Potatoes, rice, and pasta are the classic side dishes. But their glycemic index is high. Nutritionists recommend healthier alternatives made from legumes or cauliflower.
They are low in fat, delicious, and, above all, fill you up – that’s why rice, pasta, and potatoes are also called filling side dishes. But nutritionists do not like to see them on the plate every day, because they lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.
Along with fats, carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for our body. But carbohydrate is not just carbohydrate. Some are rather healthy, others problematic – especially if you eat them in large quantities. The so-called glycemic index (GI) was developed to be able to better assess this risk and to help in the selection of healthier foods that do not trigger cravings.
The glycemic index helps with a healthy diet
The GI shows how much 50 grams of carbohydrates from food cause the blood sugar level to rise within two hours. Grape sugar (glucose) drives up the blood sugar level the fastest and most powerfully. Therefore, it serves as a reference value with a glycemic index of 100. All other carbohydrates are evaluated in relation to this.
The GI describes the ability of a food to increase blood sugar. The body reacts to this by releasing the hormone insulin – and that makes you fat in the long run because as long as the insulin level is high, fat loss cannot take place. Therefore, not only diabetics should mainly eat foods with a low glycemic index, but also people who want to lose weight.
Pasta, rice, and potatoes are high GI
Popular filling side dishes contain little fat, but plenty of carbohydrates that the body can use quickly – and they have a high GI:
- 100 g pasta: 70 g carbohydrates/GI=49
- 100 g rice: 28 g carbohydrates/GI=60
- 100 g potatoes: 15 g carbohydrates/GI=78
On average, every German eats eight kilograms of rice, ten kilograms of pasta, and even 60 kilograms of potatoes per year.
More vegetables, fewer side dishes
Anyone who cannot imagine life without the classic filling side dishes should at least reduce their proportion on the plate. A good half of the portion should consist of vegetables, plus a small portion of filling and some fish or meat.
Legumes, amaranth, and cauliflower as an alternative
- Rice and pasta are also made from lentils, peas, or chickpeas. The GI of the legume alternatives is a maximum of 35, they provide a lot of vegetable protein and contain a lot of fiber and complex long-chain carbohydrates. Both together do not allow the blood sugar level to rise so much and keep us full for longer.
- Amaranth is referred to as a pseudocereal because the small grains can be processed in a similar way to port, wheat, and spelled, but contain no gluten and therefore a lot of protein. Amaranth has a GI of 35 and is high in fiber, which helps prevent cravings and post-meal fatigue.
- Its extremely low GI of 15 makes cauliflower an ideal carbohydrate substitute and slimming aid. If you want to lose weight, you should eat a lot of cauliflower.
Resistant Starch: The Cold Potato Trick
If you don’t want to do without potatoes completely, despite the delicious alternatives, you can use a trick to lower your GI: If potatoes (or pasta) cool down in the refrigerator after cooking, some of their carbohydrates change into so-called resistant starch. Although this is essentially a carbohydrate, it is much more difficult for the body to break down – this means that the blood sugar level does not rise as much and thus lowers the GI.
Plus, our gut bacteria love resistant starches and turn them into healthy butyric acid, which helps fight inflammation. This effect persists even when the potatoes or pasta are reheated because the resistant starch is chemically more stable and keeps its shape despite the heat.