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The lowdown on Couscous

As more and more people look for healthier alternatives to white rice and pasta, some turn to couscous believing they are making a choice for the better – but are they right?

Couscous is a grain-like food that is incredibly versatile and a popular alternative to rice. Couscous is made from semolina wheat and is in fact not a grain, but a type of pasta. This Mediterranean food is quick and easy to prepare, requiring just the addition of hot water and fluffing with a fork. Couscous is available in most supermarkets and is also often found in the take-away salad section.

Since couscous is a pasta and not a whole grain, it is not as rich in vitamins and minerals and is lower in fibre compared to whole grains such as quinoa. It does provide a source of thiamine, niacin and selenium. Couscous is also fat-free and contains a small amount of protein. A key misconception is that couscous is low GI. Couscous has a higher glycaemic index compared with most whole grains. This means it causes a greater insulin response – which isn’t great if you’re trying to control blood sugar levels and body weight.

Couscous is a versatile carbohydrate but lacks the fibre, vitamins and minerals of whole grains such as bulgar, barley and quinoa. The whole grains have a lower glycaemic index, which is better for anyone trying to control blood sugar. If you’re looking for a quick alternative to white rice, couscous is a good choice but if you’re looking for a healthier alternative, choose quinoa or barley.