This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.
THE BENEFITS OF PASTA INCLUDE THE QUICK HEALTHY MEALS YOU CAN MAKE BY ADDING VEGETABLES, LEAN PROTEIN AND FRESH HERBS
Remember the days when we were told fat was killing us, but we could eat all the carbohydrates we wanted? Of course, that backfired. You can never eat all you want of anything and remain healthy. But back then, pasta was considered a superfood as long as you didn’t put any olive oil on it.
Then the tides turned on food high in carbohydrate, and protein became top dog, along with whatever fat clung to it. Soon people who hadn’t sunk their teeth into a piece of prime rib in ages were hitting the carving station again.
We have now entered the era of the good fats. The marbled meats are gone, and the healthy fats found in the foods of the Mediterranean, like olive oil, almonds and sesame seeds, are in.
Since the Mediterranean Diet has been linked to better health, you might be wondering where pasta fits into the plan?
I’m here to deliver good news. There are many nutritional and culinary benefits of pasta, and we were wrong to abandon the quick healthy meals we can make with it.
The problem was never the pasta; it was how much we were eating. Let’s try to get it right this time around. With all the new shapes, sizes and types of pasta on the market, there are more ways than ever to enjoy it.
Pasta Does Not Make You Fat!
Neither pasta in particular, nor carbohydrates in general, can make us gain weight any faster or easier than any other food containing calories. All of the excess calories we consume contribute to weight gain if we don’t burn them off, no matter what the source.
If you love pasta, the key to keeping it in your diet without exceeding your daily caloric allowance is to portion it properly. Two ounces of dry pasta is considered one serving, and it has about 200 calories. There’s no law against cooking a 12 ounce box and eating half of it yourself at one meal, but you must be able to use those 600 calories, and any that were clinging to it, or they will be stored as fat.
If you have a hard time estimating what 2 ounces of penne, fettuccine, or any other pasta looks like after it has been cooked, Barilla Pasta has a great chart that tells you how to measure it both before and after cooking.
Health Benefits of Pasta
- Source of enriched and whole grains – Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least 6 servings of grains a day, with half of them whole grains and half enriched
- Low in fat and sodium – You don’t have to salt the water to cook pasta; let your sauce provide the flavor.
- No cholesterol or saturated fat – If you use only plant-sourced toppings, like vegetables and beans, your dish will remain cholesterol free.
- Enriched with thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin, folic acid, and iron – Including enriched grains in the diet is an important way to meet requirements for essential nutrients.
- A low Glycemic Index food – This means pasta makes us feel satisfied longer than other food high in carbohydrate and it doesn’t cause blood sugar to surge.
- Available in nutritionally enhanced varieties – The list includes whole grain, vegetable, high fiber, high protein, ALA omega-3 fatty acids, and gluten free.
Culinary Benefits of Pasta
- Partners well with every other food group – It’s the foundation for endless quick healthy meals when prepared with vegetables, fruits, lean meats, beans, nuts, or cheese.
- Quick and easy to cook – Depending on size, it only takes 6-12 minutes to cook pasta to “al dente”, so follow the directions on the box.
- Variety of shapes and sizes – The names on the boxes mean different things in Italian, but the shapes are basically long or short, ridged or smooth, thin or thick, hollow or solid, flat or filled.
- Versatile serving options – One of the few foods you can enjoy hot or cold and reheated.
- Inexpensive and widely available – Pasta provides a valuable way to stretch food dollars without compromising on value at meals.
- Tastes great – A favorite of children, teens and adults alike, so everyone in the family can enjoy more meals together.