Low Glycemic Diet and Pasta for a Diabetic?

by J
(MA)

Visitor Question:

My husband is a type II diabetic. Is it safe to live by a low glycemic diet if you're diabetic? The ADA says studies have not proven a significant decrease in glucose levels in diabetics following this diet.

Secondly, It seems like the approval of eating a low glycemic pasta is an oxymoron to a diabetic. My understanding is pasta has a LOT of carbs and must be eaten seldom and in very small amounts. I read all your info about some of the differences but I'm still confused why it would be ok to eat?

I really like your approach and would like to try it. Unfortunately when he was diagnosed with diabetes he had no health insurance and wasn't taught anything. He was left to fend for himself. He hopes to get health insurance soon and I plan on seeing a nutritionist so we can both learn what we could be doing better. A lot of information online is generic (not specific to Type II) or little information is given because each diabetic's diet is individual. I appreciate any help you can offer.

Thank you.
J

Lifetime Fat Loss Answers:

Thank you for such thoughtful questions. I am separating them into two responses. You inspired me to go back and edit my page about so called low carb pasta. Alas, as you pointed out, pasta has lots of carbs which I do explain in the article but I was not clear enough obviously. Even though pasta has a moderate glycemic load of 18 grams (at least the high protein and whole grain pastas,) in a serving size (1/2 cup) it has a low glycemic index and shouldn't raise your blood sugar. I recommend eating the best pastas if you can have good portion control because it's so important to eat some highly nutritious, low glycemic grains. Why? Because this is a life long way of eating and grains provide you with fiber, bulk and so many nutrients and they are very filling. You don't want to feel deprived and starved and you need a balanced diet. It's very important nutritionally to get some grains and you can be very choosy about which ones. If you are unsure about your husband's response to pasta, get a blood sugar meter (which you can pick up at a drugstore or here and have him test himself after eating it.

I think if your husband follows the insulin resistance diet, which is a low glycemic diet, he will benefit. Here's why. Every cell in our bodies needs a steady supply of glucose or fatty acids to fuel metabolic functions and keep them alive. Cells die if they don't get enough glucose. The hormone insulin transports glucose and fatty acids into the cells in our blood.

Type II diabetes, as you probably know, occurs when even though your pancreas is producing adequate insulin, your cells are not recognizing or using it. They have become "insulin resistant." That happens when you have eaten a diet of the wrong foods, the foods that have very few nutrients and just spike your blood sugar over and over again for far too long until the cells become numb to the insulin. They are flooded with insulin all the time.

This is why great nutrition with an emphasis on foods that do not raise your blood sugar, fresh, unprocessed whole foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds and protein foods) is so important. This is the type of low glycemic diet I am recommending here. When people eliminate sugar and white carbohydrates like white breads, muffins, pancakes, white potatoes and junk food from their diets they will reduce their blood sugar. This is a healthy way to eat.

Who knows what studies the ADA was referring to. I didn't see that on their website but I did see where they talked about what good, low glycemic foods people with diabetes need to eat (same ones as above.) Looked to me like they were recommending this way of eating rather than saying it wasn't safe. What else were the people doing in the study? Did they exercise? Did they eat whole grains? Did they overeat?

When it comes to the foods that are high in carbohydrates like the grains, including pasta, you need to practice portion control but you also need to eat the high protein and/or the nutrient dense pastas. The first article on the American Diabetic Association website about the glycemic index is very informative and it says you need to pay attention to how many carbs the food has and consider the glycemic load of a food as well as whether it just turns to sugar quickly (glycemic index.) In other words, when it's carbohydrate dense it's easy to eat too much of it which could affect your blood sugar. I talk a lot on this website about the best low glycemic grains to eat. Sometimes you need to eat something like brown rice or high protein pasta that has either a moderate glycemic index or a moderate glycemic load or both, because you need the fiber and the nutrients. Portion control is the saving grace here.

The short answer to your question about whether it's safe to eat the low glycemic way is don't just count numbers but look at the carbs (glycemic load) and the glycemic index and be sure you are eating a nutrient dense diet. Nutrition counts more than numbers and you need to be disciplined about portions. I think if you read about the glycemic index here on my site including the glycemic index list of foods, portion control and the insulin resistance diet you will have an excellent idea of how to eat without having to look up the numbers.

By the way, not only is food our best medicine but exercise is medicine too! It's essential that someone with Type II diabetes gets some aerobic exercise 4 - 5 days a week. It's part of managing your blood sugar and can bring down your glucose levels along with diet.

Look for my next response about Crystal Light and GL labels.

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