People with diabetes can eat pasta but should choose whole grain types and watch their portion size. Diabetes-friendly pasta recipes may include alternative types of pasta, along with healthy vegetables, protein, and low-fat sauces.
This article discusses whether people with diabetes can eat pasta and gives suitable recipes.
We also explore how carbohydrates impact blood sugar and explain which carbs are best for people with diabetes.
Finally, we offer tips about eating pasta and alternatives to consider and answer some frequently asked questions.
People with diabetes can eat pasta but should choose whole grain types or wheat alternatives. They must also consider portion size and what they choose to accompany the pasta.
A person with diabetes needs to consider the types of carbohydrates, or carbs they choose to eat. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises people with diabetes to choose complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals and get digested more slowly by the body. The body digests refined carbohydrates quickly, causing blood sugar spikes.
Manufacturers remove the outer layers and most nutritious parts of the grain while processing refined carbs; laws require them to add nutrients artificially.
Learn more about simple carbs vs. complex carbs here.
Whole grains and legumes are complex carbs. In terms of pasta, whole grain versions are complex carbs, and white pasta is refined carbs.
Learn more about what makes whole grains so healthy here.
The following are recipes adapted from the ADA Diabetes Food Hub and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The recipes include vegan, vegetarian, and family meals and ideas for batch-cooking.
Adding a lean protein such as chicken to a pasta dish slows down how quickly blood glucose rises.
Read more about other chicken recipes for people with diabetes.
The following recipe is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Someone can batch cook this recipe and keep it in the refrigerator to portion it into lunch servings or quick dinners for a household. A single serving is a cup of pasta salad.
This vegetarian recipe makes a good option for a large household or to batch cook and freeze.
This recipe is a tasty way to use nutritious Brussels sprouts.
For the walnut vinaigrette:
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient in foods such as pasta that the body breaks down into a type of sugar — glucose. Carbs raise a person’s blood sugar, and the pancreas releases insulin to help the glucose get into cells.
The body stores any excess as glycogen in the liver and as triglycerides in fat cells.
Learn more about healthy blood glucose levels here.
People with type 1 diabetes cannot make sufficient insulin and must take it as a medication. In type 2 diabetes, the body is resistant to insulin and unable to process glucose correctly, resulting in high blood sugar.
Learn more about blood sugar spikes here.
A doctor or dietitian can help a person with diabetes manage their carbs. For example, they may introduce someone with type 1 diabetes to carb counting, in which they log how many grams of carbs they eat at each meal and match this amount to their insulin dose.
Learn more about carb counting for diabetes here.
The ADA advises that while carb counting is suitable for type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes may use a more basic version based on carbohydrate choices. One “choice” contains about 15 grams (g) of carbohydrates in this method.
The ADA further explains that others with type 2 diabetes prefer to use the Diabetes Plate Method, which limits carbs to a quarter of the plate.
The following tips may help someone with diabetes to choose meals that include pasta:
Learn about healthy diabetes meal plans here.
There are different types of whole grain pasta that someone can choose from, including:
Learn more about pasta and healthy alternatives here.
Additionally, someone can make noodles from the following vegetables as an alternative to pasta:
Learn more about low-carb alternatives to pasta here.
Furthermore, a person can use the following whole foods to serve instead of pasta with a healthy sauce, vegetables, and protein such as beans, fish, or poultry:
Learn more about rice substitutes here.
People can find nutritional information on food labels, which they can use to calculate how much of each type of nutrient they consume. People can also look at the total carbohydrate content per portion if counting carbs.
The ADA advises that “net carbs” does not have a legal definition from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the ADA does not use this measurement either.
Here are some answers to common questions about pasta and diabetes.
Interestingly, reheated pasta may be better for people with diabetes.
According to a 2020 study, cooled and reheated white pasta in tomato sauce was associated with a faster return to baseline blood glucose than hot pasta. The researchers are not certain why this is but suspect that the cooking method changes the chemical structure of the pasta and its effects on blood sugar.
All pasta raises blood sugar to a certain extent. However, whole grain types or those made from lentil, buckwheat, or pea flour contain more fiber than white pasta and may help to balance blood sugar better.
The ADA advises that people can count carbs or use the Diabetes Plate Method to portion pasta. If using the Plate Method, people should eat no more than a quarter plate of pasta. It also states that a portion of cooked pasta is a half cup.
People with diabetes can include pasta as part of a healthy diet. However, they should choose whole grain varieties and be mindful of their portion size. A person can use the Plate Method, carb counting, or half-cup measurements to determine how much pasta they eat.
Adding extra vegetables and protein may help to balance the blood sugar spike that eating pasta can cause. Additionally, there are alternatives such as vegetable noodles, cauliflower rice, and lentil pasta that someone may choose instead.
Lastly, avoiding high-sugar sauces or high-fat creamy dressings can help someone to manage their weight and diabetes. If unsure, a person can ask a dietitian or doctor to help them plan their meals.
Last medically reviewed on July 28, 2022
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Jul 28, 2022
Louisa Richards
Edited By
Rosie Slater
Medically Reviewed By
Katherine Marengo, LDN, RD
Copy Edited By
Chris Young
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