Pasta Is Not an Enemy – It’s Actually a Friend

Lot of the negative press around pasta is happening everywhere, not just in the U.S. Italy, of all places, is also struggling with misconceptions about the health of pasta.Too many people shun spaghetti, rigatoni and penne for all the wrong reasons. They don’t know how to eat it healthfully and look for health advice from people who aren’t qualified, but who are promoting some new trend or fad.

Pasta Is Not an Enemy – It’s Actually a Friend

In reality, pasta is not the enemy – it’s actually a friend. Here are five reasons why:

1. Pasta doesn’t make you fat.

Sure, if you regularly sit down to a huge bowl of pasta in a rich, creamy sauce without a single veggie in sight, you might gain weight. But that’s not how pasta is meant to be eaten.

To start, you need to understand that a portion of pasta is one-half to two-thirds of cooked pasta. (That huge bowl is probably around three cups.) The noodles should be eaten mixed with lots of veggies and a lean protein such as shrimp, beans or chicken – not the way most of us eat it nor how it’s served in a restaurant. In other words, pasta should not be the star of your dish but rather a co-star.

Keep in mind: If you overdo it on the chicken or other protein versus the pasta, you could also gain weight since excess calories pack on the pounds – not a single macronutrient.

2. Pasta helps keep you full.

Of course if you stuff yourself with pasta, it will fill you up. But even a reasonable portion size can keep you full since the starch in pasta digests slowly, helping to prevent spikes in blood sugar. If you eat a serving of pasta for dinner, cooked “al dente” (or slightly firm) and prepared correctly (perhaps tossed with olive oil, broccoli and grilled shrimp), you shouldn’t be raiding the refrigerator a few hours later. And, if you choose 100 percent whole-grain pasta, you’ll reap even more benefits since the extra fiber also helps with satiety.

3. Pasta is the pillar of the Mediterranean diet.

Numerous scientific studies over the last 50 years suggest that the Mediterranean diet may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. It may also help you live longer. One 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that following a Mediterranean eating pattern might slow down the weight gain that normally comes with age. Pasta (and other grains), fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are the basis of the Mediterranean diet.

4. Pasta is good for the planet.

From harvesting the wheat and producing the actual product to preparation at home and package disposal, pasta is extremely sustainable. According to The Scientific Consensus about the Healthy Pasta Meal, which came out of a meeting of scientists from nine countries organized by the nonprofit Oldways, the International Pasta Organization and AIDEPI as part of the World Pasta Congress, “Pasta is a simple plant-based food, and has a low environmental impact.” Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways, said in a press release, “Today, consumers are confronted with not just nutritional choices when it comes to food, but those that impact the environment and culture.” Thank you, Sara. A point well-made.

5. Pasta is not gluten-free.

Nor does it need to be. Gluten-free diets are still on the rise; however, science confirms that the only reason anyone should follow a gluten-free diet is if he or she has been diagnosed with celiac diseaseor a gluten intolerance. Going gluten-free because you think you will lose weight or simply be healthier is just another example of misinformation. Nowadays, you can buy gluten-free pasta, but it should truly only be eaten by people who don’t have a choice for medical reasons. If you think you can sit down to a huge serving of gluten-free pasta and not count the calories, you are hugely mistaken.

Bottom line: There is absolutely no need to exclude pasta from your diet. Like most foods, simply eat it in a healthy manner. Also, please let conclusive science – not the urge to jump on a trendy bandwagon – be your guide.