Pasta and Healthy eating: why you shouldn’t avoid Italian most beloved food
Pasta is one of the most popular, affordable, delicious and simply nutritious dishes in the world. It is enjoyed by young and old from all walks of life and a myriad of cultures. There still are, however, many misconceptions and - like other processed carbohydrates - pasta has been deemed a problematic food when it comes to packing on the pounds. In fact, in recent decades pasta has even been blamed for contributing to the obesity epidemic, despite the fact that it’s been a staple food of the Mediterranean Diet for hundreds of years. If you’re a lover of Pasta, then you’re probably wondering: is pasta healthy, or is pasta bad for you?
Pasta will not make you
gain weight, study says
If you are on a diet or simply pay lot of attention to your waistline, you don’t have to completely avoid Pasta. Indeed, several studies have demonstrated that it is a nutritious food that contains almost no fat, cholesterol and sodium and is an excellent source of low glycemic carbohydrates. Foods with a low glycemic index are broken down slowly in the body and release their carbohydrate gradually, so they can help you feel full longer after eating and avoid cravings between the meals.
However, needless to say, any food will make you fat if you consume too much of it, since you gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn through your daily activity and Pasta is no exception. So, the first golden rule to fit Pasta with healthy eating is to carefully weigh the portions.
In Italy, where pasta is probably the most common staple, it comes in really controlled portion, with a very easy formula to follow: 100 grams (3-1/2 ounces) or less of pasta per person, nothing to do with the 300 or 400 grams you see in most Italian restaurants in the United States.
How to cook Pasta the right way
(for your waistline as well)
The second “secret” is to cook Pasta the right way, that is, al dente. If your pasta package gives the time for pasta to cook, follow al dente cooking times. And taste your pasta while it is cooking-don’t always trust the label for exact cooking times.
Not only it is firmer for better texture, mouth feel and taste, but it is also better for your diet. Pasta is a high carbohydrate food but pasta in itself is a lower glycemic index food, and pasta cooked al dente, or firm has a lower glycemic index than pasta that is cooked for a normal bite or overcooked. Simply put, Pasta al dente helps you not to gain weight.
So, how to cook the Pasta perfectly? You should fill a large pot of water – remember that the right pot should be large enough to contain the water and the pasta – then, when the water is boiling, add more or less 2 tsp of coarse salt per liter. When the water comes back to a rolling boil, add the pasta and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon to separate the pieces. Check the pasta package for pasta cooking time. Bite a few times the Pasta to check the doneness: as soon as the broken Pasta piece is a uniform, translucent yellow, drain the pasta.
How to choose a healthy Pasta Sauce
Even if you have carefully weighed the Pasta portion and cooked it al dente, there’s one last thing that can actually make the difference between a healthy dish and a fatty one: Pasta Sauce. Of course, you have to renounce to creamy, butter-based, cheesy sauces and prefer instead simple condiments with extra-virgin olive oil and vegetables, such as pesto sauce or tomato sauce.
If you think that one-cup serving isn’t going to be filling enough, you can compensate by adding as many veggies as you want to the Pasta Sauce you chose. Opt for a variety of brightly coloured vegetables to really give the dish a healthy boost.
Don’t forget to add protein to your Pasta: they will help you to fell full for a longer time and lead to more calories burned. You can add seafood - because it’s not called the “Mediterranean” diet for nothing – such as shrimps, salmon and tuna. Chicken and beans are also good low-cal protein sources.
Pasta is good for the
environment as well
People are increasingly aware of the impact that the food they eat has on the environment: not only packaging can be dangerous, but also some products are deemed to be risky for the ecosystems since they require chemicals or because they exploit too much land or a have the big impact on the rest of the food chain.
The good news is that Pasta is not only good for you, but it is also one of the more environmentally friendly and sustainable food products. It is one of the least intensive foods to produce and has a small carbon footprint from farm to table as compared to other foods.
Just pair it with organic vegetables and sauces and the result will be a dish that is healthy and eco-friendly. The extra tip? As the Mediterranean diet rule suggests, share your Pasta with people you love more and take the right time to enjoy your meal!