Can Pasta help me lose weight?

If you’ve been cutting pasta out of your diet because of its fattening reputation, you may no longer have to. A recent study conducted by Italian scientists found that it does not contribute to obesity; in fact, it can actually help you bring down your body mass index.

This is not a ticket to a bottomless bowl of fettuccine alfredo!

While it isn’t commonly associated with healthy eating and weight loss, you don’t have to completely ban it from your meals if it is something you enjoy.

Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet, which includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and peas, unrefined grains, olive oil and fish, is associated with a lower risk of heart attack and strokes. Pasta is a significant part of that diet and the Mediterranean region.

An Italian team of researchers decided to explore it’s health effects, independent from all of the other Mediterranean staples. They studied over 20,000 Italians and discovered that pasta intake was associated both with lower obesity rates and healthier waist-to-hip ratios. They discovered that pasta is not the “big bad wolf” of the food pyramid and that it can be enjoyed in moderation. They found that people who ate more pasta tended to consume more foods associated with the Mediterranean diet, suggesting that pasta eaters often pair it with healthy items.

So what can we learn from this?

Carbs are found in many foods, and they are one of the body’s main sources of energy. There are two types: simple (anything that mainly consists of sugar) and complex (vegetables, whole grains, and legumes). Complex carbohydrates are made up of sugar, but they’re also high in fiber and starch, which can improve digestive health and help with weight loss. When choosing carbs, it’s always better to go with ones that are complex rather than simple. If you are going to be eating pasta choose whole grain noodles. They are packed with fiber and even some protein, calcium, and potassium, and contain no cholesterol.

Although researchers haven’t specified the amounts should or shouldn’t be consumed, the results of this study show us that is it wrong to make carbohydrates the “bad” guy. The data clearly shows that the consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods, like pasta, do not have a negative effect on someone’s body weight. There is no evidence linking the consumption of pasta with a person’s BMI.

You can enjoy pasta and still reach your weight-loss goals — just follow these tips.

  • Choose whole wheat: Aside from having slightly fewer calories, whole wheat contains more fiber and protein than it’s traditional counterpart.
  • Measure out portions: Italian restaurants tend to offer generous mounds of pasta, but aim to eat a one-cup serving, which is about 200 calories.
  • Skip creamy sauces: Butter and cheese can easily double the calories of a pasta dish; dress noodles in a white wine or red sauce instead.
  • Limit the cheese: Cheese adds protein, but it can quickly pack on the calories and the fat. You don’t have to forgo cheese altogether — just limit the amount. Keep in mind that a half-cup serving of ricotta is 214 calories while a tablespoon of grated parmesan is only 21 calories. Instead of choosing a cheese-filled recipe, sprinkle some over your finished dish.
  • Add tons of veggies: Don’t just eat an enormous bowl of spaghetti. Go for a veggies-to-pasta ratio of 2:1. Veggies are much lower in calories than pasta and filled with important nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Add lean protein: Beans, chicken, and turkey complement pasta beautifully, and these ingredients tend to be lower in calories than pork sausage or beef. Adding protein to a pasta bowl will fill you up and keep your energy going strong so you’re less likely to feel logy after your meal

Enjoy that dish and just be mindful about your carb intake rather than overeating or cutting them out completely.

Your turn to take action: Include a healthy portion in your menu this week and tell me what recipe you choose!

“Can Pasta Help Me Lose Weight?”, Written for Vertex Fitness Personal Training Studio by Ashvini Mashru, RD

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