Essential cooking tips for carb lovers
Thursday, 7 May 2020
Have you ever wondered:
- Which way of cooking pasta will have a more dramatic effect on your blood glucose level – well-cooked or less cooked (al dente) pasta?
- Which way of preparing potatoes will release glucose into your bloodstream slower – potato salad kept in the fridge overnight or boiled potatoes served steaming hot from the pot?
Here we look at different ways of cooking carbs and the effect that can have on your BGLs.
Pasta and potatoes
Pasta and potatoes are both carbohydrate foods. Carbohydrates break down into glucose causing an increase in blood glucose levels. All carbohydrate foods break down into glucose at a different rate. However, by simply changing the way you cook and prepare some carbohydrate foods you can make a difference in the rate of carbohydrate breakdown. The slower the breakdown the better for blood glucose management.
The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that rates carbohydrate foods based on how slowly or quickly they affect blood glucose levels. Carbohydrate foods with a lower GI are more favourable for diabetes management. They take longer to digest and therefore can increase your blood glucose level in a slower and gentler manner. There are many factors that affect the GI of carbohydrate food. In general, the foods that are less processed are lower in GI due to the higher fibre content. For example, multigrain bread is lower in GI than white bread. However, how you cook and prepare foods can also make a difference too.
When it comes to cooking pasta, overcooking boosts the GI. The best way to have pasta is to cook it al dente (firm to the bite). Al dente pasta will take longer to digest. That’s why less-cooked pasta is lower GI than well-cooked pasta, and why al dente is better for diabetes management. When cooking try the pasta two to three minutes before the indicated cooking time on the packet. It should be slightly firm and offer some resistance when you are chewing it. However, bear in mind that if you have too much in one go, it will still have a considerable effect on your blood glucose level. Try adding vegetables to your pasta or having some salad on the side to make a more balanced meal.
If you are a potato-lover living with diabetes, you can still enjoy potatoes by swapping to the lower GI potatoes such GiLICIOUS or Carisma. However, you can also make your potatoes lower in GI by changing the way you prepare them. Cooling after cooking increases resistant starch in carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta. Resistant starch is a type of fibre that cannot be digested, which helps lower the GI of the food. It is recorded that cold storage increases the potatoes’ resistant starch content by more than a third. Even better – toss your potatoes with any kind of vinaigrette (such as lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar) as the acid in the vinaigrette will slow stomach emptying, which is better for diabetes management.
By Lexie Zhiyan Jin, Accredited Practising Dietitan