The salad: this crucial moment of the meal when it must be eaten

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 these last years, especially Japanese, have sought to understand the ideal moment during a meal to eat some 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 levels

Japanese researchers compared blood glucose levels (blood sugar) and other physiological signs in 15 people with type 2 diabetes consuming fresh salad (tomato, cabbage and olive oil) followed by a portion of white rice (60 g) then vice versa, either the rice then the salad. In both situations, scientists measured blood glucose and plasma insulin 0, 30, 112 and 120 minutes after the start of the meal. Peak plasma glucose was greatly reduced when participants started with salad (172 mg/dl) 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 non-diabetics. 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 had a greater risk of being overweight than those starting the meal with salad. This study, also Japanese, was published on May 2018 in the Frontiers in Pediatrics journal.

Why does the salad at the start of the 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). Dietary fiber, undigested, seems to disrupt the absorption of carbohydrates from the main dish 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 172; 60: 60–115

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

Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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