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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.
Debi Tucker
I think Dr. Greger is fabulous for all of the work he puts in to educating those of us who are interested, however let's not forget the bias of veganism. In studying nutrition the one thing that stands out is bio individuality. We are all very similar but then there are a unique set of circumstances, our ethnicity, our genetic health challenges, our environmental influencers, our stress levels. All of these things play a role and I think we need to look upstream in order to solve the health crises we are seeing. How many of us sit staring at a computer screen for 8 hours or more and then become too tired to exercise so we sit in front of a television screen for a few more hours as a distraction and then try to get good sleep after all of that blue light exposure. How often do we get out in nature? So many live in cities where this would be a major effort as they lack greenspace. I think pasta is fine when coupled with lots of healthy veggies and sensible fats like evoo. I would add to that in saying that we should have mostly organic agriculture...healthy food should not be a luxury but a necessity available to all.
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.
I disagree. Since no one has the same microbiome & everyone microbiome isn’t in the same shape (health wise) - makes everyone different. Hence the saying- “everybody’s body is different. Simply bcuz of the microbiome.
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.
Carolyn Young
The problem is you are mistaking Whole Wheat for ALL carbs. You never tried eating Sprouted Grains like Ezekiel Bread. In no way, are the foods you call "carbs", like Ezekiel Bread. The other thing is that many people believe that grains are unhealthy. The problem with this mindset is that they are under the impression that no one should EVER eat grains. You can use a Ketogenic diet to correct Insulin Resistance. Once you rebalance your diet, and never go back to the American diet, you can stop Keto and eat all the sprouted grains you want. You have to have BALANCE in your life, when it comes to food. After all, it was too much of one type of diet - the American Diet, that caused obesity and diabetes in the first place.
This happens because the fat you add to the carbs is the problem. Eating a potato with sour cream and cheese and oil and blaming the potato is crazy. Fat causes insulin resistance which makes the sugar higher in the blood. the insulin can't get the sugar into the cell when the cell is gummed up with fat. Eat whole plant foods (which are low in fat naturally) and don't add a drop of animal products or oils and watch your sugar return to normal... fast! Read "The Starch Solution", "Mastering Diabetes", "How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease". There are many more books. It works every time if you do it right. Low fat is the key.
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.
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.
You are absolutely spot on. No charts, glycemic index or doctor advice comes close to disclosing your own experience. I can't eat watermelon or apples, glucose goes sky high but I can eat a few blueberries or strawberries, but only a few. Eating pasta is a guarantee of blood sugar well over 200, same with any grain flour, just can't do it. If I eat 1/4c of steel cut oats, blood sugar is 180-200 or more. I want to eat more plant based but it's difficult to get enough calories when grains and fruit and starchy veggies spike the blood sugar and animal fat does not. Keto works for me but I can tell it's not sustainable. One thing I've learned is that raw is better. If I eat some sliced yams raw the blood sugar is a lot lower than if I eat the same amount cooked. I've also tried grating potatoes and then soaking them a few minutes in water to remove the starch. That has allowed me to eat a small serving of hash browns with some blood sugar rise but no where near where it would be if I hadn't rinsed out the starch. It's a lot of trial and error and a lot of testing and test strips but after awhile one learns what causes the blood sugar spikes and what doesn't. It's a somewhat complicated and frustrating process at first and takes some persistence to see it through. I wish that that glycemic index chart worked as a guide but my experience and that of another friend of mine after much testing shows that it's just not reliable when it comes to individual body's and the only sure way to proceed is individual testing for any carbohydrate rich food you prefer. Eat and test, learn and proceed from there.
Apples are no problem for me. Odd that they spike you blood sugar since they are low glycemic. But, this is proof that each person has a different experience with diabetes. I can't touch any flour at all. If I do my blood sugar spikes high and won't come down with insulin. I am still perplexed at how other diabetics can eat stuff like donuts and pizza I add a fiber supplement daily as it helps my blood sugar to remain stable and not spike high.
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.
I will tell you my diet. I eat all fresh veggies (potatoes in moderation) + boneless skinless chicken breast. One hard boiled egg per day. I Eat one or two bananas per day and sometimes other seasonal fresh fruit. Tea & Coffee in moderation. I drink plenty of water. Everything else is eliminated from my diet. No grains which means no wheat, rice, corn, oats and all other grains. No beans, no lentils, no legumes, no nuts, no seeds, and no dairy products so no milk, no butter, no sour cream, no yogurt, no cheese. Also no red meat. Some of the sauces I use to flavor my veggies and chicken are Soy sauce (I'm aware soy sauce has wheat but it's trivial amount), sriracha sauce, McCormick seasonings & other seasoning mixes (so many types you can get), Sweet baby rays BBQ sauce, cayenne pepper (I buy bulk 5lb of cayenne pepper at a time) & Black pepper. I also use fresh cilantro or Italian parsley in some of my meals. The two types of oils I use for cooking is virgin organic coconut oil from Costco and Extra Virgin Italian Olive oil also which I buy from Costco. I'm 38 years old but feel better than I did in High school when I was 16. Hope this helps someone reading this!!
Five pounds of cayenne pepper? Wowser! How long does that last you? I am a fan of hot stuff, including cayenne, but in my 65+ years, I doubt that I have consumed that amount, lifetime.
Dale Robertson
I have recently begun buying organic, whole grain berries, wheat oats and rye, soaking them for over 12 hours, blending them in a Bullet to break the bran, then cooking the slurry for 20 minutes. Any comments?
I find that the best way to keep your blood glucose under control in the longer term is by limiting your caloric intake and getting some exercise after meals.
shah ji
30 minutes walk within 30 minutes of a regular meal does wonders provided that u r in good shape! 30 minutes walk within thirty minutes after meal is the best medicine for people with diabetes and insulin resistance provided that u r eating healthy diet !
How do I find out what my blood sugar level is as I haven't a clue.
Hi Suzzanne, it might be best to bring concerns about blood sugar to your health care provider or dietitian. Thanks for reading!

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