Eating Protein BEFORE Carbs Lowers Blood Sugar

eating protein before carbs lowers blood sugar

If you have diabetes, prediabetes or insulin resistance, you’ve probably been told to limit your carb intake. Carbs raise blood sugar as well as insulin levels in those people that are insulin resistant. Excessive amounts of insulin and elevated blood sugar lead to health problems. But limiting carbs isn’t so easy to do, as they are everywhere! Now the good news … a recent study found that eating carbs at the END of your meal may help lessen the rise of blood sugar and insulin post meal.


Effects of carbs on blood sugar and insulin levels

All foods that contain carbs eventually break down into glucose and raise blood sugar. Even the
healthier carbs like quinoa, beans and steel cut oats raise blood sugar – although they have less of foods rich in protein and fatan effect as compared to carbs with a higher glycemic index such as sugary foods, white rice or potatoes. And if even if you don’t have diabetes, carbs – especially the high glycemic ones – can cause insulin levels to spike if you have insulin resistance. Both high levels of insulin as well as elevated glucose levels can lead to health problems.

Protein, fat and non-starchy vegetables are known to have a minimal effect of raising blood sugars. In addition, adding protein or fat to a meal lowers the glycemic index of that meal and therefore has less of an impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. So researchers theorized that eating protein /fat/vegetables BEFORE the carbs in a meal may lessen the impact of carbs on blood sugar. And they were right!

The study that showed eating protein before carbs lowers blood sugar

Dr. Louie Aronne and researchers from Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC designed the study. Here is the study:
-11 patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes who were taking metformin (a drug that helps control glucose and insulin levels) ate the same meals in different orders 1 week apart, so that the researchers could observe how their glucose levels were affected.  photo credit 
– The set meal consisted of ciabatta bread, orange juice, chicken breast, lettuce and tomato salad with low-fat dressing and steamed broccoli with butter
– Week one, the participants consumed the carbs first (juice, bread), waited 15 minutes and then ate the protein, fat and vegetables.
– Week two, this was reversed. They ate the carbs last.
– Their glucose levels would be checked in the morning and 30, 60 and 120 minutes after a meals.

The results

Glucose and insulin levels were significantly lower when carbohydrates were eaten last. When the vegetables, protein and fat were eaten before the carbohydrates, the researchers found that glucose levels were 29%, 37% and 17% lower at the 30, 60 and 120-minute checks, compared with when carbohydrates were consumed first. Also, insulin was found to be significantly lower when the participants ate vegetables and protein. photo credit

Who this may benefit

Since the study was done on obese people with type 2 diabetes taking metformin, anyone who fits that profile may benefit. More studies needs to be done to see if this same principle of “eating diabetes diet carbs last” will help others.

But that being said, you might want to give this way of eating a try if you have type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance (including PCOS), or prediabetes. It makes sense that eating carbs last help decrease the insulin and glucose response to carbs.

Lastly, eating “carbs last” may also help you lose weight . Most of us LOVE carbs and tend to indulge a bit too much (bread basket in restaurants , massive pasta entrees …) Keep in mind that eating large portions of carbs, especially “white carbs” can cause insulin spikes which can contribute to more fat storage. Eating protein/fat/vegetables first can start to make you feel more full so you can cut down on your carb portions (and avoid the bread basket)



popovers at BLT steakWhen possible, start your meal with a salad with dressing, protein and/or non-starchy vegetables. Eat slow … then eat the carbohydrate portion of your meal last. And this doesn’t mean it’s ok to gorge on dessert if you eat the protein/veg/fat first. Carbs still have an effect on blood sugar and insulin regardless of when they are eaten!  Pic is of the tempting popovers at BLT Steak. Read my previous blog post to find out how many calories and carbs are in one of them!

Of course, eating protein before carbs isn’t always practical. Your business colleagues may do a double take if you start dissecting your sandwich to eat the meat part first …



If you have diabetes, prediabetes, insulin resistance, or PCOS and are confused on what to eat, contact me for a Nutrition Consultation. As a certified diabetes educator, I specialize in these conditions and can give you practical, personalized advice. Call me at 212 – 879 – 5167 or email for details. You may only need one session!





I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.

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