Amy Reeder is a Certified Diabetes Educator with a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Utah. She has worked in the diabetes field since 2005 and has been a Certified Diabetes Educator since 2007. 

Ahhh, pasta. Everyone loves it! But it is one of those foods that has confusing messages attached to it. It’s a carbohydrate and sometimes carbs get a bad rap, as we all know. Any carbohydrate-rich food is going to cause a rise in blood sugar, whether you have diabetes or not.

If you have diabetes, however, you need to manage that rise in blood sugar in order to stay healthy and avoid complications over time. So how do you enjoy pasta and manage blood sugar? One way is to choose different types of non-traditional pasta. Regular pasta is made from white flour, which is digested and absorbed easily by the body causing a spike in blood sugar after eaten. But there are many different types of pasta on the market shelves these days that can be part of a healthy diet and not cause such havoc with blood sugar. Most of these pastas are referred to as “whole grain,” but can have very different properties and tastes.

Whole Wheat/Whole Grain Pasta

Whole wheat pasta is commonly referred to as whole grain pasta. It is made from whole wheat flour and contains five grams of fiber per serving. Compared to regular pasta that has two grams of fiber per serving, this is a wise choice. Fiber slows down the digestion process and allows for a slower release of sugar in to the bloodstream, resulting in more even blood glucose levels as opposed to sharp spikes. Whole wheat pasta has a different look and taste than regular pasta. It is brown and tastes a little nuttier. If you are sensitive to this different color or taste, try this type of pasta in soups or in a dish that has a lot of sauce.

High Fiber Pasta

High fiber pasta is usually packaged with a big high-fiber message on the front of the package. This pasta is made with wheat flour, but may have added food sources that increase the fiber content. Because of the added sources of fiber, this pasta does not necessarily look as brown or taste as nutty as whole wheat pasta. This pasta can have anywhere from five to eight grams of fiber per serving. Dreamfields and Ronzoni are two common brands of high-fiber pasta.

Grain Berry Pasta

One other type of pasta that is new on the store shelves is called Grain Berry. This is a whole grain pasta made from whole wheat and bran, but also contains antioxidants similar to those found in blueberries, pomegranate juice and Concord grape juice. The fiber, carb and protein content of this pasta are not too different from the other types of pasta listed above, it simply contains antioxidants that other pastas do not.

Serving Size

As with any carbohydrate food, serving size is key. One fifteen gram carb serving of pasta is half a cup. The next time you cook pasta, try measuring half a cup out on to your plate. The serving might look a little smaller than what you are used to eating, but add some veggies and lean meat, and you should be able to fill up. Add up the cups and add up the carbs of your pasta to manage blood sugar treatment. And try some of these unique pastas in place of traditional pasta the next time you crave spaghetti and meatballs or pasta primavera!

To read more from our Problem Foods Series:

Problem Foods: Can Diabetics Eat Potatoes?
Problem Foods: Can diabetics eat refined sugar?
Problem Foods: Can Diabetics Eat All-purpose Flour?