Whether you maintain and regulate your blood sugar for a health condition or predisposition, or if you’ve just noticed being irritable and anxious when you’re hungry, the order in which we eat our food can have a serious impact on our blood sugar levels.
Whenever we eat carbohydrates, our blood sugar levels naturally rise and fall. Unlike proteins and fats, our bodies break down carbs into sugar molecules which raise our blood sugar levels. In response, we create the hormone, insulin, which regulates and lowers our blood sugar back to a healthy level.
But when we eat a lot of carbs or sugar at once (especially on an empty stomach), our body has an excess of sugar molecules which causes our blood sugar to spike. To respond, we create a large amount of insulin, lowering our blood sugar quickly and drastically – which then causes a dip in our blood sugar. This response can cause seriously low blood sugar levels, as in the case of hypoglycemia which might make you feel shaky, sweaty, hungry, anxious, or a host of other symptoms.
To prevent this roller coaster of blood sugar levels, we can help our bodies maintain a steady absorption and prevent spikes and dips by managing our carb and sugar consumption, and paying attention to the order in which we eat our food.
Starting a meal with a green salad or other green vegetables coats the digestive tract with fiber. When this is followed by proteins, fats and starches, the absorption of sugar is slowed down by that fibrous vegetable lining, allowing the body to absorb sugar at a more moderate rate and prevent a blood sugar spike.
Proteins and fat also slow down digestion which assists in preventing spikes (and the subsequent dips). Because of their molecular density, the body takes more time to break these down and allows a more consistent rate of absorption for anything else that follows.
Proteins and fats like meat, cheese and eggs don’t affect our blood sugar levels, so they also make a healthy breakfast option or snack when you’re hungry – fueling your body with quick energy that doesn’t spike your blood sugar.
Rule of thumb: carbs should always come last. This includes pasta, rice, bread and even complex carbohydrates like potatoes. Because these carbs are processed as sugars in the body, they have a significant impact on our blood sugar levels.
It’s especially important for those with hyper/hypoglycemia or those at risk of diabetes to manage the volume and the timing of their carb and sugar consumption.
In addition to planning the order of foods in your meals, you can maintain steady amounts of sugar and insulin by using these tips to plan your snacks and eating schedule.
Avoid giving your body starches when you’re hungry to prevent blood sugar spikes and dips, and understand your body’s digestion schedule so you’re prepared to fuel it with sustainable energy.