Keeping your blood sugar levels under control isn’t easy. This is especially true for the millions of people living with type 2 diabetes. Having high blood sugar levels too often can put you at risk of long-term complications like heart or kidney disease, and nerve damage.
While quitting or cutting back on junk food and soda pops is a great way to prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking, it’s not the only thing you can do. Not many people know this, but there are ways for you to still enjoy foods like bread, rice, and potatoes. Keep on reading to learn how you can eat carbohydrates without having to worry about your blood sugar levels spiking.
1. Cook it and let it cool
Cooking and cooling carbohydrate-rich foods like rice, potatoes, and oats before eating them can significantly lower their impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels.
One study found that cooking rice and then cooling it for 24 hours before reheating it for consumption greatly lowered the glycemic response when compared to eating freshly cooked rice.
Another study found similar results with potatoes. Researchers concluded that high glycemic and insulinemic features commonly associated with potato meals can be reduced by refrigerating the potatoes before eating them.
So, what’s going on?
How can these carb-rich foods have such different impacts on your blood sugar and insulin just by changing their cooking method?
According to the research, when these foods cool down after being cooked, some of the starch they contain slowly transforms into resistant starch.
As the name implies, these types of starches are resistant to digestion. They pass through your gut without being digested, which is similar to soluble fiber. And because they’re not being digested and broken down into glucose, they don’t require any insulin.
In recent years, resistant starch has been found to improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, reduce appetite and offer various other benefits for digestion.
All you have to do to get all these amazing benefits is to cook your rice, potatoes or oats and then leave them in your fridge overnight. And you can just reheat them right before you eat.
2. Save your carbs for last
The order in which you eat your food can affect your blood sugar levels. That’s why this strategy requires that you eat your carbohydrate-rich portion of your meal after the other foods that are on your plate.
Here’s what the food consumption order for better blood sugar control looks like:
- dietary fiber (vegetables)
- protein (beans, eggs, fish, meat)
- starch (rice, bread, pasta)
So, imagine you’re having a steak with green beans and mashed potatoes. In this case, you would eat the green beans first, followed by your steak, and then finish with the potatoes.
One study had participants with type 2 diabetes eat the same meal three days in a row. On the first day, participants ate the carbohydrate portion of the meal first followed by their protein and vegetable portion.
On the second day, researchers had the patients eat the protein and the vegetables first and kept the carbs for the end. On the last day, the participants ate everything together without any clear order.
Study participants had their Insulin levels tested before eating and after eating every 30 minutes for the following three hours.
The results showed that insulin levels were significantly lower after the meal when the carbohydrate portion was eaten last.
So how can you make use of this if you’re eating something like a pasta dish or a rice dish where everything is mixed together?
A simple solution is to try eating a salad or a protein based appetizer first. Just make sure the appetizer you eat has little to no carbs. Doing this before you dig into the carb portion of your meal will greatly improve your blood sugar and insulin levels.
3. Just add vinegar
Did you know that consuming vinegar before or with your carbohydrates can help to lower your blood sugar and insulin response. And it’s as simple as drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in water before your meal. You also have the option of adding white vinegar to your meal.
In one study, researchers found that adding vinegar to a meal helped lower glycemic and insulinemic response.
Participants in the study were given one and a half tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (ACV), two minutes before a high carb meal that included a bagel and orange juice.
The results showed that the group that consumed the ACV were up to 34 percent more insulin sensitive an hour after eating compared to the group that consumed the placebo.
The reason why vinegar works is because it contains acetic acid, which increases the speed at which our muscles can absorb glucose.
Each time we consume carbs, they are broken down into single sugar molecules and absorbed in our gut to enter our bloodstream. The presence of glucose in our blood triggers the release of insulin to signal our cells, mainly our muscle cells to absorb the glucose. Apple cider vinegar and regular vinegar helps to speed up this process.
If you don’t like the taste of ACV, you can add a squirt of lemon juice or try diluting it in sparkling water instead. As mentioned previously, you can also add vinegar to a salad as an appetizer if you don’t want to drink the vinegar directly.
One last thing to note is to avoid apple cider vinegar in the form of supplements or gummies. They are not as effective as the liquid form.
If you can apply all of these three tips together or on their own, you’ll be able to enjoy carbs while keeping your blood sugar levels under control. It may seem like a lot of work, but any changes to your eating habits will require some getting used to.
If you already have type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, you’ll have to still manage your carb intake. But with these effective strategies, you won’t have to completely remove your favorite carbs from your diet.