Couscous and Diabetes

Couscous and Diabetes

It's ok

Glycemic index:


Calories per 100 g:

109 kcal

While sugary foods are not advised for diabetics, the intake of moderate-carb foods is not entirely ruled out. You can still enjoy the foods you love as long as you heed the guidance of a doctor or dietician. Wheat-based foods like couscous enlist among fairly high-carb foods but still offer potential benefits when eaten in moderation.


This article highlights how you can combine the intake of couscous and diabetes management by mentioning findings from clinical trials and research.


Nutritional value

  • Protein 3.8 g
  • Carbohydrate 23 g
  • Fat 0.2 g
  • Fiber 1.4 g
  • Sugar 0.1 g
  • Cholesterol 0 g

Nutritional Profile of Couscous


Couscous is a good source of fiber, an essential nutrient for diabetics because of its glucose-lowering effect. You can get as much as 2.2 g of fiber from just a cup of cooked couscous. It is also a rich source of protein and offers minimal fat, at 5.95 g and 0.251 g per cup, respectively.


Considering these nutrients and neglecting its carb content, couscous might seem to be one of the best foods for people with diabetes.


However, that’s not the case, with this food offering a staggering 36.4 g of carbs in just one cup. However, looking on the bright side, this North African dish is very low in sodium (7.85 mg per cup), has a modest calorie content (176 cal per cup), and offers essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium in considerable amounts.


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Should Diabetics Avoid Couscous?


For people with diabetes, eating couscous is not off-limits; however, you must be cautious in how much you consume and prepare it. Nonetheless, it does present some not-so-good features, as highlighted below.


High Glycemic Index and Carb Content


With a high glycemic index (GI) of 65 and a 28% RDA of carb in just one cup, couscous is very likely to cause harmful surges in your blood glucose levels following consumption. Research conducted on eight healthy individuals compared its glycemic effect with pasta’s. Overall, eating couscous in the morning following an overnight fast yields a lower blood glucose level.


The same trial examines six insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) patients fed with either couscous with sauce and vegetables or a pasta and tomato sauce meal. As expected, the couscous-fed group presented significantly higher glucose levels.


This means that while couscous is technically regarded as pasta, it does pose more significant risks to blood sugar levels of diabetics than real pasta.


Potential Benefits of Couscous to Diabetics


While this semolina flour-based meal might present considerable risks to people with diabetes, science proves it be potentially beneficial in some ways when eaten in moderation, as we will observe below.


Weight Management


The low fat and calorie content of couscous makes it perfect for diabetics looking to shed some weight through diet. It is also a good source of fiber which keeps you full for more extended periods. Namely, an increase in soluble or insoluble fiber intake increases satiety following food intake and prevents hunger.


Manages Blood Sugar


The blood sugar-lowering effect of couscous is also related to its dietary fiber content. Namely, fiber enables a slower absorption of glucose by the blood.


This claim is reinforced by a six-week research conducted on 13 type 2 diabetes patients fed meals of moderate and high fiber content. Remarkably, a high dietary fiber intake decreases hyperinsulinemia, lowers plasma lipid concentration, and improves glycemic control in these patients.


Safe Ways to Eat Couscous


Couscous contains gluten and is not suitable for anyone with gluten intolerance or coeliac disease. As such, you must contact your doctor before including it in your diabetic diet. Otherwise, here are some safe ways to eat couscous;


  • Add vegetables to make a salad
  • Pair couscous salad with chicken or beef as the main meal
  • Bulk couscous with cheese
  • Serve plain couscous as a side dish

Wrap Up


Although couscous is a high-carb food, it does present some diabetes-friendly benefits when eaten in moderation. Moreover, its high carb content can be balanced with low GI foods (e.g., non-starchy vegetables like celery). However, it’s best to contact your doctor or dietitian on just how much is safe for you to consume based on your blood sugar levels.

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