Timing is everything when it comes to managing your blood sugar levels. Making a change as simple as eating carbs last may be the key to reducing blood sugar spikes after meals. Research has shown that eating carbohydrates at the end of a meal, pairing carbohydrates with other foods, or enjoying reheated leftovers can help to keep blood sugar levels in check. In this blog post, we'll explore three ways in which adjusting the timing of our carbohydrate intake can reduce blood sugar spikes. We will also reveal how you can incorporate these changes into your daily routine for the best results.
Eating Carbs Last may Help Reduce Blood Sugar
Did you know that the order in which you eat your food can have an impact on your blood sugar levels? Research suggests that eating carbs last may help to lower blood sugar levels. A 2014 study found that eating vegetables before carbohydrates led to a significant reduction in post-meal glucose levels. Similarly, a 2017 study showed that consuming carbohydrates-last (after protein and vegetables) was an effective strategy to significantly lower postprandial glucose levels. The reduction in blood sugar spikes observed in these studies is due to the fact that when carbohydrates are eaten towards the end of a meal, they're digested more slowly, leading to a slower rise in blood sugar levels. By eating carbs last, your body has more time to process other nutrients in your meal before digesting carbohydrates, which results in lower blood sugar levels overall.
Consuming our meal in a specific order (which is called meal sequencing) is actually much more intuitive than you may believe. Eating your food in the order of vegetables, protein, then carbohydrates is in line with a typical meal. We start with a salad (which satisfies the vegetable requirement), then we move onto our main course (which is the bulk of our protein), then we may opt to finish with dessert (the carbohydrate portion of a meal). The largest adjustment most of us will have to make is passing on the pre-meal carbohydrates, like bread that is commonly brought to your table first in a restaurant.
Overall, when it comes to managing blood sugar levels, timing can be just as important as what you eat. Eating carbs last and pairing them with other nutrients can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of spikes. So, next time you sit down to a meal, try saving your carbs for last and see how it affects your blood sugar levels.
Carbs Eaten with Protein or Fat can Help Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
When it comes to managing blood sugar levels, it's not just about what you eat but also how you eat it. While carbohydrates are an important source of energy, they can also cause spikes in blood sugar levels when eaten alone. When you eat carbs by themselves (aka “naked carbs”), they are more likely to cause a quick rise in blood sugar levels, followed by a rapid drop. This rollercoaster effect is harmful to our metabolic health and can negatively impact our energy levels, mood, and food cravings.
One effective way to lower blood sugar spikes is by combining carbohydrates with protein or fat. This is because proteins and fats take longer to digest, which slows down the absorption of carbohydrates in the bloodstream. For example, eating a piece of fruit alone can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. But if that same fruit is paired with some nuts or a piece of cheese, the protein and fat in the nuts or cheese will slow down the digestion of the carbohydrates and reduce the resulting spike in blood sugar levels.
In addition to stabilizing blood sugar levels, combining carbohydrates with protein or fat can also help you feel full for longer. This can be helpful for managing weight and preventing overeating, which can also contribute to high blood sugar levels.
Leftovers can be Better for Your Blood Sugar
Not only does leftover spaghetti somehow magically taste better the next day, it is also better for you! As it turns out, raw starchy food (like potatoes, rice, or pasta) has a highly ordered molecular structure. This is why it can be challenging for the body to digest foods like raw potatoes. However, when we heat these starches in water, it weakens the structure of the glucose molecules. This allows for the body to pull apart and absorb glucose molecules much easier after we boil our starches. Since the cooked starches are easier to absorb, the glucose gets into our bloodstream faster and spikes blood sugar quickly. This is why cooked, starchy foods like potatoes, spaghetti, and rice all lead to rapid blood sugar spikes.
However, if you are a pasta lover and trying to improve your metabolic health, we are here for you with a solution. When we refrigerate our cooked starches, the cool temperature allows the molecules to reassemble themselves into a resistant starch. Resistant starches are a form of carbohydrate that is not easily broken down by the body (much like a fiber). The presence of resistant starches is why next day, chilled rice does not spike blood sugar to the same extent as last night’s heated rice.
If you prefer your potatoes heated, we have great news. Recent research has shown that reheating these resistant starches is even better! Researchers are not entirely sure why it works but reheating the leftovers lowers the blood sugar response even more than cooled starches. We need more studies to show the optimal heating, cooling, and reheating time and temperatures, but as soon as more studies are conducted on this topic, we will keep you informed.
Starchy foods that can be turned into resistant starches by cooling and/or reheating include: potatoes, rice, pasta, barley, peas, lentils, and beans. Try cooking dinner ahead of time, sticking it in the freezer, then enjoying your reheated resistant starches throughout the week.
Take Away Snacks
We can give our blood sugar management efforts a boost with a few simple strategies. By adopting the habit of eating carbs last during meals, you can minimize their impact on blood sugar spikes. Additionally, pairing carbs with protein or healthy fats can contribute to better blood sugar stability. Lastly, don't overlook the power of transforming leftovers into resistant starch, which offers a more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. Incorporating these tips into your dietary routine can pave the way for improved blood sugar control and overall well-being. Remember, small changes can yield significant results on the path to a healthier, balanced life.
Author: Dr. Colleen Gulick