Beans for Low Glycemic Index Meals

Dried black beans
Dried black beans

Carbohydrates like pasta have gotten a bad reputation in many modern diets. However, there are ways to minimize the negative impact of carbohydrates other than cutting carbs out of the diet. One way to make carbohydrates healthier is to eat them with a healthy protein source like beans.

Why are carbohydrates often considered bad for you by diet gurus? Carbohydrates have a high glycemic index which causes the blood sugar to spike. The body responds by releasing insulin. High blood sugar levels have been associated with many health problems including diabetes, heart disease, and high triglycerides. High blood sugar can also sabotage weight loss efforts by causing increased appetite and slower weight loss.

When I was pregnant with my children, I had gestational diabetes. I noticed that my blood sugar would spike just as much if not more after eating pasta as it would if I ate something sweet. My nutritionist recommended eating lean protein with pasta. The meat protein that my family enjoyed with pasta such as ground beef or sausage had more fat than I wanted to eat. I experimented with beans.

What I discovered is that black beans are actually quite good with spaghetti. When making black beans or any kind of beans to mix with tomato sauce, cook the beans first. Tomatoes and other acidic foods keep the beans firm and the skin of the beans tough instead of allowing them to cook properly. I would simply cook a can of black beans, strain them, and add them into the spaghetti sauce. Kidney beans could also be used, but they do not have as much protein as black beans.

For a special treat, I occasionally made fettuccini alfredo. I would eat my fettuccini alfredo with green beans and a salad. Green beans do not have nearly as much protein as other beans, but eating vegetables or other low glycemic index foods with carbohydrates can also help to transform the meal into a low glycemic index meal.

In addition to eating beans with pasta, using wheat pastas is a way to make pasta dishes healthier.  Wheat pastas cause less of a blood sugar spike than white pasta. With these changes, a favorite pasta dish can become a healthy low glycemic index food.

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