Whether you’re just starting out on a low glycemic diet, or you’ve been on it so long choosing low glycemic foods feels like second nature, it never hurts to try a new recipe. Here we have an easy, comforting weeknight dinner addition for your go-to low glycemic index recipes. It delivers the creamy decadence of a hearty Italian pasta dish, without the blood sugar spike. Enjoy!
Lima beans, the baby sibling of the butter bean, are a somewhat polarizing food: you love them or hate them. Lima beans can be starchy and mealy depending on how they are cooked. Butter beans on the other hand, while the same species of legume, are harvested later, and typically dried and then soaked before preparation. They offer a softer, creamier (hence the name) texture, closer to that of a white bean, but they’re big!
The glycemic index (GI) of butter beans is 31 (low), and with a serving size of 150 g, the glycemic load (GL) is 6 . They are considered a low-calorie, low-fat food, and provide half of your daily requirements for manganese . They also contain protein, fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, B vitamins, and valuable antioxidants .
Beans provide a hearty, satisfying starchiness like pasta, without the empty calories or glucose spike of white flour. Butter beans are a fabulous replacement for pasta in any dish, because they take on the flavor of your favorite sauce really well. Here is our suggestion for a great low glycemic sauce to accompany them.
Beware the jarred marinara! While pure tomato sauce has a low GI or about 31, prepared pasta and pizza sauce is often hiding a high dose of added sugar, not to mention other additives, preservatives, and toxins. If you are concerned with blood pressure or your heart health, you are likely also watching your sodium intake. Jarred sauce can be really very high in salt/sodium.
Making your own pasta sauce may be an extra step you haven’t taken in the past. But the wonderful part is that it freezes beautifully, so you can make it once and serve it many times over the next weeks or months. Alternatively, you can search for a keto-friendly, low-carb prepared pasta sauce with no added sugar, and the glycemic index should still be fairly low.
Pasta Sauce Recipe (can be multiplied to freeze extra)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large white onion chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large can (28 oz) tomato sauce (puree)
red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh; finely chopped)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh; finely chopped)
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 tablespoons fresh; finely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Add olive oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and a big pinch of salt. Saute until onions turn translucent.
- Add garlic and stir until fragrant, then stir in tomato paste, pepper flakes, and herbs if using dried. Stir frequently until tomato paste is sizzling and beginning to lose its brightness.
- Add tomato sauce, stir well, and add thyme and oregano if using fresh herbs. Once bubbling, turn the stove down to low and cover the pot. Let it simmer for 30 mins before adding chopped basil (if fresh).
- Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste.
- If desired, cool sauce completely before jarring or freezing.
Butter Beans Recipe (serves 2, but easily multiplied)
1 can butter beans
2 tablespoons olive oil (or to taste)
1 ½ cups pasta sauce (recipe above)
½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
Fresh herbs for serving (basil or parsley recommended)
- Preheat the oven to 375F
- Drain and rinse canned butter beans well to remove added sodium from the canning liquid.
- Pour beans into an oven safe dish, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat.
- Top with low-glycemic pasta sauce.
- Sprinkle generously with pecorino romano (sheep’s cheese is lactose free)
- Put the dish into the hot oven and bake until bubbly and golden brown.
- Sprinkle with fresh basil or parsley to serve.
- Foster-Powell K, Miller JB. International Tables of Glycemic Index. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1995;62(4):S871-S890.
- Corleone, Jill. “The Health Benefits of Butter Beans.” Livestrong. October 29, 2018.