In October last year, I read a BBC article about an interesting study. The study was about pasta, which scientifically is a form of refined carbohydrate that eventually gets broken down by your body into sugars that impact your glucose levels (pasta/carbohydrate->simple sugars->glucose levels UP!).
**Before I go any further, I should say that you will read about starches and carbohydrates. A starch is a kind of complex carbohydrate, just like fiber is, and the only difference between starches and fibers is that their sugars are bonded in a different way. Thus, starches can be digested, but fibers cannot be. I just wanted to be sure we are all on the same page – read more here about starch and fiber!**
What they found in the study was that if you eat cold pasta (cook it and let it cool down), it transforms from a carbohydrate into a “resistant starch.” The word “resistant” is key, because resistant starches are resistant to the enzyme in the stomach that transforms things into glucose. So basically, they found out that cold pasta is treated by your body like it is a fiber (a complex carbohydrate) instead of a simple sugar (isn’t that interesting?!). Your glucose levels will not spike as badly if you eat cold pasta (like pasta salad, for example), and you will also absorb fewer calories.
Even more interesting is that they took it one step further and looked at what happens when you then re-heat the cold pasta (like if you reheat leftover pasta). They found that it became even more “resistant”, and glucose levels spiked 50% less than the cold pasta, which was already way lower than “first round” pasta.
Quick and Easy Review:
Hot Pasta (first time it is cooked): A refined carbohydrate, and processed by your body as a simple sugar, causing glucose levels to spike (you get hungrier faster, and if you are concerned about blood sugar, the spike can also impact your mood, lead to the shakes, etc.)
Cooled Down Pasta: Treated by your body as a complex carbohydrate in the form of a “resistant starch” – so the pasta basically transforms into a fiber. Glucose levels go up, but not by as much, as the body treats it like a fiber.
Re-Heated Pasta: Healthiest option, glucose levels only spiked to 50% of cooled down pasta. Even more “resistant”, meaning the body really treats it as a fiber.
What does it Mean?
For those of you who love pasta, it means it is healthier to re-heat the pasta the next day than it is the first time you ate it. So, leftovers become the “healthy choice” – and if you ate pasta one night and are worried about the carbs if you eat it as leftovers the next day, you don’t have to worry about that anymore, because it’s now a fiber. 😉
What does it mean if you are thinking about baby food?
It would mean that all these baby foods that have pasta in them are really a form of starch and/or fiber for your little one instead of carbohydrate. Does that matter? Maybe. According to kidshealth.org, the issue is more about “refined carbs” (like those found in processed foods, like pasta). The website I just referenced calls these “bad carbs”, and basically the problem with them is that they are abundant, aren’t too filling (so you can eat a lot), and they taste good. So they can lead to over-eating, basically.
It is recommended that everyone, but especially children, eat “complex carbs”, which break down slowly, are high in fiber, and provide vitamins and minerals. Basically that means if you are worried about feeding your child pasta because you don’t want them to develop all sorts of health concerns tied to eating “refined carbs”, don’t be, because it is a complex carb (in the form of a starch) by the time it has made it to the jar of babyfood or the plate (if you made it yourself and let it cool down before feeding it to the little one).
Let’s also not forget that carbs are everywhere and are really important to eat (fruits have carbs in the form of fructose, milk has carbs in the form of lactose, and so on) – brain function relies on carbohydrates, for example, so dropping them from any diet is not optimal, and especially not optimal to limit them in a baby’s diet. But again it seems the concern is about refined carbs. Fortunately, if you are a pasta fan, it seems like temperature and/or time has a way of doing a refined-to-complex carbohydrate conversion for you. 🙂