Diabetes and Carbohydrates – Yes, you can eat pasta!
By Christina Zavaglia, MHSc, RD, CDE
We’re thrilled to introduce Christina Zavaglia, a registered dietitian and trained certified diabetes educator. We asked Christina to tackle the myth of carbohydrates specifically pertaining to diabetes. It’s a common question asked to us about our pasta. She breaks down the components of managing diabetes and the necessity for a healthy diet versus a ‘special’ diet that people with diabetes feel they have to follow.
Eating healthy is an important component of diabetes management but it is a myth that people with diabetes need to eat a “special” diet. In fact, “a diabetic diet” is just a healthy diet, and healthy eating is for everyone. For someone living with diabetes, no foods need to be off limits however portion control of carbohydrates and moderation of less healthy foods is important.
Living with diabetes people sometimes believe they should avoid carbohydrates, this is not true! Carbohydrates are our bodies main source of energy and are found in grain products, legumes (such as chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils), fruits, some vegetables, and some dairy products – these foods are all great sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals and you do not want to do your body a disservice by excluding them.
Chickapea pasta is made from only organic red lentils and chickpeas and is a source of carbohydrates as well as rich in iron, folate, thiamine, fiber and protein, all of which are all essential for good health. Fiber and protein are also very filling which means that you can fill up on a smaller portion and feel satisfied.
Eating a high-fiber diet can help manage blood sugar. Diabetes Canada recommends that people living with diabetes consume between 25-50 g of fiber per day*. Fiber is considered a carbohydrate although it is not digested by our body and does not raise blood sugar (therefore it can be subtracted from the total amount of carbohydrates of a food). Fiber has been shown to help with weight management by helping us feel full for longer and preventing those hunger pangs from coming on an hour after eating.
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber can help prevent constipation and is found in wheat bran, whole grains, and the skin of many fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber can help manage blood sugar levels by slowing the release of carbohydrates into our blood (helping to avoid rapid blood sugar increases). It can also help manage cholesterol, which is important because diabetes increases the risk of heart disease. Foods with soluble fiber include oats, barley, apples, pears and legumes. Most foods have a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber. Chickapea pasta is made from lentils and chickpeas and is a very high source of fiber, containing 13 g per 3.5oz serving!
Choosing foods with a lower glycemic index (GI) can also help manage blood sugar. GI is a scale that ranks carbohydrate containing foods by how much they raise blood sugar compared to a standard food (white bread). Lower GI foods include barley, sweet potatoes, and legumes, like the chickpeas and lentils found in Chickapea pasta.
“People with diabetes can and should enjoy a variety of carbohydrate containing foods. Choosing high-fiber and lower glycemic index foods more often can help manage blood sugar.”
Bottom Line: People with diabetes can and should enjoy a variety of carbohydrate containing foods. Choosing high-fiber and lower glycemic index foods more often can help manage blood sugar. The amount and type of carbohydrates someone needs are based on a variety of factors (such as age, medication, activity level), speak to a registered dietitian to learn what is right for you.
For more information on diabetes, visit Diabetes Canada or the American Diabetes Association
*Note: The American Diabetes Association recommends people with diabetes eat 25-30g of fiber per day.
Christina Zavaglia is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator practicing in downtown Toronto. She is also the founder of Cucina di Christina, a nutrition consulting and communications business. Follow her @cucina_di_christina or www.cucinadichristina.com
On a personal note:
“I grew up in an Italian household where we ate white pasta 2-3x/week and it has always been a comfort food for me. However, as I got older and more interested in nutrition, I started to eat less white pasta in favor of whole grains. When I saw Chickapea pasta at my local grocery store and noticed that it had so much protein and fiber (regularity is important afterall), I had to try it! I am not a vegetarian but I do not eat a lot of meat and am always trying to find ways to get more plant-based protein into my diet. I was so impressed with the taste and loved the al-dente texture. Now I can get my pasta fix more often and feel good that I am getting plenty of satisfying protein and fiber that leaves me feeling full for hours.”