With medicines, insulin and diet, you, the diabetic, can control your disease and often sidestep its complications. The most worrisome food group in the diabetic’s diet, the carbohydrate group, also goes by the name “carbs.” Understanding carbs helps you make confident food choices. Good carbs, like whole-grain pasta, do play a role in a healthy diabetic diet.
The body uses sugar as energy for its cells. Everything you eat eventually turns into sugar and nourishes the cells. Some foods, like simple carbs, become sugar quickly. Eating these demands an immediate supply of insulin from the pancreas. Complex carbs, which take longer to break down to sugar, puts less stress on the pancreas and easily find insulin escorts to take them safely to a body cell. Whole-grain pasta, bread and cereal make the best carb choices for a diabetic because of their complex structure.
Carbs consist of strands of starch. Simple carbs have fewer strands while complex carbs have a network. Refined white flour uses only one of the three grain parts. This makes it a simple carb which becomes sugar rapidly in the body. By contrast, whole wheat or other whole grains such as oats, rice, barley, rye and corn, contain all three parts of the grain, making them more complex in nature. Complex carbs, such as whole-grain pasta, take much longer to break down into sugar.
Whole-grain pasta, considered a complex carb, makes an excellent choice for a diabetic. Multigrain combines wheat and other grains, but you should read the ingredients list to ensure they included the "whole" grain. Most brands of pasta now offer a variety of whole-wheat and multigrain products. The shapes and sizes make them suitable for dishes such as, casseroles, soups, salads and side dishes.
Proteins take even longer to digest than complex carbs. Pairing protein with complex carbs creates a long, slow release of sugar which puts less stress on the pancreas and keeps you feeling full longer. This coupling of foods creates delicious meals. Try combining whole-grain pasta with chicken and broccoli as a casserole or use beans in place of the chicken for protein. Use the whole-grain spirals in cold salads with peppers, olives and tomatoes. Whole-grain spaghetti and meatballs, always a favorite, can be made with ground turkey or extra lean ground beef. You can also use whole-wheat breadcrumbs in the meatballs.
Whole-grain products make up a large part of the diabetic diet. Their pleasing texture and ability to fill you up make them appealing. Protein from meat, poultry, fish, beans and low-fat dairy complements these carbs as slow-digesting, filling meals. Many companies fortify their whole-grain pastas with protein, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids to add nutrition. Some have spinach or tomato flour added for extra flavor and visual-appeal. Incorporate them into your diabetic diet to reap the benefits whole-grains offer.
- American Diabetes Association: Whole Grain foods; 2010
- "The Glycemic Index Diet Clinic"; Rick Gallop; 2008
- "Eat This and Live"; Don Colbert, M.D.; 2004