Can ‘food sequencing’ really help boost your health?

Just when you thought you’d heard about every diet, every cooking fad, and every healthy food revelation, along comes another weight loss theory.

This one is called ‘food sequencing’.

Now, before you turn away and scream, ‘Not another bloody way to get healthy!’ consider this: meal sequencing doesn’t ask you to eat less; it doesn’t ask you to eat healthy; it doesn’t ask you to count calories.

What it does do is ask you to eat your food in a specific order.

What is food sequencing?

When food sequencing first hit our radars about two years ago, it was generally stated that: “Food sequencing is eating your macronutrients during a meal in a specific order. We need three macronutrients to give us energy: fat, protein and carbohydrates.

Food sequencing suggests that eating protein and/or fat before carbohydrates can lower glucose levels after eating.”

This means we should eat fibre first, then protein and fats and then the carbohydrates. That can slow the speed at which your stomach empties and help lower your blood sugar levels.

Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported on a study of more than 200 people that found eating fibre-rich vegetables, protein or fat at the start of a meal, and eating refined carbohydrates such as rice, bread or pasta last, could improve blood sugar levels. It could also stimulate higher levels of hormones to promote fullness and satiety.

Some studies suggested this might even help with weight loss.

The National Library of Medicine in America examined those studies in greater detail.

Attractive approach

It concluded that food sequencing was an attractive dietary approach to the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. It also said that the results supported the idea that eating dietary fibre, protein and fat before carbohydrates benefitted people with diabetes and obesity.

Jessie Inchauspé, a biochemist, author of The Glucose Revolution, and founder of the ‘Glucose Goddess’ movement, says tweaking your diet can change your life. Among her recommendations she says that eating your food in a particular order is the key.

By eating salads first, before proteins, and finishing the meal with starchy carbohydrates, she says blood glucose spikes will be flattened, which is better for you.

And she is particularly vocal in opposing the belief that eating something sweet or starchy for breakfast gives your body energy. “The science shows that starting the day this way does the exact opposite,” she says.

“Eating sweet and starchy foods give us pleasure by releasing dopamine in our brain but because starches and sugars turn to glucose during digestion, they lead to a glucose spike.”

Food sequencing you can try

So what changes do food sequencing advocates suggest?

  • Eat a high-fibre salad or a vegetable soup 30 minutes to an hour before you eat eggs or meat.
  • Try a bowl of berries before your breakfast serve of eggs.
  • One study had participants drink a protein drink 30 minutes before a meal. That slowed gastric emptying and reduced the glucose spike after the meal.
  • UK website Food For Thought even recommends eating nuts before a meal. “Nuts and seeds contain protein, fibre and beneficial fats and have been shown to have many beneficial effects on health, weight and appetite. The meal you go on to eat can still contain protein, fat and fibres as well as carbohydrates.”

An alternate view

But not everyone is convinced the strategy will benefit most people. Writing for The Conversation, Adelaide University Professor Leonie Heilbronn says: “Watching those glucose spikes is particularly important if you have diabetes or a handful of other medical conditions.

“If that’s the case, your treating doctor or dietitian will advise how to modify your meals or food intake to avoid glucose spikes. Food ordering may be part of that advice.”

But for the rest of us, she says “don’t tie yourself up in knots trying to eat your meal in a particular order.” She does suggest we remove sugary beverages and add fibre, proteins or fats to carbohydrates to flatten glucose spikes.

So fibre before carbs and carbs last for some and maybe the rest of us at least think about what we eat, when and in what order.

Are you (usually) careful about what you eat and when? Were you aware of the meal sequencing strategy? Have you tried it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: Green powders: The secret to better health or a hoax?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Steve Perkin
Steve Perkin
Steve Perkin had a long and distinguished career as a journalist, covering sport and general news and writing daily columns for The Age and the Herald Sun. He's written three books and is a regular YourLifeChoices contributor.
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