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Blood Sugar and Pasta Taste: Why You Should Cook Al Dente

Cook Your Pasta Al Dente For Better Blood Sugar Control and Taste

I grew up in Joisey, (New Jersey) surrounded by Italians. You eat pasta in Jersey. Most of the time it is very good. I live in France now. You eat pasta, but it is often cooked wrong. I go to Italy when I can and I eat pasta everyday when I am there (when in Italy do like the Italians) and it is always cooked correctly.

Trust me, when you have that perfect dish of pasta in front of you, prepared with perfection and soul, the pasta just cooked enough (al dente) and not overcooked to soft texture , this equals a taste that drives you pasta crazy! (Who agrees with me?)

Al dente pasta complements the sauce sitting on top.

Al dente pasta is firmer for better texture, mouth feel and taste.

Cooking pasta al dente helps keep blood sugar in better control (more on this below).

Al dente.  Literally translated from Italian, this means: to the tooth. Firm to the touch. If your pasta package gives the time for pasta to cook, follow al dente cooking times.(And taste your pasta while it is cooking-don’t always trust the label for exact cooking times).

Blood sugar and pasta. Keep portions in control and your al dente pasta can be part of a diabetic balanced meal.

Blood Sugar and Pasta: How Eating Your Pasta Al Dente Makes It A Lower Glycemic Index Food

Foods we eat affect our blood sugar. Pasta is a high carbohydrate food (so diabetics need to watch portion sizes so their blood sugar doesn’t spike) but pasta in itself is a lower glycemic index food. Eating foods with a lower glycemic index can keep your blood sugars more stable than eating foods on the higher glycemic index scale. Eating foods lower on the Glycemic Index scale can be a strategy to keep blood sugars under control.

And here is the important part: pasta cooked al dente, or firm has a lower glycemic index (GI) than pasta that is cooked for a normal bite or overcooked (soft). That is the goal: eating foods lower on the glycemic index for better blood sugar control. Cooking al dente (5 to 6 minutes), for example, allows us to keep spaghettis GIs as low as possible while prolonged cooking (from 15 to 20 minutes) will raise GIs since it accelerates starch gelatinization. 

 You can read more here about the glycemic index of durum wheat, including pasta.  

Now to Watch Those Portions!

The only problem with cooking your pasta so perfectly al dente, is that you cannot eat just a few bites. Delicious pasta makes a second or third serving more tempting to eat. When you eat too big pasta portions, even if pasta is cooked al dente, this can create a carbohydrate overload and a spike in high blood sugar. The remedy? Wrap up leftovers and live like the Italians do: create your own Dolce Vita. Make your meals longer, eat slower, use fresher ingredients, and stop eating your al dente pasta when you are full.

Here is a pasta we adore here in Europe and in the United States. It is available at many grocery stores (or see the link to buy online). When I make pasta using this brand, my kids can tell the taste difference too, they ask me, “What did you do different?” It must be in the semolina flour used. According to Vincent Scordo, “The very best dry pastas are manufactured in Italy and are made with locally grown Durham wheat.  The hard Durham wheat is what yields semolina flour, which is used in all types of quality dry pastas.  In the US, the most common pasta brands are Ronzoni, Barilla, Colavita, De Cecco, etc.  Of the brands found in the typical US supermarket, De Cecco, in my view, is the best choice.  You can see De Cecco’s quality via it’s color and firmness out of the package and once you cook up a batch of linguine fine, for example, you can taste the quality in the semolina flour used.”

Ah, Buon Appetito!


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(This article was edited and updated from a previously published post on pasta, al dente and taste).

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18 Responses to Blood Sugar and Pasta Taste: Why You Should Cook Al Dente

  1. WannaPasta.Com December 22, 2016 at 19:07 #

    Wonderful article, Mary! Cooking pasta al dente is something not many people pay attention to especially when they’re eating out at reasonable fast food joints. This should increase some awareness amongst pasta lovers, I know it did when I told my friends and family about this.
    WannaPasta.Com recently posted..5 Best Vegetable Spiralizers & Noodle Makers in 2017. Veggie Pasta Tips

  2. Adam Joshua Clarke May 23, 2016 at 14:16 #

    It sounds like it is worth a try. If it is better for you in the long run. I like the idea of fresher ingredients. I find pasta to be so filling that I can’t eat it all at once and end up eating leftovers. I don’t know if that still counts as fresh. 😛
    Adam Joshua Clarke recently posted..Adam’s Linking Strategy

  3. Deanna Segrave-Daly (@tspbasil) November 17, 2014 at 19:10 #

    Do you hear me cheering all the way over the Atlantic? So, you already know we were practically neighbors with my mom’s family from South Philly and yo, pasta was a mainstay in our diets from day one. My mom always says I impressed other adults with my spaghetti twirling skills at a young age. I’m a total snob about 1) what pasta I buy – DeCecco is my very favorite (Barilla as back up) and 2) always always al dente for taste (and now for the lower GI index – win/win/)

    • mbrighton November 19, 2014 at 20:44 #

      Ciao Deanna!!! Tu sei molto simpatiche! (you are so nice). Your kids are so lucky (I have said it before and I will say it again—shouting from this side of the Atlantic) that you cook so well for the family—and that you serve DeCecco! Che Bene~! Grazie !

  4. genevieve @ gratitude & greens November 17, 2014 at 18:17 #

    I can’t deal with soggy, overcooked pasta. Al dente is the way to go! Thanks for all the info- I had no idea cooking pasta al dente keep the GI levels low! Glad to know I’ve been going down the healthier route all along 🙂
    genevieve @ gratitude & greens recently posted..Kale, Swiss Chard, and Chickpea Soup with Sunchoke Chips

    • mbrighton November 19, 2014 at 20:45 #

      Hi Genevieve! Thanks for your comment, much appreciated! I don’t think it is ‘common knowledge’ about the need to cook pasta al dente, voila-why I wrote the article 🙂 ! Have a nice day!

  5. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine November 17, 2014 at 14:51 #

    No one wants mushy pasta anyway 😉

    • mbrighton November 19, 2014 at 20:46 #

      Hi Rebecca, I agree bout the mushy pasta. But some don’t even realize that there are other options 🙂 ! Thanks !

  6. Bala November 15, 2014 at 16:25 #

    Very nice article, Mary.

    The science, and particularly biochemistry behind amylose-amylopectin ratios in different types of starch and the effect of temperature in determining water entry into and gelatinization of starch granules, thereby regulating access to the water-soluble amylase is very interesting. Despite these findings being described in science journals for sometime it still does not seem like mainstream knowledge, and so it is particularly nice to see this being discussed in your blog.

    In addition to cooking pasta al dente, on occasion, I also like to add some whole wheat pasta to the regular pasta of the same kind.

    Fresh made pasta which many people enjoy seems to have a high glycemic index, but considering one eats this less frequently, I guess it should be ok.

    Finally, the NJ connection to De Cecco seems more than coincidental! A good friend of mine who grew up in the Highland Park area recommended De Cecco’s to me awhile ago, and I have rarely tried any other dried pasta since.

  7. Courtney May 28, 2014 at 23:46 #

    I usually overcook my macaroni and cheese but today I finally got it Al Dente, and lemme tell ya…best boxed mac n cheese I’ve had in a while! I think the noodles absorbing too much sauce dulls the flavor. Some separation leads to a stronger flavor from the sauce. Also, slightly firm noodles > mushy mess!

    • mbrighton November 15, 2014 at 10:09 #

      Hi Courtney, Thank you very much for your comment and sharing your experience. Happy that your mac and cheese turned out better when the noodles were cooked al dente. Spread the word :)!


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