Pasta is not the enemy
For something so delicious, pasta sure does get a bad rap. Is it well deserved, or an outdated carb myth?
If, like me, you’re lucky enough to live where there is no shortage of Italian restaurant options. Yet, any time I suggest a visit to my favourite pasta restaurant, I always get the same reaction: raised eyebrows, shocked looks, and incredulous comments about pasta.
My clients are skeptical, too, always skipping pasta because it’s high in carbs, and they think it makes them gain weight. (Here’s why you can eat carbs and still be healthy.)
Frankly, it’s time to bust these myths, and put pasta back where it belongs: on the dinner table. Because the good news is that there are studies, like one published recently in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, showing that pasta can be part of a healthy diet. In fact, if you eat pasta in appropriate amounts, you’re less likely to over-consume sugar and fat. That’s a good thing.
Pasta nutrition information
Pasta is made from an unleavened dough of durum wheat flour mixed with water or eggs. It can be cooked fresh (Pasta Fresca) or dried (Pasta Secca). And it comes in a huge variety of shapes. There are more than 350 different types of pasta – from spaghetti, linguini, and fettuccine to rigatoni, ravioli, penne, orecchiette, and many more.
As a benchmark, a cup of regular pasta contains about 375 calories, 12.5 grams of protein, and 70 grams of carbohydrates. The same amount of brown rice pasta has a similar makeup with 375 calories, seven grams of protein, 76 grams of carbohydrates, and three and a half grams of fibre. And the same amount of chickpea pasta has only 333 calories, but 25 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fibre, making it the more attractive of the three. Of course, there are other factors to consider, when considering your choice of pasta, one of the most important being taste.
What is the healthiest type of pasta?
As a registered dietitian, I don’t think it’s necessary to consume food that you don’t like just because it’s considered healthy. For example, if I didn’t have protein – like meat, fish, or eggs – around, I might choose chickpea pasta over regular pasta. If I wanted to make a healthy pasta recipe using chicken and broccoli, I would probably choose a half cup of regular pasta because I prefer the flavour and density over the other two kinds of pasta.
Any type of pasta can be part of a healthy diet. The secret to healthy pasta eating isn’t the type of pasta, but how you prepare it and how much you eat.
First, it’s key to understand the appropriate serving and portion size of pasta. The American Diabetes Association, in conjunction with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, developed an exchange list that forms the foundation of a meal-planning system designed to help people stabilise their blood sugar. Using this exchange list can help you keep meals well balanced and ensure that you don’t overdo it in any food category. The list has determined that the appropriate serving size of uncooked pasta is a half cup. This starch exchange contains 15 grams of carbohydrates and 80 calories per serving, and this should act as your guide for eating pasta in a healthy way.