Managing blood sugar levels is crucial to maintaining good health and preventing certain chronic diseases. Glycaemia – or blood sugar levels – play an essential role in the proper functioning of our bodies. When we eat food, our bodies convert carbohydrates into glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream to provide energy for our cells. That being said, unbalanced blood sugar levels can lead to serious health problems.
Understanding blood sugar and its impact on health
Blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. When we eat carbohydrate-rich foods, our blood sugar levels rise. This stimulates the release of insulin to allow glucose to be absorbed by the cells and used for energy. However, if our diet is constantly rich in simple carbohydrates, this can lead to insulin resistance. Cells become less sensitive to this hormone. As a result, glucose accumulates in the blood, causing hyperglycaemia. Prolonged hyperglycaemia can lead to serious complications. These include nerve damage, kidney problems, vision problems and cardiovascular disorders. That is why it is essential to control blood sugar levels to maintain good general health.
Different foods have different impacts on blood sugar levels
Not all foods have the same impact on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose in our diet. They fall into two categories: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates, also known as simple sugars, are quickly digested and cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. They are found in foods such as soft drinks, sweets, pastries, refined cereals and white flour products. These foods have a high glycaemic index, which means they cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are digested more slowly, resulting in a slower and more stable rise in blood sugar levels. They are found in foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables. These foods have a lower glycaemic index, which means they cause a more moderate rise in blood sugar levels.
Proteins and fats do not have a significant impact on blood sugar levels, as they do not contain glucose. However, proteins can help stabilise blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates. Healthy fats can also delay the absorption of carbohydrates and promote more stable blood sugar levels.
The order of foods in the diet is also important
In addition to the composition of foods, the order in which we eat them can also influence our body’s overall glycaemic response. Studies have shown that the order in which we eat different types of food can have an impact. It can affect the speed at which carbohydrates are absorbed; and therefore blood sugar levels.
When we eat a meal, the food is mixed together in our stomach and then travels to the intestine, where it is digested and absorbed. By eating food in a certain order, we can slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. This can help keep blood sugar levels more stable.
Good practices for managing blood sugar levels through food order
Here are some good practices for managing blood sugar levels through the order of foods in your diet:
Start with vegetables and greens:
Low-carb vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, peppers and mushrooms are excellent choices to start your meal. They are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are slow to digest, which in turn helps to slow the absorption of carbohydrates from the rest of the meal. The fibre in vegetables can also help to reduce the meal’s overall glycaemic index.
Add lean protein:
After vegetables, you can incorporate lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs or tofu. Proteins are digested more slowly than carbohydrates. They can help stabilise blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream.
Include healthy fats:
To round out the protein, you can include healthy fats in your meal, such as those from avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Healthy fats help slow down gastric emptying. They delay the absorption of carbohydrates and promote more stable blood sugar levels.
Top it all off with complex carbohydrates:
Foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains (quinoa, oats, brown rice) and legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas), should be eaten last. By eating them after proteins and fats, you can help avoid blood sugar spikes. Their digestion will be slowed by the previous types of foods in your meal.
Split your meals:
Meal splitting involves dividing your daily food intake into several smaller meals spread throughout the day, rather than limiting yourself to three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). This practice has gained in popularity because of its many health benefits and its positive impact on blood sugar management.
1. Stabilisation of blood sugar levels:
One of the main benefits of meal splitting is blood sugar stability. When you eat large meals, particularly those rich in carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels can rise rapidly, causing sharp rises and falls. This can lead to cravings, tiredness and pangs of hunger shortly after eating. By splitting your meals, you spread your carbohydrate intake throughout the day. This helps to avoid these sudden variations in blood sugar levels and maintain a more constant energy level.
2. Appetite control:
Splitting meals can also help control your appetite. By eating regularly, you avoid feeling excessively hungry between meals. This can lead you to make less healthy food choices or overeat. When you skip meals or wait too long between meals, you can give in to cravings and end up snacking on unhealthy foods. On the other hand, by dividing up your meals, you will maintain a feeling of satiety throughout the day. This can help you better control your appetite and make more informed eating decisions.
3. Improved digestion:
Eating smaller portions spread throughout the day makes digestion easier. Your digestive system has more time to process food and absorb nutrients without being overloaded. This can reduce digestive problems such as bloating, heartburn and gastrointestinal discomfort.
4. Maintaining energy levels:
Splitting meals can also help maintain a steady energy level throughout the day. Rather than experiencing energy spikes and crashes after large meals, eating at regular intervals allows your body to have a continuous supply of nutrients and glucose, which supports stable energy levels.
How do you divide your meals in a balanced way?
To divide up your meals optimally, you can plan 4 to 6 light meals throughout the day. Make sure you include a combination of nutritious foods, such as vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats in each meal.
Here is an example of a meal-splitting plan for a day:
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with vegetables, a slice of wholemeal bread, a portion of fresh fruit and unsweetened tea.
- Morning snack: Greek yoghurt with berries and nuts.
- Lunch: Salad with grilled chicken, avocado, mixed vegetables and homemade dressing, served with quinoa.
- Afternoon snack: Carrots and celery sticks with hummus.
- Dinner: Grilled salmon with sautéed vegetables and brown rice.
- Evening snack: A handful of mixed nuts.
Of course, how you organise your meals depends on your schedule, your food preferences and your individual needs. The most important thing is to make sure you eat regularly throughout the day and choose healthy, balanced foods.
You need to monitor what you eat and make wise choices
Managing blood sugar levels is not just a question of the order in which we eat, but also of the overall quality of our diet. To maintain balanced blood sugar levels, you definitely need to make healthy food choices and limit the foods that have a negative impact on blood sugar levels.
Highly processed foods, rich in added sugars, saturated fats and sodium, can lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. They also foster the accumulation of body fat. Foods such as fast food, sweet & salty treats and industrial bakery products should therefore be eaten in moderation, and avoided whenever possible.
Instead, opt for a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods. Opt for vegetables, fresh fruit, lean proteins, wholegrain cereals, legumes and healthy fats. These foods provide a range of essential nutrients, promote satiety and help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Managing blood sugar levels is crucial to maintaining good health and preventing certain chronic diseases. The order of foods in your diet can play an important role in regulating blood sugar levels. By choosing foods wisely and following a specific order, you can maintain more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.
However, you also need to remember that blood sugar management does not just depend on the order of foods. It is also heavily influenced by the overall quality of your diet, regular physical activity and proper medical care. By adopting a healthy lifestyle and consulting a health professional, you can better control your blood sugar levels and improve your general well-being. Take care of yourself and your health by making informed choices to remain full of energy and life!