Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Food Sequencing

The concept of food sequencing has been around for about 50 years. The original theory was if you ate your foods one at a time rather than a bite of this and a bite of that, the food would layer in the stomach. Because various foods break down at much different rates (animal protein is very slow, fruits are fast), eating in sequence could markedly improve digestion.

Food sequencing is not to be confused with food combining, although that’s easily done. Food combining takes various foods and groups them together based on how quickly they break down. For example, protein can be eaten with vegetables, but not with starches. Starches can be eaten with vegetables and fruits must be eaten alone.

Dr. Harvey Diamond and his wife, Marilyn, published a New York Times #1 best seller in 1987 on this topic entitled “Fit For Life”. They made the process very easy by recommending all fruit be consumed in the morning, then switch to protein and vegetables or vegetables and starch for lunch and dinner.

For most of my patients, food combining is not necessary. However, for those with persistent digestive issues, food combining often provides a marked reduction in digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

So let’s get back to food sequencing. Recently, a patient of mine who is diabetic began a food sequencing program to reduce her blood glucose levels. Within two weeks, her fasting blood glucose dropped 35 points with no change in the foods she eats, just modifying the sequence.

As soon as she explained the program to me, I had two thoughts – Why had no one taught me this concept earlier in my career? And why didn’t I think of it myself? The concept makes perfect sense and is really simple to implement.

Here it is – At every meal, eat your vegetables first, followed by the protein, and then eat any simple carbohydrates last. If we take a typical American dinner of a pork chop, green beans and mashed potatoes, you would eat the green beans first, then the pork chop and finally the mashed potatoes last.

If you have eggs and toast for breakfast, you eat the eggs first then the toast as there is no vegetable serving. Now I believe that the toast is nothing more than an egg delivery system to the mouth, so that would be hard for me.

This is much like fine dining where the salad is served first, followed by the main course (usually a protein, another vegetable, and a starch), then finally desert. The only modification would be to eat the main course vegetable first, then the protein and finally the starch.

Forget about any benefit in digestion, this is all based on the glycemic index. That is a measure of the insulin demand created by eating the food. For example white bread has a glycemic index of 90 (based on glucose being 100) and green vegetables have a glycemic index of 0 – 15. The lower the glycemic index, the less the demand for insulin release to metabolize the glucose in the blood stream.

By eating the low glycemic foods first (vegetables) the insulin release from the pancreas is minimal. The response to protein is similarly low. By the time the refined carbohydrates hit the blood stream insulin levels have already been slowly rising, so no insulin spike occurs. Over just a few days, insulin resistance begins to reverse.

Almost without exception, type 2 diabetes is the result of a poor diet. These same patients are often unwilling or unable to give up the refined carbohydrates to reverse their disease. However, food combining allows them to eat those (bad) foods in moderation just by placing them at the end of the meal. I have found my diabetic patients will readily embrace this program.

The Bottom Line:
Please eliminate all that “white food” from your diet. However, if you find the prospect of eliminating refined carbohydrates too difficult, despite the health consequences, please consider food sequencing as an alternative.

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