• April 29, 2022

Is pasta healthy or fattening?

Many people who are trying to lose weight wonder if pasta is healthy or fattening. Pasta, like many carbohydrate-rich foods, often gets a bad rap for being fattening; however, this does not have to be true.

Carbohydrates, although recently considered villains, are actually necessary to keep the body and mind running smoothly. When carbohydrates break down, they provide an important source of glucose. Glucose is the main source of energy for your body and the only source of energy for your brain. Many people who have tried to stick to very low carbohydrate diets have suffered from low energy and moodiness. I know I would be in a bad mood if I never got to eat my favorite pastries!

Eating too many carbohydrates can make you fat, but pasta itself is not fattening; cooked pasta is only about 200 calories per cup. Where you really get into trouble is with your pasta sauce. Pasta sauces that contain high-calorie fatty meats, creams, cheese, and other fattening ingredients can really make a pasta dish fattening. Tomato sauces for pasta are not usually very fattening! Americans also tend to eat too much pasta – portion control is important when watching calories. Italians traditionally serve pasta as a side dish or as a main course in a multi-course meal; not in the large mounds that are so common in the United States.

In addition to being fattening, pasta has been criticized for being a simple carbohydrate and lumped into the same category as cakes, pastries, and white bread. The problem with all these simple carbohydrates is that they raise blood sugar, causing excess insulin to be secreted, which promotes weight gain and a subsequent drop in energy. Simple carbohydrates have a high Glycemic Index (GI) which is a number used to measure how quickly the body’s blood sugar level rises after eating a food. The good news is that pasta has a GI of 41, which is similar to pears and lower than many types of bread. And an easy way to lower the GI of pasta is to cook it like the Italians: “al dente”

Nowadays, most pastas are made with semolina flour obtained from durum wheat. This creates a firm dough which in turn also lowers the GI, while also providing a good source of nutrition. Homemade, dry pasta contains lots of B vitamins, folic acid, and iron. It is low in sodium and, despite a prevailing myth, pasta is not high in cholesterol even though it is usually made with eggs. Egg consumption was once thought to be drastically reduced due to its high cholesterol content, but subsequent research has shown that eggs in moderation are quite healthy and contribute greatly to the health benefits of pasta. However, for those on a strict diet, the pasta can be made without eggs, while the flour and olive oil content still makes this pasta healthy.

Another option is to use dry pasta. This pasta does not usually contain eggs or oil, but it is made with 100% semolina flour and is quite firm when cooked. The firmness of this pasta helps lower the GI index less than bread, potatoes, and white rice, while also providing B vitamins, fiber, and iron. Dried pasta can be stored for up to 3 years, but be sure not to store pasta in glass containers as sunlight depletes the B vitamins.

Is pasta healthy in other ways too?

Yes, homemade pasta can be quite healthy. It’s not hard to learn how to make pasta, and homemade pasta can be made even more nutritious with the inclusion of whole wheat flour, spinach, garlic, and herbs that add to the vitamin, mineral, and fiber content of the pasta. Fiber is another nutrient often missing from modern diets, but fiber is necessary for digestive health, hormonal balance, and the prevention of certain types of cancer.

There are many easy pasta recipes that make this nutritious food very convenient for busy modern cooks as well. When trying to eat healthier, you don’t have to wonder if pasta is healthy, as there are plenty of ways to prepare pasta that are. So go ahead and enjoy your pasta without guilt, just remember to be careful with meats and sauces that are fattening and enjoy your pasta in moderation!

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