Why Food Order Matters for Steady Blood Sugar Levels: Step by Step Guide to Break Your Fast

On 02 April 2022 by Droobi

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We used to think that blood sugar spikes were something to watch out for only in people with diabetes. But a recent research paper suggests 80% of people living without diabetes experience blood sugar spikes (>140 mg/dl) from regular foods.[1] 

 

Having regular blood sugar spikes can lead to a host of issues like:

 

  • Hormone imbalances

  • Increased hunger

  • Increased inflammation in the body

  • Fertility issues

  • Wrinkle formation

  • Increased risk for Alzheimer’s, cancer, and fatty liver disease

 

The good news is that there are hacks that can help flatten your blood sugar levels. In Ramadan, you are more likely to experience a sharp rise in blood sugar since you will be eating after a prolonged fasting time.

 

You can start by eating your food in a sequence that will minimize the spike of your blood sugar levels.

 

What’s the right order?

 

  1. First: vegetables

  2. Second: protein and fats

  3. Last: starches and sugar

 

When we eat food in this order, we can reduce the glucose spike by 73% and the insulin spike by 48%[2]

 

How does it work?

 

When we eat the fiber from the vegetables first, it has time to coat our intestinal lining, which will reduce how much sugars we absorb later from the starches.

 

And when we have fats and protein before the starches, it will slow down how fast food moves from our stomachs to the intestines. This will slow down how fast our bodies absorb sugar from the starches which should be taken at the end of a meal.

 

Here’s a great example to take away in Ramadan: dates are the most common foods to break fast with. While they are high in natural sugars, pairing them with unsalted nuts can help flatten your blood sugar spike. The fats in the nuts will help to slow down the release and absorption of sugar from the date.

 

Knowing these key mechanisms in your body, how will that translate to Ramadan? Should you just have one meal? Should the next meal be something sweet?

 

Here are some key guidelines to help with your food schedule for optimal blood sugar control:

 

  1. Break your fast with water and 1 date, and even better if you can pair it with some nuts. Remember, moderate amounts of fat can help with blood sugar spike.

  2. Wait 15 minutes before having iftar to pray or take a break.

  3. Time for Iftar!

    1. Start with a vegetable starter, whether that’s soup, salad, grilled vegetables.

    2. Then have your protein, whether that’s grilled lamb, chicken, beef or fish. You can also add some healthy fats if you like, whether that’s avocado or tahini.

    3. End with your starches and sugars. Whether it’s the baked potato, rice or a piece of fruit

  4. Walk for at least ten minutes

  5. Before sunrise or suhoor, have some protein paired with fat and fiber-rich carbohydrates like vegetables or beans. You’re better off having a savory meal than a sweet one.

 

 

Sample food guides to follow:

 

Breakfast with 1 date and 2 walnuts and cup of water

Iftar

Vegetable soup

Grilled lamb

Rice

1 atayef

 

Snack (optional)

Half cup tuna with mustard

Wholewheat crackers

Dark chocolate or piece of fruit

 

Suhoor

1 cucumber

1 boiled egg

1 piece of toast 

 

This is just an example of what a day’s worth of Ramadan meals might look like. Feel free to swap in your preferred soup, lean protein etc.

 

TAKEAWAY: The order in which you eat your foods impacts your blood sugar levels, even if it’s the same amount!

 

Always start with a vegetable, then move to protein and healthy fats, and then end with your sugars and starches.

 

[1] Hall H, Perelman D, Breschi A, Limcaoco P, Kellogg R, et al. (2018) Glucotypes reveal new patterns of glucose dysregulation. PLOS Biology 16(7): e2005143.https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2005143

[2] Nishino K, Sakurai M, Takeshita Y, Takamura T. Consuming Carbohydrates after Meat or Vegetables Lowers Postprandial Excursions of Glucose and Insulin in Nondiabetic Subjects. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2018;64(5):316-320. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.64.316. PMID: 30381620.