How long you cook pasta can make or break your meal. The taste of perfectly cooked pasta is hard to beat, and removing it from the boiling water at just the right moment is the trick to achieving the desired flavor. Letting pasta cook for too long, however, can have a negative impact on the taste, texture and nutritional value of the food.
Cooking pasta for too long strips nutrients away from the noodles. When food, including pasta, is cooked for too long, the bonds between the molecules are damaged, which causes nutrient loss, according to Columbia University. For example, overcooking pasta can reduce the fiber content of the noodles. Overcooked pasta is lower in B vitamins, such as vitamins B-1 and B-5, as well as amino acids, according to Columbia University. B vitamins help your body produce energy, and amino acids are compounds that help your body make and use protein properly.
Overcooked pasta has a higher glycemic index than pasta that's cooked al dente, according to Kimberly Lord Stewart, author of "Eating Between the Lines." Al dente pasta has a glycemic score of 41, while overcooked pasta is much higher on the scale, she says. Foods that are higher on the glycemic scale are digested more quickly. This happens because the longer pasta is cooked, the more the sugars it contains break down.
Overcooked Pasta, Blood Sugar and Health
The quicker digestive process associated with high-glycemic foods causes a spike in blood sugar, followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar. This leaves you feeling hungry again shortly after eating. Enjoying pasta that has been cooked al dente, on the other hand, causes the digestive process to slow down, leaving you feeling full for a longer period of time. When you feel full, you tend to eat less, which can help you lose weight. Shedding excess weight can improve your overall health and well-being. A diet that includes a large number of high-glycemic foods is also associated with a higher risk for chronic disease, such as heart disease and type-2 diabetes, according to a 2008 article published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."
The Key to Perfect Pasta
For a pound of pasta, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta, and stir gently to prevent sticking. Allow the pasta to cook for several minutes, and then give it a taste test to determine when it's al dente, recommends "Cooks Illustrated." Al dente pasta is slightly chewy and has a small white dot in the center, which you can check by biting the noodles.