice before meat.

Consult your physician regarding the possibility of altering your food intake to reduce postprandial blood glucose.

Meal sequence and glucose excursion, gastric emptying and incretin secretion in type 2 diabetes: a randomised, controlled crossover, exploratory trial.

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How Eating Affects Your Blood Sugar

Can the order you eat your food alter blood glucose?

Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, comes from the food you eat. Your body creates blood sugar by digesting some food into a sugar that circulates in your bloodstream.

Blood sugar is used for energy. The sugar that isn’t needed to fuel your body right away gets stored in cells for later use.

Too much sugar in your blood can be harmful. Type 2 diabetes is a disease that’s characterized by having higher levels of blood sugar than what’s considered within normal limits.

Unmanaged diabetes can lead to problems with your heart, kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels.

The more you know about how eating affects blood sugar, the better you can protect yourself against diabetes. If you already have diabetes, it’s important to know how eating affects blood sugar.

Your body breaks down everything you eat and absorbs the food in its different parts. These parts include:

  • carbohydrates
  • proteins
  • fats
  • vitamins and other nutrients

The carbohydrates you consume turn into blood sugar. The more carbohydrates you eat, the higher the levels of sugar you’ll have released as you digest and absorb your food.

Carbohydrates in liquid form consumed by themselves are absorbed more quickly than those in solid food. So having a soda will cause a faster rise in your blood sugar levels than eating a slice of pizza.

Fiber is one component of carbohydrates that isn’t converted into sugar. This is because it can’t be digested. Fiber is important for health, though.

Protein, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals don’t contain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have the greatest impact on blood glucose levels.

If you have diabetes, your carbohydrate intake is the most important part of your diet to consider when it comes to managing your blood sugar levels.

The foods that generate the biggest spike in your blood sugar are those that are high in processed carbohydrates. These foods include:

  • white grain products, such as pasta and rice
  • cookies
  • white bread
  • cold processed cereals
  • sugared drinks

If you’re watching your carbohydrate intake, you don’t have to avoid these foods. Instead, you’ll need to be careful about portion size and substitute with whole grains when possible. The more food you eat, the greater the amount of sugar you’ll absorb.

Eating mixed meals is helpful. Protein, fat, and fiber help slow down the digestion of carbohydrates. This will help reduce spikes in blood sugar after meals.

How often you eat during the day is also important. Try to keep your blood sugar levels consistent by eating every 3 to 5 hours. Three nutritious meals a day plus a couple of healthful snacks can usually keep your blood sugar steady.

If you have diabetes, your doctor may recommend the amount of carbohydrates you can have for meals and snacks. You may also work with a dietitian familiar with diabetes who can help plan your meals.

Your health, age, and activity level all play a part in setting your dietary guidelines.

Exercise can have a big effect on your blood sugar levels because blood sugar is used for energy. When you use your muscles, your cells absorb sugar from the blood for energy.

Depending on the intensity or duration of exercise, physical activity can help lower your blood sugar for many hours after you stop moving.

If you exercise regularly, the cells in your body may be more sensitive to insulin. This will help keep blood sugar levels within normal ranges.

Insulin is an important hormone that helps regulate your blood sugar levels. The pancreas makes insulin. It helps control your blood sugar levels by assisting the cells that absorb sugar from the bloodstream.

If you have type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make insulin. This means you have to inject insulin every day.

If diet and exercise aren’t enough to manage blood sugar, those with type 2 diabetes may be prescribed medications to help keep blood sugar levels within target ranges.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body produces insulin, but may not use it properly or produce enough of it. Your cells don’t respond to insulin, so more sugar keeps circulating in the blood.

Exercise can help the cells respond better and be more sensitive to insulin. The proper diet can also help you avoid spikes in blood sugar. This can help keep your pancreas functioning well since high blood sugar levels decrease pancreatic function.

If you have diabetes, the frequency of testing your blood glucose level depends on your treatment plan, so follow your doctor’s advice on the appropriate times for you.

Common times to check are in the morning, before and after meals, before and after exercise, at bedtime, and if you feel sick. Some people may not need to check their blood sugar daily.

What you eat and what you do for physical activity affect your blood sugar. But there’s no way to know what effect they have unless you test your blood sugar.

Blood glucose meters are used to test blood sugar levels so you can see if your levels are within the target range. Your doctor will also work with you on your individualized range.

Carbohydrates are the component in food that affects blood sugar the most. It’s not the only component that provides calories. Foods also contain proteins and fats, which provide calories.

If you consume more calories than you burn in a day, those calories will be converted into fat and stored in your body.

The more weight you gain, the less sensitive your body becomes to insulin. As a result, your blood sugar levels can rise.

In general, you want to avoid or minimize your intake of sweetened beverages and foods that are highly processed and high in carbohydrates and unhealthy fat, and low in healthy nutrients.

For example, a brownie may have as many carbohydrates as a banana, but the fruit also has fiber, potassium, and vitamins your body needs. Brownies don’t have those benefits.

If you have diabetes or you’ve been told you have high blood sugar levels, talk with your doctor or a dietitian about what you can do to eat smarter and healthier.