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Carbs in Pasta for Metabolic Health

When it comes to a good glycemic response, it’s okay to use your noodle!

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Man serving carbs in pasta form to woman

Good news for pasta lovers: Eating your carbs in pasta form may result in better metabolic health than getting your carbs from bread. A recent and very intriguing randomized study in The Journal of Nutrition discovered that when healthy normal-weight adults consumed 50 grams of carbs from wheat-based spaghetti or penne their 2-hour postprandial glycemic response was lower than when they consumed the same amount of wheat-based carbs from bread and couscous.

Why? The investigators determined that the pasta products required more chew and longer oral processing time. They also were present in larger particle sizes after mastication and gastric digestion, all of which can bring on a more subdued blood sugar response. After stomach digestion, the pasta samples contained more pieces of nonhydrolyzed starch, whereas the bread and couscous were almost entirely digested into glucose.

It’s worth noting the test was conducted using refined grains, so it’s yet to be discovered if the same outcome would hold true for whole wheat pasta versus whole wheat bread. The research should also be replicated in people who are overweight or obese and in those with diagnosed blood sugar control problems, including individuals with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Also, what would happen if these sources of carbs were tested as part of a mixed meal with protein and fat? But for now, perhaps we should be recommending that our clients bring pasta salad for lunch instead of a sandwich.

See also: Pasta Palooza: How Do My Choices Compare?



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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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