The Joys of Pasta - How to Eat This Italian Staple Without Getting Fat

Whether you're Italian or not, eating pasta has been a staple of Western cuisine for several hundreds of years now. The first written reference to pasta can be traced back all the way to 1154, but its worldwide popularity didn't really take off until the 20th century. That's when large-scale Italian immigration took place, with Italians bringing the joys of pasta to wherever they went.

 

Still, in today's more health-conscious climate, pasta has often been derided as a carb-heavy dish that's sure to negatively impact your waistline. However, recent reports have shown that this reputation is mostly unfounded and that pasta can actually help you get slimmer, with a couple of important caveats.

 

Pasta and the Mediterranean Diet

Many modern diets like the Atkins and the Paleo shun pasta, or at the very least relegate it to minimum-consumption levels. But there is another healthy eating regimen, the so-called Mediterranean diet, where pasta is held in high regard.

 

The Mediterranean diet is known for its positive impact on health and revolves around the regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, with fish and seafood also being an important component.

 

A recent study has shown that, when taken as part of a larger Mediterranean diet, pasta actually leads to a slight reduction in Body Mass Index and waistline size, thus proving that not everything that tastes great is necessarily bad for you. 

 

Fresh vs. Dry

Most people have no idea that there is more than one type of pasta. Unless you've been to a place where fresh pasta is made on the spot, chances are you've mostly cut your teeth on dried pasta, which is found in pretty much every supermarket in the world.

 

Now, it's important to note that while both pasta types have their benefits and drawbacks, fresh pasta tends to be lower in carbohydrates and contains less calories overall. Luckily, pasta is a fast and easy dish to prepare, since you won't need anything else besides eggs, flour and salt (for those who prefer vegan pasta, eggs can be removed as well) to get started.

 

The Provenance of Pasta

A healthier, less refined wheat is one of the secrets behind Italian pasta. Unlike places such as the US or Australia, which introduced new types of gluten-heavy wheat back in the 1970s, Italy has stuck with its traditional durum wheat.

 

What's more, Italy is also known for using relatively few pesticides and having a nutrient-rich soil that's just perfect for growing wheat, two factors that lead to much healthier food down the line. So, if you've got issues with gluten or simply prefer getting your pasta fix from its homeland, opt for authentic Italian pasta instead of settling for local brands. 

 

Gluten-free vs Whole-wheat

Speaking of gluten, the high number of people who have developed an intolerance towards this much-maligned protein type tend to complain about symptoms such bloatedness, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

 

Luckily for them, gluten-free pasta exists and can be made from various flour types. It generally tends to have a lighter texture and contains more calcium and iron on average than traditional pasta. On the other hand, those who don't mind a little gluten would do well to opt for whole-wheat pasta, which packs more potassium and fibre, in addition to boasting a higher overall protein content. 

Portion Size

Finally, it should be said that while we've spent the bulk of this article touting the value of pasta, anyone who truly wishes to enjoy it needs to be able to rein in their inner instinct to devour whole plates of goopy goodness. In the Mediterranean diet, pasta is usually consumed in a small bowl with your chosen sauce, alongside fresh salads, vegetables and a small quantity of meat. Eat any more than that and you'll be pumping your body with too many calories, thereby inevitably affecting your waistline in the process. As with many other aspects of life, moderation is the key to long-term sustainability. 

 

All in all, it appears that pasta is here to stay. After all, the Italian staple is often lovingly referred to as the best food in the world, with millions of people consuming it every day. And, when consumed in the right quantities alongside the right types of food, it can also be an integral part of one's healthy diet.

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