Sunday evenings are never complete without the white/red pasta sauce dribbling from the corner of my child’s mouth. Available in different shapes and colors- spiral, cylindrical, tri-colored, cashew-shaped, bow-shaped or thread-like -pasta has etched its name forever in our hearts. I strike deals with my little munchkin mostly gambling on this wonder food which is when I started to explore the effects of eating pasta!
Pasta is one of the most-popular foods consumed by mankind today, but facts have it that its popularity declined somewhere in 2017 due to serious health and nutrition concerns raised over its consumption.
Cut the Calories Not the Carbs
Fats were our enemies a long time back and now we have added carbs too to this list. Every individual on a weight loss diet includes carbs in his/her ‘to avoid’ list. Pasta is a dish that primarily contains carbs and so, are we going to knock off pasta too from our menu?
Normally we accept/deny foods based on their ingredients and methods of preparation. History says that pasta was typically made using unleavened dough of durum wheat flour mixed with water/eggs, shaped into different forms and finally boiled/baked. Its even common to use rice flour instead of wheat for a unique taste and texture. Traditionally enriched pasta uses only certain parts of the wheat kernel which leaves it without the nutrients and the manufacturer finally adds nutrients such as iron and B vitamins to enhance nutritive values of the dish. The craze for whole grains has left manufacturers with no option but to make whole-wheat/whole grain pasta fortified with omega-3 fatty acids and other fibers as well. Some of these provide us with up to 25% of daily fiber requirements in one portion. When such healthier varieties are available it’s surprising to realize that demands declined in 2017 and makes us more curious to know the reason behind it.
What delights us is the cream, cheese, toppings and sauces that go with the pasta varieties. Any pasta seems incomplete without its trademark red/white sauce, seasonings and vegetables. Pasta can be the trademark of nutritious meals when prepared with the right proportion of all ingredients and eaten with portion control. Limit your intake to 1-1.5 cups of pasta and try to include as many veggies as possible in your order. If you are preparing it at home, you are the master of your pasta! Use little oil, include plenty of seasonal veggies and its recommended to prepare the sauces too at home to make your pasta as nutritious as possible. All of this not before choosing your pasta variety. Always go for whole wheat pasta as this contains twice the fiber in comparison to the white pasta. Eating white pasta too is not a sin and its ok to use refined flour once a while as the white flour-based pasta too is enriched with nutrients such as iron and folic acid.
Pasta is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates that releases energy slowly unlike sugars that go dashing with their energy release. It has lower glycemic index (GI) which helps against sudden shoot up of blood sugar levels. By pairing your pasta with nutrient-rich foods such as colorful veggies and beans, heart-healthy oils, protein-rich cheese and lean meats and antioxidant-rich tomato sauce you are notching nutritional intake up and adding not simply calories but health too to your meals.
Studies Too Support Consumption of Pasta for Health
Low GI foods are good for weight loss and to keep heart disease and type 2 diabetes under control. A study shows that people on a low-GI diet lost weight when they included pasta in their meals. Even the American Diabetes Association brands starchy food such as pasta as a part of a nutrient-rich diet for people with diabetes.
There are people who avoid eating pasta as they are onto a low-gluten diet but science shows that there is no advantage in eating a gluten-free diet unless you are allergic to gluten. Studies actually show that eating gluten-free pasta is expensive and less nutritious as they are low in fiber and protein but high in sugar and fat.
Mediterranean diet is said to have an excellent impact on health and pasta is one of the recommended foods that are present in this type of diet. They are the prime focus of this diet as they are tasty, cheap to prepare and include many of the recommended ingredients in its preparation. If you are interested to know more about the Mediterranean diet please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
After reading through all this if you are still confused whether pasta is a healthy meal option the answer is a ‘yes’ but only when you consume correct portions of the dish, prepare it in the nutritional way (with decreased cheese and cream) and enjoy it with some fruits and vegetables as sides.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.