You might think there’s nothing worse for your blood sugar than a bowl of pasta. Surprisingly, you’d be wrong. As it turns out, pasta has only a moderate effect on blood sugar levels. (The Italian bread you may eat with your pasta, however, is a different story.)

Yes, pasta is high in carbs. But the type of wheat it’s made from (durum wheat) appears to be digested more slowly than similar white flours used to make bread. You can also thank the special protein structure of the dough for pasta’s moderate GL. It’s a protein “latticework” that traps the starch molecules so it takes more time for your stomach’s digestive enzymes to get to them and turn them into blood sugar. (Want to know more? You’ll need a degree in food chemistry.) The more thoroughly you cook pasta, though, the easier it is for your body to break it down, so if you like your pasta al dente, or slightly firm the way Europeans eat it, all the better.

Choose whole wheat pasta instead of regular old white pasta, and you’ll have a serving or two of whole grain — and about three times as much fiber per serving. Remember, you’re aiming to make three of your daily carbohydrate servings whole grains, which will lower your risk of diabetes.

Pasta is pretty much as good — or as bad — for you as what you eat with it. Pile on vegetables like tomatoes and spinach or steamed broccoli, add a little olive oil and garlic, and you’ve got a terrific low-GL meal. Drown your pasta in cream sauce, and you might as well eat cheesecake.

If you’re watching your cholesterol, you might go a little easy with egg noodles. It’s no secret that they’re made with eggs, and since eggs contain cholesterol, so do the noodles. Another option? Eggless “egg” noodles.

Health Bonus
All white pasta is enriched with iron and B vitamins (pasta that’s 100 percent whole grain is not). Pasta also contains some protein, although it’s not a “complete” protein source, meaning that it’s missing some of the amino acids that make up a complete protein. You can easily remedy this by sprinkling a little grated cheese on your pasta.

Glycemic Load: Medium

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.