Vegetables First for Diabetes Control

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Oct 23, 12:03 PM in . No comments.

When you sit down to your meal, do you tuck into the carbohydrates first? A lot of people with Type 2 Diabetes concentrate on the carbohydrate in their meals, thinking this is the most important part of the meal for blood sugar control. In fact, eating the carbohydrates first may be doing you a disservice.

A Japanese study has shown that simply by eating vegetables before carbohydrates foods in meals, glycaemic control was improved in patients with Type 2 Diabetes.

In the 24 month study, 101 participants were randomised into two groups. The first group used a traditional exchange based plan where portions of carbohydrate were calculated and controlled. The second group followed a simple meal plan which consisted of eating vegetables first and carbohydrates after.

After 24 months, both groups had a reduction in HbA1c and improved blood sugar control but the levels of HbA1c were significantly lower in the “vegetables first” group after just 6 to 12 months into the investigation.

The researchers suggested that the reduction could partly be explained by the dietary fibre in the vegetables, and proposed that this resulted in the carbohydrates being more slowly digested. This is entirely possible. The study didn’t, however, mention whether or not participants ate less carbohydrate after eating their vegetables first. It certainly would be interesting to find out.

This idea fits in well with the new Diabetes UK (2011) “Evidence-based nutrition guidelines for the prevention and management of diabetes”, which takes the emphasis off eating large amounts of carbohydrates and focuses on weight management as the first and foremost strategy for managing Type 2 Diabetes.

So just by changing the order in which you eat the parts of your meal may make a difference to Diabetes control. Filling up on vegetables can help slow your carbohydrate digestion and possibly help with eating smaller portions too! Vegetables should take up at least half of your plate so it makes sense to eat them first.

Simple and worth a try.


Imai S, Matsuda M, Hasegawa G, Fukui M, Obayashi H, Ozasa N, Kajiyama S. A simple meal plan of ‘eating vegetables before carbohydrate’ was more effective for achieving glycemic control than an exchange-based meal plan in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2011;20(2):161-8.

Diabetes UK ((2011) “Evidence-based nutrition guidelines for the prevention and management of diabetes2

Tags: Carbohydrates, Diabetes, Portions, Vegetables

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.


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