Low-Carb Diet

I read a book recently that focused on a low-carbohydrate diet and the "right" way to eat sugar. Included was a recipe for homemade whole wheat pasta—but not how to cook it! Should fresh pasta be boiled in water the same amount of time as store-bought dry pasta? The book recommended consuming foods that have a low glycemic index…and eating fruits separately from the rest of the meal. Is that something you advise? —K.F., Green River, Wyoming

First, regarding the pasta…start testing very thin shapes of fresh (homemade) pasta after about 30 seconds of boiling. Test spaghetti and linguine after 4 minutes and thick macaroni after 8 minutes. As a general rule, fresh pasta will cook in about half the time of dry pasta. Since whole wheat pasta has more fiber than white flour pasta, it may take just a little longer to cook.

Now for the second part of your question…unfortunately, sugar has gotten a bad name for itself recently among some health food enthusiasts. I suspect that’s because sweets are a major source of dietary pleasure for most of us. We like sweets…therefore, we assume they must be bad for us. It is true that a great deal of sugar is often added to processed foods to make them taste good, and many of those foods contain unhealthy fats and are almost void of nutrients as well. But sugar itself, in moderation, is not the problem. And sugar that occurs naturally in fruits should not be considered a culprit in an otherwise healthy diet. You referred to the glycemic index (GI). This is the measure of how different carbohydrate foods affect the level of blood glucose (sugar). Researchers have studied and assigned GI numbers to foods, with the higher numbers attached to higher-glycemic foods—those that result in a fast rise in blood sugar and provoke a strong insulin response in the body. On the other end of the scale are low-glycemic foods—those that provide energy in a slower, more sustained way. People interested in the glycemic index are often those who are watching the carbohydrate/sugar intake in their diet. Variety is also the basis of good nutrition and health. Each day, our bodies need the nutrients that a varied eating plan—based on wholesome foods and beverages—provides. I hope this helps!