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Carb Solutions: Pasta Noodles

Image of Pasta Noodles
By Dennis Linden

Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].

Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.

A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
  • The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
  • The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
While my days are done spending one Saturday morning each month making and hanging a few different kinds of pasta noodles all over the kitchen and sometimes beyond, that is not to say that the pleasure of this ancient food cannot be enjoyed in spirit if not in white flour!

The noodle is a worldwide staple food that can be traced over centuries making its way from ancient Chinese peasant kitchens through Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean. It’s a fascinating food that melds seamlessly into many cuisines, from East to West, in altogether different ways while also retaining a commonality. Unfortunately, one cup of regular pasta spaghetti noodles score 97 out of 100 on the Glycemic Index and impact on blood sugar, on a scale of 1-20, scores a whopping 260 GL! Still, such a versatile ingredient should not be left out of one’s low-carb culinary toolbox. Melissa’s SHIRATAKI NOODLES!

Shirataki noodles have been a staple in Japanese cuisine for centuries. The noodle is made from the starch of a root known as devil's tongue; it is white in color, almost transparent and packaged in liquid-filled plastic bags. The noodle has no sugars and is very low in calories, so they contain zero net carbs as the only carbohydrates in them are dietary fiber. This means they have absolutely no impact on blood sugar levels. Plus the high fiber means that they give one a “full” feeling. That’s right, guilt-free, calorie-free pasta!

Preparation of Shirataki is also much quicker than cooking conventional noodles. That is, no boiling necessary -- either just heat and drain them; or use them drained right out the package by adding them directly into a stir fry, for instance, until the noodles are heated through. The texture is a little “springier” on the palate than flour pasta, but I think the noodle absorbs the flavors of a good sauce much more deeply.

Enough with the noodle commercial… the proof is, as always, at the end of a fork. Here’s a very simple noodle recipe that can be prepared for lunch or dinner in less than 20 minutes, which leaves more time to savor those pasta cravings without causing any glycemic damage! This dish may be quick to prepare but the flavors seem to go on forever. The sauce is done in two quick stages that build on each other. First, a one-minute sauté of the three fresh flavorings – green onion, ginger and garlic – in a hot spicy chili paste that sets the tone of the dish. Followed by a group of bottled seasonings and a double dollop of peanut butter, the sauce ingredients are simmered smooth and then tossed with the noodles. You will be too busy enjoying this dish to notice the difference from traditional flour-based pasta, but your blood sugar and waistline will. So go ahead, have a second serving!

Sesame No-Carb Noodles
Makes 4 servings
Image of Ingredients for Sesame No-Carb Noodles

1 Tablespoons Canola Cooking Oil
2 Green Onions, cut on the bias (retain one for garnish)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Grated Ginger, to taste
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tsp Sambal Oelek (Asian chili paste)
1½ Tablespoons Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon Melissa’s Organic Blue Weber Agave Syrup
¼ cup Natural Peanut Butter
1½ Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1½ Tablespoons Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons Hot Water
1 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Seeds
2 8-oz. packages Melissa’s Shirataki Noodles, prepared

Image of Heat the cooking oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Cook the green onion, ginger, garlic and sambal for 1 minute
Heat the cooking oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Cook the green onion, ginger, garlic and sambal for 1 minute.
Image of Stir in the sesame oil, agave, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce and water until well blended
Stir in the sesame oil, agave, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce and water until well blended.
Image of Toss the heated shirataki noodles and peanut sauce together in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined
Toss the heated shirataki noodles and peanut sauce together in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.

Plate individually, garnished with toasted sesame seeds and a sprinkle of green onions.
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