Pasta & the Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index sounds complicated, but it’s simple: it’s one way that nutritionists measure how carbohydrates affect the body.  The Glycemic Index (GI) ranks carbohydrates based on how quickly they affect a person’s blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. The slower the blood sugar response, the lower a food’s GI value.1  
Glycemic Index Values of Some Common Foods
Glutinous rice 98
Potatoes 90
Corn flakes 84
Bran flakes 74
White bread 70
Wholemeal bread 69
Oatmeal 50
‘Grainy’ breads 40s
Pastas 40s
Legumes/beans 30s
Barley 25
(Source: Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller, Professor of Human Nutrition, School of Molecular Biosciences, University of Sydney)

Why is this important?  Studies show that a slow, gradual glucose response after a meal is better for you than a fast one.  A slower response delays hunger pangs, provides fuel for working muscles long after meals are eaten, causes less stress on the pancreas, and improves coronary health.

Due to the special protein structure of pasta dough, all pasta has a low GI value, ranging from 30 to 60.  That’s true for pasta of any shape or size, and for pasta that’s made from either soft or hard wheat.2  (But overcooked, mushy pasta is very soft and swollen in size, so it will have a higher GI value than pasta cooked more firmly, or as the Italians say, al dente.)3

Eating low-GI-value foods – such as pasta – may help you stay healthier and live longer, and may play a key role in preventing chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and certain cancers.4

"Pasta, with its dense compact structure, is a low-Glycemic-Index food. "And it's even lower if it's eaten with beans, chick peas and other low-Glycemic-Index vegetables."

Professor David Jenkins, Chair of Nutrition and Metabolism at the University of Toronto, founder of the Glycemic Index and co-chairman, “Healthy Pasta Meals” conference

1“What is Glycemic Index?”,, University of Sydney, accessed 6/11/04.|

2Brand-Miller J, Wolever T, Foster-Powell K, Colagiuri S, The New Glucose Revolution, New York:Marlowe & Company, 2003, p. 5.

Brand-Miller J, Wolever T, Foster-Powell K, Colagiuri S, The New Glucose Revolution, New York:Marlowe & Company, 2003, p. 5.

“About Glycemic Index”,, University of Sydney, accessed 6/11/04.

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