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How to Choose Low-Glycemic Pasta

4 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Choosing Low-Glycemic Foods

Many people believe that pasta has a high glycemic index. But, no! Spaghetti made from white durum wheat, the most prevalent type of pasta available, has a glycemic index of just 44. Macaroni has a similar low glycemic index of 47. So why all the fuss about pasta? The problem is that people confuse the glycemic index with the total amount of carbohydrates in the pasta and the amount of pasta they usually eat.

A recommended serving size of pasta is 1/2 cup of cooked pasta, which is the amount you can hold in one cupped hand. If you were served that amount at an Italian restaurant, you’d most likely demand your money back! Most people eat 2 cups of pasta for a meal. That amount of, say, spaghetti has a glycemic load of 26, whereas the glycemic load of a 1/2-cup serving of spaghetti is only 7. See what a difference the amount of food you eat makes?

Add seafood, grilled chicken, or grilled vegetables along with some grated cheese to your pasta, and the total glycemic load falls even further. Filled whole-grain pasta, such as whole-grain tortellini with cheese, has a low glycemic load even before you add anything to it.

Some pasta manufacturers are now adding soy protein to their pasta, which increases the nutritional value and decreases the glycemic index. The Dreamfields brand uses technology to make most of the carbohydrates in its pasta nondigestible, meaning it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels as high as you’d expect from a similar amount of traditional pasta.

Here’s a three-step plan for choosing the healthiest, lowest-glycemic pasta out there:

  1. Look for whole-grain or protein-enriched pasta that tends to have a lower glycemic index, or choose a pasta that’s filled with cheese, chicken, and/or vegetables for an overall lower glycemic load.

  2. Eat no more than 1 cup of cooked pasta in a sitting.

  3. Add protein such as chicken or fish and at least 2 cups of cooked vegetables to your plate.

    The pasta should cover only one-quarter of your plate.

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