According to the results of a small experiment conducted on the BBC show “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” pasta that has been cooked, cooled and reheated produces a smaller spike (50% less) in blood glucose levels than fresh pasta.
Normally, during the digestion process carbohydrates such as pasta (made with enriched flour) and white rice are absorbed by the body as simple sugars. This generates a rapid surge in blood glucose and forces your body to work quickly to produce the insulin required to normalize levels [source]. Often times this is the reason we feel hungry soon after a meal.
The findings suggest that the structure of the pasta is altered during the cooling and reheating process, turning it into a resistant starch. These types of starches are classified as dietary fibers and are resistant to the normal enzymes our body uses to break down food, thus producing a smaller glucose peak, absorbing less calories and keeping us feeling fuller longer [source].
So what does this mean for you?
While great news for pasta lovers, this study is not a free pass to eat it all day, every day. Glucose may be important fuel for the body and the brain, but too much of it can be unhealthy and lead to serious complications such as kidney disease, nerve damage and diabetes.
Instead, the findings confirm pasta as a worthy member of the grains family to be eaten -without shame or guilt- in moderation as part of a balanced meal plan. According to the Mediterranean diet, every meal should include at least two vegetables, two fruits and one portion of bread, grains or pasta.
The experiment was conducted by Dr. Chris van Tulleken under the direction of Dr. Denise Robertson from University of Surrey and is based on a sampling of nine people who consumed three differently cooked pasta dishes (hot, cold and reheated – each prepared with the same tomato sauce) on three separate occasions over the course of several weeks [source].
After each meal, volunteers were required to give blood samples every 15 minutes within a two hour time frame to closely monitor glucose levels.
It should be noted that the results, while interesting, were performed on a very small sample of the population and are therefore not statistically valid or applicable to everyone [source].