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“I’m not eating any carbs, because they make your blood sugar spike.” “Nobody should eat grains; they all have a high glycemic index, especially pasta.” If you’ve heard — and believed —statements like these, the truth may surprise you: many grains have a very low glycemic index – including pasta. And a large body of research ties whole grain consumption to reduced risk of diabetes and inflammation.

It’s true that blood sugar levels matter. Researchers link many chronic diseases, from diabetes to heart disease, with eating too many foods that send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. Indeed, when you eat such foods, especially those made with highly processed grains and sugar, your blood sugar can spike then quickly plummet, leaving your energy depleted and causing damage to essential bodily systems, potentially affecting everything from cancer risk to brain health.  It’s healthier to choose foods that provide a steady, slow release of glucose (blood sugar).

The Glycemic Index rates how quickly carbohydrate foods are converted into glucose – and you may be surprised to learn that many grain foods have a low GI score (considered 55 or less on the 1 to 100 GI scale).  Virtually all intact whole grains have a very low GI score.

Check out these typical scores:

Grain Food GI Score
Whole grain barley 25
Rye berries 35
Buckwheat 45
Brown rice 48
Whole wheat pasta 37
“White” pasta 45

Even if you’re aware that whole intact grains – eaten in porridges and pilafs, grain salads and soups – have a low glycemic index, you may be surprised to see pasta keeping good company with these intact grains.

Pasta has a low GI score, with whole grain spaghetti rating about 37, and even “white” pasta coming in at 42-45. That’s because the starch structure of pasta causes it to be digested much more slowly than the same amount of flour made into bread. That’s what makes pasta uniquely healthy. (A hot tip: al dente pasta has a lower GI than overcooked pasta, so cook your pasta like the Italians do. Then eat it with plenty of vegetables and beans or fish, for a healthy pasta meal.)

Besides starch structure, many other things affect how a particular food or meal impacts your blood sugar. Acidic foods lower your glycemic response, so eat your breakfast cereal with some tangy plain yogurt, and add a salad with vinaigrette dressing to your dinner.

Particle size and fiber also lower glycemic impact. Breads made with coarsely-ground whole grain flour and with grainy bits included are a better choice than fluffy light breads (even those made with whole wheat flour tend to have high GI scores). Sourdough breads have a lower GI than yeast breads, too, so a chewy whole grain sourdough loaf is a great choice among breads. In fact, an April 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition cites several bread-making factors that lower the GI of breads and urges commercial bakers to incorporate such techniques to improve public health.

Want more tips for better blood sugar control, plus a quick overview of Glycemic Index and related topics? Check out our October 2017 blog titled “Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs: Carb Quality Common Sense” to polish up your carb-choosing skills.

Don’t avoid grains. Just eat the right ones, especially intact whole grains and pasta, to fuel your body slowly and steadily while supporting good health.

If you’re interested in healthy eating, join the Make Every Day Mediterranean Club Facebook group for additional information and support.


Bob Greene
Very helpful page, and a reminder only sound research can guide personal health decisions. Here is Dr. Michael Greger's view on grains-- actually several videos-- based on the latest research which shows grains present every requirement for good nutrition.
Glad you found our blog helpful, Bob. Dr. Greger's videos are always very interesting and well researched -- thanks for sharing the link with your fellow readers.
I cut out all grains and dropped 75 lbs.
We're glad you found something that worked for you, Jay. Every body is different -- fortunately, since grains make up about half the food eaten around the globe.
Thomas G
Everyone is not different. Whole Grains (or any grains in any form) are catastrophic for anyones health. The only reason why 9.3% of the population is full blown diabetics and over 37% of the population is pre-diabetics is due to the horrid fact that you say any GI below 55 is "low" GI. Its not. Table Sugar has a GI of 55. Eating whole grains is no different that eating sugar with a multivitamin and a few fiber pills.
Hi Thomas, Although Glycemic Index is an important measure of carbohydrate quality, we caution our readers not to let GI be the defining factor of the healthfulness of a food. It's also to important to remember that GI measurements aren't always reflective of real-life eating situations. If you eat plain grains, the GI will be higher than if you have a grain salad tossed with olive oil and salmon, since fat can help dampen the Glycemic Response. And most of the time, people aren't just eating a bowl of grains -- there are often other foods that go along with the meal. Lastly, we'd like to point out that whole grains offer so much more than just fiber and some vitamins. We encourage you to browse our health studies page to learn more about the research on how whole grains relate to health.
I agree...unrefined-refined-grains are not good for us. All the carbs I need, I get from veggie and some fruit. Since stopping grains, my health has so improved. No more insulin resistance, steady weight loss. easy to maintain, list goes on... we don't need grains!
Hi Lizbeth, you might be surprised to learn that whole grains are actually a really nutritious part of a healthy diet. We have a handout that covers these topics: And we also address these topics on our Myths Busted page: Hope this helps shed light on another perspective!
My body has big problems with pollen protein, and baking is not as effective at denaturing as boiling, so (even if i wasn't yeast and gluten intolerant) bread is out... unfortunately, so are some veg (asparagus and sweet potato cause allergic reactions even after being boiled)... and fruit totally messes up my hormones. The 10-ish veg that don't cause any of the above related issues (or trigger certain fibromyalgia +/ eye problems) do not provide enough energy, and increasing the amount of veg i eat causes very painful ibs symptoms, so i have to eat something with substantial carbs... Oats have proven useful, but "too much" adversely affects circulation, so i will be trying millet... People need to bear in mind that the GI can be misleading ~ Glycemic Load is far more accurate regards effect on blood sugar.
Everything is perfectly fine in moderation. Someone who ate a moderate amount of any kind of grain would be just as healthy, if not healthier, than someone who took grains completely out of their diet. Whole grains are packed with nutrients that are necessary in anyones diet and they should never be taken out completely. You might be tempted to cut grains all the way out because of you see all these things telling you how much weight you can lose, but all that is is just the combination of the loss in water retention in your muscles and the fact that you have less food to choose from when eating, automatically reducing calories slightly.
Finally somebody who makes sense. This article is poison. All grains spike blood sugar like hell. Avoid like the plague.
I'm with you: grains are a red light. For me anyway. I've been carefully monitoring my blood glucose levels for months. Grains, without fail, cause them to spike. I can have a potato, sweet potato, banana, or any kind of fruit or starchy vegetable, no problem. Of course, I'm having them with fat and protein. However, if I have any kind of grain, be it wheat, corn, rice, sorghum, etc., I am in the red zone... postprandial readings of 160, 170 and up. The worst part is that I have reactive hypoglycemia, so I'm down in the 60s 2 hours later. Awful. And I'm not even a diabetic. My HbA1C was 5.7 in April. I limited grains and got it down to 5.5 in July. Hopefully by October, it will be down to an even healthier level. The key is to TEST YOUR OWN BLOOD SUGAR. Everybody is different. There is no other way to know what is good for your body. HbA1C is a great tool, but doesn't show the ups and downs, which is often how insulin resistance starts, from what I understand :-) What I was hoping to learn is WHY grains, as opposed to other sources of carbohydrates, have this effect on some of us. Please comment if you know the answer! Peace and blessings, Liz
Hi Elizabeth, thanks for your post. I think your advice to find out directly, personally makes good sense I'm curious how you monitor your blood sugar; what method, when, how often. Thanks!
You can buy a glucometer at any drug store. Test yourself 1 hour (the usual peak time) after you eat.
So, you think carbs are the plague? Don't eat them! Easy! I am not sure what the point of bashing an article. Moderation is the key. You want to eat sand? Go for it, is your prerogative.
A lot of people drop carbs and can't maintain it for long because it's harsh on the body. It makes sense that most people go from eating an unbalanced diet of pizza and other breads paired with fats (without the equal balance of other foods to slow blood sugar) and then think ditching carbs has solved all their problems. In reality, they just create a host of new ones down the line.
Elisa Ortiz
I respectfully disagree with this information. Anytime I've eaten carbohydrates (and I'm talking GOOD whole wheat carbohydrates) I've seen a spike in my blood glucose levels. I would like to know why if even whole grains are so good for people, including diabetics, why I see a spike in sugars, as opposed to only a small increase when I leave out the carbs.
Hi Elisa. Different people's bodies react differently to one food or another and listening to your own body (as you're doing) is very useful. And, as we explain in this blog (, a "good whole wheat carbohydrate" could be a wheatberry salad or a whole wheat baguette -- both of which would have very different effects on someone's blood sugar. That said, I hope you're not really "leaving out all carbs" -- since fruits and vegetables are also carbs.
Romain Nsmngr
Your body runs mainly on carbohydrates if given the choice. sporstmen, children, intellectuals, workers. It is normal for your blood sugar to go up after a meal. For the cells to get sugar from the blood, blood sugar has to go up. Thats how you feed your cells. What is not normal is insulin resistance that causes blood sugar to remain elevated. People all arround the world ate unrefined carbs and veggies without issues for millenias. Now since new studies show that weight loss and exercice restore insulin sensitivity in over 90% of T2 diabetics, it seems you should not mix up feeding your body and being insulin resistant.
Absolutely agree. Of course blood sugar goes up when you eat carbohydrates. It would be odd and dangerous if it didn't. The rise in sugar in the blood stimulates the release of insulin, which can then set about taking out the excess sugar from the blood and getting into the cells where it can be utilized.
Hi Elisa, I know this is a little late for an answer, but I have a theory. I think it does not matter so much whether grains are "whole" or not, but rather how easy it is to absorb the carbohydrate from the endosperm. The bran (outer layer) seals the endosperm away from us in an unprocessed grain. In a ground grain (whole or not) the endosperm can be absorbed much more easily as it is no longer encased in the less/un-digestible bran. So whole grain breads would spike insulin, but whole unground wheat/spelt/oats, etc. simply soaked or boiled (until just tender) would not have as big an effect. This is my hypothesis after being vegan and then beginning a water-only fast. From what everything on the internet says, I should have experienced the low-carb/keto- flu... but at the start I never skipped a beat: I never felt hungry, run down or anything. [NOTE: I fasted 30 days and after 9-10 days I did supplement with some salty vegetable broth to keep my blood pressure up. About a week after that I also supplemented with a multivitamin. I'm assuming it was its B vitamins that helped restore my energy.] So how did I transition into ketosis seamlessly if I was a vegan? Supposedly, you can't do keto if you are vegan, but I had to ask myself if I wasn't perhaps already in ketosis. But I live primarily off carbs—No meat, no dairy, no oil, and for the most part no nuts. Well, my hypothesis was that it was because I was eating "simply." As I call it, I was a "simple vegan"—that is, I didn't eat any refined carbs for weeks before I fasted. [As to why I fasted so long: I was trying to induce autophagy of a thyroid nodule that had been discovered three years ago.] Anyway, I think the lack of processing in my food helped. For example, eating oat flour is not the same as rolled oats, which is not the same as eating steel cut oats, nor the same as whole oat groats. I think cooking times would matter too... because it breaks down the bran layer. If I cook my oat groats (and I usually don't but simply soak and rinse them) I cook them as briefly as possible—until just tender... not until mushy and gooey. And by the way, they can be seasoned scrumptuously (once you break any sweetener habit). Simply add some fruit, and optionally a little toasted nuts & spice. One of my favorite combos: • ¾ cup oat groats, dry • ¾ cup water (to soak in overnight) • 1-1½ cups berries • ½ tsp. ginger (or cinnamon) OPTIONAL: • 2 Tbsp. nuts (roasted pecans or walnuts are great) So I don't know for certain the answer to your question, but I don't think grains are to blame. I think it is the processing (grinding or long cooking) of the grains that is to blame. Each process destabilizes the bran and can allow us to absorb the endosperm too quickly which would lead to blood sugar spikes. Good luck to you! hope that helps.
Either way, you have to know what works for you. I only eat good carbs (almost zero starchy carbs) and my A1C and glucose levels are back in the normal range...they were going up and my doc told me to make the change...and it's worked. Every now and then I have bread because I miss it...but I try to choose the right kind of bread and high quality, not typical grocery store stuff. That goes for my pizza craving as well...only Rosati's, Gino's East, Lou Malnotti's or Giordano's for me. Just sayin'. :-)
Hi Bill, absolutely, and good to hear that worked for you. As Cynthia mentioned above, people can react differently to different foods, so it's important to keep that in mind. High quality bread...and the best!
I’m going to actually agree with this article mostly. I originally cut all grains but the longer my a1c has been in the normal range the less “spikey” grains have been when I do eat them. Mostly I deal with limited steel cut oats and farro. And to be honest I eat WFPB which is essentially a high carb diet. My a1c is 5.3 so... Good by insulin resistance.
Glad to hear that you are able to enjoy steel cut oats and farro, and that you get lots of healthy produce on a WFPB diet!
Can flour you use in making like noodles or crepes cause the blood sugar to spike ?
Hi Edith, Here is some information from the director of the Whole Grains Council: Foods made with flour (like noodles and crepes) vary a lot in their impact on blood sugar, so it’s hard to generalize. For instance, many people are surprised to learn that whole wheat pasta’s GI score (37) is significantly lower than most whole wheat breads (74), even though both types of food are flour-based. For more information about the GI scores of specific foods, we recommend the Harvard Medical School’s website:
I hope all those reading and posting comments consult an RD (registered dietician) before making health decisions.
Can anyone here comment on Amaranth and Quinoa? Are these "spiking blood sugar"? Buckwheat groats? Oat groats? Do these have less of an impact. It seems to me Amaranth and Quinoa are less glycymic (due to how I feel after). Where do you find out glycemic index of specific grains. I see article lists Buckwheat as 45. Are Amaranth and Quinoa similarly high? Does soaking the grain overnight prior to cooking make any difference?
Hi Cynthiah, it might be best to bring concerns about blood sugar to your health care provider or dietitian. In the meantime, here are some more blog posts and resources about grains, glycemic index, and blood sugar that you may find helpful: and
I'm trying to find the right food combination to lower my A1c I have been struggling I'm not able to lower it down could someone comment please
Go see a R.D.. that is the best advice and follow the MyPlate/dash diet. Lots of vegetables and fruit. Google dash diet and look for the gov site.
Measure your own glucose level. Get a continuous glucose monitor and use it for a couple of months. Find out how your body reacts to different foods and activities...Don't trust some number on a page in a book that may or not apply to you... It would be great to find a doctor that will help you monitor other factors, CT scan for calcium score and an advanced heart test (detailed blood lipids, reactive components other risk factors). Make sure you have none of the factors for metabolic syndrome... Just for starters....
Dennis terwilliger
All I know for me when I ate grains my blood sugar spiked now no grains blood sugar 100 lost 50lbs feel great.
I have tested the no grains for diabetics Over the course of 1 year. I can tell you as more and more people are finding out, you will be on your way to reverse diabetes by eliminating grains by 95%. You can taste them but not eat them.. I have worked with two other persons and have found miraculous results. You will bring your Acc into the 6 range in a short time. I have been a diabetic for 20 yrs. And now it's gone. You can do it to. Dig a little and you will find the truth about grains. Good luck.
Be careful talking to others about your own diet. Generic "healthy eating" advice from dieticians don't consider the variability between individuals with regard to blood glucose. Controlling blood sugar is largely influenced by how many simple carbs you consume and if you consume fat or fiber to slow the absorption. Fruit for example is "healthy", but spikes my sugar to the moon. I can't eat much of any fruit or grains at all. I can eat a simple carb cracker, as long as it has peanut butter. I get a very slow glycemic response because if the fat in peanut butter. Point here is traditional advice can be VERY wrong. Each person needs to gauge the impact of a food item based on their own body's response.
I have a theory that grains, rice and potatoes were cultivated to feed the masses. The books Wheat Belly, Plant Paradox and BulletProof Diet motivated me enough to to drop grains and cycle on and off the ketogenic protocol and the weight is falling off. One other thing that hasn’t been mentioned here are the lectins in grains which are pro inflammation.
Interesting site. I commend you for allowing debate in the comments section.

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