Pasta Has Been “Unfairly Demonized”
I know you have heard it before, “If you want to lose body fat, avoid carbohydrate rich foods such as pasta at all costs!”
Yet, there are ways to eat pasta and still maintain a healthy body weight!
In fact, a new survey of more than 23,000 people linked pasta consumption to both lower body mass (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio. (1)
This was due to two significant reasons:
1. Pasta is relatively low in the glycemic index (GI), which measures how slowly or how quickly a food causes increases in our blood glucose levels.
While the glycemic (GI) is only part of the way we evaluate food, the fact that pasta has a somewhat low GI makes it a more appealing option in fat loss, as after all, one of the significant factors in the fat loss equation, is finding ways to control our blood sugar levels.
2. In this study, the subjects ate a predominantly Mediterranean diet, which not only included small portions of delicious, homemade pasta, but also ample fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables; fish, natural whole grains, nuts and seeds, thereby, making it one of the healthiest and nutritionally rich diets in the world!
So here are some ideas to help you consume pasta the “right way”, so you can lose body fat fast and for a lifetime:
1. Serve all your pasta dishes with a nutritious salad.
Add a nutritionally rich, low calorie salad with ample greens and other raw vegetables such as tomato, carrot, cucumber and bell pepper. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and an optional touch of salt and pepper.
2. Keep the portions small.
A single, small fist size serving of cooked pasta, about 1/2, cup and a maximum 1 cup, a few times a week will do very little harm to your fat loss goals. Remember, your stomach is only the size of your fist.
The key is small portions, not complete avoidance of delicious pasta dishes!
3. Avoid high calorie rich creamy sauces.
Adding a rich sauce like primavera, carbonara, or Alfredo, which are heavy in cream and butter, produces a dish filled with excessive calories and saturated fats, with no redeeming nutritional benefits. So switch to a nutritious low calorie homemade tomato-based, marinara sauce instead. For additional nutrients to aid satiety, add ample finely chopped veggies to this sauce which are high in fiber (or if you prefer, on the side), such as finely chopped zucchini, bell pepper, sautéed mushrooms and add a few olives to give you some healthy fats .
4. Choose whole grain pasta at times, over white flour pasta.
When pasta is made from white flour, the germ and bran of the wheat are removed, depriving it of many of the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, protein, and fiber that whole wheat pasta offers.
So choose whole wheat pasta instead. If one brand of whole grain pasta does not suit you, try another.
Should none appeal to you, keep the white pasta, but eat smaller portions of it, and add ample fresh vegetables to your sauce.
5. Canned or bottled marinara sauces.
Fresh homemade marinara sauces are best for their nutrients and the energy they provide, however, supermarkets have many reputable fresh marinara sauces on their refrigerated shelves. The label should list tomatoes first, followed by ingredients such as olive oil or canola oil, garlic, onions and spices. Avoid any sauce with added sugar, corn syrup, trans fat, or vegetable oil.
6. Macaroni and cheese.
Choose a low-fat cheese or a small amount of strong-flavored cheese. Only a little Parmesan or Romano is required to enhance the flavor. Omit the cream or milk. To the pasta, add the following per serving: 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil with 1 crushed garlic clove and 1 teaspoon of strong-flavored grated cheese.
7. Eat the energy rich pasta for lunch, not dinner.
Did you know that your metabolism also changes throughout the day! Your body works on an innate and sophisticated biological clock that is in perfect harmony with nature. When the sun gradually rises in the early morning hours, so does your metabolism. And when the sun is at its highest peak in the sky between the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, your body temperature and metabolism reaches its highest peak of the day. This is when your body digests foods and burns fuel most efficiently.
By three or four o’clock it begins to then slowly decline in preparation for an evening of relaxation and a night of good sleep.
As such, dinner is the time of day when you must pay attention to portion sizes to ensure you consume less of the energy rich foods, which includes pasta!
But if pasta is a low GI food, why do we need to
eat less of it at this time of the day?
Although pasta is relatively low in the GI index, it is still a carbohydrate, and carbohydrates main role is to provide your body with ample glucose to fuel your brain, cells, tissues and organs with energy.
Energy not used immediately is then stored as glycogen in either your liver or your muscles.
The catch is, your body only has a limited ability to store glycogen. For instance, your body can only store around 80-100 grams of glycogen in your liver, and depending upon how much muscle you have, it can generally only store around 280-350 grams in your muscle tissue. When this storage is maxed out –which can happen pretty quickly in the evening hours, when your metabolism is naturally slowing down for a restful evening and sleep–the surplus carbohydrates in pasta, even if it is relatively low in the GI index, will be stored in your body as body fat, rather than used as “fuel”.
The message is clear: Unless you want to gain excess body fat, which I know you don’t want to, enjoy your pasta dishes, carefully following the strategies above, and you will achieve good health and fat loss.
Remember, weight maintenance is a skill that we can all have with the right approach!
Wishing you much health and happiness,
(Nutritionist, Life Coach and Director of MVB-Health,
Your Most Valuable Body)
1. Pasta Consumption is Negatively Associated with Obesity Markers: an Analysis of Moli-sani and INHES StudiesGeorgios Pounis, Augusto Di Castelnuovo, Simona Costanzo, Mariarosaria Persichillo, Marialaura Bonaccio, Americo Bonanni, Chiara Cerletti, Maria Benedetta Donati, Giovanni de Gaetano and Licia Iacoviello, April 2016. The FASEB Journal. vol. 30 no. 1 Supplement lb308
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