|Is Pasta OK, if it’s al dente? Sounds legit, right? How legit does it sound, if I tell you that pasta is ok, anyway?|
I am pretty sure you’ve heard some self-proclaimed expert state: “You know why the Italians ain’t fat, although they eat tons of pasta all day, bro? I can tell, ya! It’s ’cause they eat them al dente… that means “for the teeth”, bro – you know?” I guess you don’t mind if I discard the subsequent excursion into Italian cuisine, do I? No? Fine! Bro or not: The reasoning behind the recommendation to eat your pasta “al dente” [=cooked so as to be firm but not hard] doesn’t sound that flawed, does it?
I mean, aside from the fact that I have to say that the Italians are not as lean as you Americans apparently believe (31.8 % are overweight and 8.9 % are obese) it sounds legit that the hard pasta will take longer to digest. This would (or should I write “should?”) reduce its GI and that in turn should help you to stay / get lean. So what?
Will having your pasta ‘al dente’ lead to a major reduction in glycemic load?
False. While it sounds totally logical that overcooked pasta should have higher glycemic indices and thus – assuming identical intakes – glycemic loads, a 1986 paper by Wolver et al. shows quite conclusively that this is not the case.
|Figure 1: Glycemic response 0-180min after test meals containing 66g of white bread or pasta (dry weight) in 11 non-insulin-dependent and 6 insulin-dependent diabetic patients (Wolever. 1986)|
The data in Figure 1 does yet also reveal that there are unexpected differences between different types of pasta, with a mean glycemic responses that is 50% lower for the spaghetti meal than for the macaroni, the difference is even statistically significant (P < .01). Enriching your spaghetti with protein (Figure 1, left), on the other hand, is about as worthless as to cook them for only 5 minutes.
As useless as the “tricks” may be compared to the “American spaghetti”, i.e. white bread, pasta is more or less harmless… unfortunately, the glucose surge is not the only reason spaghetti, macaroni and star pastina end up on your hips pretty easily, which is why I’d still suggest you eat them in moderation (I don’t suggest that for white bread – unless you actually want to gain weight, you better don’t eat that at all ;-).
- Dressler, Heidi, and Chery Smith. “Food choice, eating behavior, and food liking differs between lean/normal and overweight/obese, low-income women.” Appetite (2013).
- Wolever TM, Jenkins DJ, Kalmusky J, Giordano C, Giudici S, Jenkins AL, Thompson LU, Wong GS, Josse RG. Glycemic response to pasta: effect of surface area, degree of cooking, and protein enrichment. Diabetes Care. 1986 Jul-Aug;9(4):401-4.
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