Semolina Pasta & Glycemic Index

by Jim Thomas

About Jim Thomas

Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.

X

If you're diabetic, or just simply health-conscious, the glycemic index of foods is a number to keep your eye on. Made with water and either standard wheat flour or higher-quality semolina flour, pasta is a carbohydrate-rich food that has the potential to raise blood sugar levels. Compared with other starchy foods, however, semolina pasta has a relatively low glycemic index.

Semolina Pasta

Semolina flour is a refined flour made from the heart of the durum wheat kernel -- a type of hard wheat with high protein and gluten content and a relatively low carbohydrate content. The flour is mixed with water and formed into a dough, which is then extruded or forced through a metal die to produce the many classic shapes of pasta. Semolina pasta is not a whole-grain pasta. Therefore, it contains less dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals than whole-wheat pasta.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index posits that all carbohydrate-rich foods are not created equal. The index ranks carbohydrate foods according to their effects on blood glucose levels. Low to moderate glycemic index foods produce smaller fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels than high glycemic index foods because they are digested and absorbed more slowly. Such foods can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes and are a key to sustained weight loss. Foods with a glycemic index rating over 70 are considered high on the glycemic index scale. A rating of 56 to 70 is moderate, and a rating under 56 is low.

Semolina Pasta Glycemic Index

Semolina pastas tend to rate low to low-moderate on the glycemic index scale. For example, angel hair pasta has a ranking of 45, white vermicelli pasta a rating of 35 and lasagna has a glycemic index of 55. In contrast, pasta made with whole-grain durum wheat flour instead of semolina flour has a glycemic index of 58. If you must adhere to a gluten-free diet, pasta made with corn flour has a ranking of 78 and pasta made with rice flour has a glycemic index of 92, both of which are very high.

Glycemic Index Factors

A number of factors can affect the glycemic index of pasta. The length of cooking time is one factor. For example, if pasta is overcooked, the carbohydrates are easier to digest, which raises the pasta's glycemic index. Pasta is typically served with vegetables that contain dietary fiber, which can slow digestion and absorption and lower the glycemic index of a pasta dish. If the pasta is served with meat or fish, the fat can also slow digestion and lower the pasta's glycemic index.

Considerations

Low-glycemic index foods are particularly important for people with diabetes. Such foods increase blood glucose levels slowly, which puts less strain on insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Semolina pasta, with its low level of starch and high level of protein, can be the basis of a particularly healthy dish, especially when prepared with one of the "good" fats such as olive oil and served with fiber-containing vegetables and fatty ocean fish such as salmon.

Photo Credits:

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.