The salad, is it better to eat it before, during or after the main course? This “essential” question seems unimportant, but it can play its part in keeping blood sugar under control and therefore have an impact on weight. We know that a high blood sugar spike can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Several studies published over the past 15 years, especially Japanese, have sought to understand the ideal time during a meal to eat salad. The answer is simple, at the start of the meal, before the main course rich in carbohydrates and proteins.
Salad at the right time helps maintain blood sugar
Japanese researchers compared blood glucose levels (glycaemia) and other physiological signs in 15 people with type 2 diabetes consuming fresh salad (tomato, cabbage and olive oil) followed by a serving of white rice (150 g) then vice versa, either the rice then the salad. In both situations, the scientists measured blood glucose and plasma insulin 0, 30, 60 and 120 minutes after the start of the meal. Peak plasma glucose was greatly reduced when participants started with salad (172 mg/dl) and then rice rather than the other way around (217 mg/dl).
Salad first also protects against weight gain in children
In 2014, the same Japanese researchers repeated the study, including in addition to type 2 diabetics also people without diabetes. They came to the same conclusions, eating the salad before the main course and not during or after results in lower plasma glucose and insulin levels for both diabetics and non-diabetics. This study was published in 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition.
A study conducted on children showed that those who started the meal with meat or fish instead of salad were more likely to be overweight than those who started the meal with salad. This study, also Japanese, was published on May 17, 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics.
Why does the salad at the start of a meal have such an impact?
Presumably, the fibers contained in the salad help explain why it is better to start with the salad and then eat the main course, which is generally rich in carbohydrates (rice) or protein (meat). The undigested dietary fiber seems to interfere with the absorption of carbohydrates from the main course, which is slower and requires less insulin.
Fiber is known to lower the glycemic index of a food. In addition, the salad could stimulate the production of incretins, substances secreted by the pancreas and the intestines which regulate glucose metabolism, also allowing a reduction in the glycemic peak.
ai S, Matsuda M, Fujimoto S, et al. Crossover study of the effect of “vegetables before carbohydrates” on reducing postprandial glucose and insulin in Japanese subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Japan Diab Soc 2010; 53: 112–115
Effect of eating vegetables before carbohydrates on glucose excursions in patients with type 2 diabetes
Does Eating Vegetables at Start of Meal Prevent Childhood Overweight in Japan? A-CHILD Study
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