For the more than 35 million Americans who have diabetes, plus the tens of millions more who are pre-diabetic, one of the biggest obstacles to managing the condition is avoiding wheat flour and white flour.
Even foods marketed as 100% whole wheat fiber can lead to blood sugar spikes. Nearly every commercial variety of bread, crackers, pasta, baked goods and other processed foods contain either wheat or white flour.
Soda, cakes, cookies, candy, fruit juice, dried fruit, and other high-sugar foods and drinks are justifiably culpable for the diabetes and obesity epidemic. (An estimated 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are either overweight or obese.) Some people with type 2 diabetes mistakenly believe that eating foods with wheat are a better alternative for blood-sugar management.
But as the glycemic index (GI) —a score that ranks an individual food’s potential to raise blood sugar—shows, whole wheat bread has a GI score of over 70. A score of over 55 is considered high potential for raising blood sugar. (Pure glucose ranks 100.)
Foods and drinks with white flour rank even higher on the GI. In addition to the glycemic index, foods are also ranked on the amount of carbohydrates they contain per serving as well as their glycemic index. This is called the glycemic load, or GL. Wheat-based products have a moderate GL score while foods with white flour have a high GL. In other words, if you want your cells to be more sensitive to insulin and have more stable blood sugar levels, you should definitely avoid white flour as much as possible and keep your intake of wheat products to a minimum.
But what’s a pasta lover to do? Even if you have type 2 diabetes, can’t you enjoy a moderate serving of pasta from time to time? Well, why not have a double serving of pasta? So long as the pasta you eat has a minimum impact on your blood sugar level.
And the best way to enjoy pasta while managing your blood sugar is by replacing regular pasta with chickpea pasta. Yes, the same chickpeas that hummus is made out of, that makes eating raw veggies tolerable.
Nearly every supermarket in the country now carries pasta alternatives, chickpea pasta included.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition supports chickpeas for blood sugar management.
For many years, chickpeas and other legumes have been recommended for those with diabetes, for improved glucose control. The study compared chickpea-based and wheat-based foods’ effects on insulin. The experiment examined insulin reactions over a six week period. In one small study of 19 people, insulin and blood sugar were measured on three separated days over three hours after the subjects consumed 50 grams of carbohydrates from either chickpeas, wheat-based foods, or white bread.
And in another experiment involving 20 people, blood sugar and insulin levels were assessed in the fasting state and two hours after a 75-gram carbohydrate meal with either chickpeas or wheat-based foods for six weeks.
In the three-day study, blood sugar levels were significantly lower 30 and 60 minutes after the chickpea meal compared to the wheat-based or white bread meal.
One may infer from this study that when people with type 2 diabetes have cravings for pasta or other starchy carbs, eating a wheat- or white-flour alternative like chickpeas may help manage blood sugar and insulin levels.
The study referenced above was published in 2004. Back then, those with diabetes would have a hard time finding chickpea pasta, even in health food stores. But nearly two decades later, chickpeas are having their moment under the sun.
Just make sure that when you buy chickpea pasta and any other foods with chickpeas, including whole chickpeas, it’s labeled non-GMO organic. That’s because many brands of chickpeas contain glyphosate residue. Glyphosate is a chemical compound and main active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed and grass killer, the world’s most popular herbicide brand. Organic foods contain no genetically-modified ingredients and contain less glyphosate residue.
An even better alternative to chickpea pasta is shirataki pasta, which are noodles that are almost entirely composed of water, with a tiny bit of vegetable fiber called glucomannan added. Glucomannan , contains almost no calories or carbohydrates and is derived from the bulbous, water-filled root of an Asian variety of yam. You can find shirataki noodles in either the pasta aisle of your local supermarket or the Asian food section.
Other alternative pasta choices include black bean, squash and zucchini noodles, aka “zoodles.”
If you refuse to entirely give up regular flour-based pasta, try to use a healthier pasta like chickpeas on occasion.