In this article we are going to talk about what an absolute majority of people love – pasta. Is pasta healthy or unhealthy, actually? Do you gain weight from pasta? And what’s the best way to eat pasta? All these questions are addressed.
Some people consider pasta to be a separate food category. But it actually belongs to the category of grain products, which also includes bread and rice.
Spaghetti, macaroni, rigatoni, fusilli, lasagna – these are all types of pasta. The nutritional value of all these types is the same. The shape is the only difference.
Do you gain weight from pasta?
Traditional dried pasta that you can buy in a supermarket is made from durum wheat and water. Eggs are sometimes added. So, the recipe is very simple. No preservatives come in handy for making pasta.
Some adherents of no-pasta diets don’t seem to know why they actually avoid pasta. Many people think that anything made from wheat flour makes you gain weight. This is absolutely not the case. Being overweight is the result of consuming too many calories, more than you need. Not from consuming one specific food such as wheat.
Products made from wheat, such as bread and pasta, fit into a healthy diet. Those who want to lose weight can absolutely eat pasta. However, it is better to give preference to whole wheat pasta, as it is healthier, contains more fiber and is more satiating than pasta made with white refined flour.
Pure pasta is therefore a harmless food. The danger (of gaining weight) actually lies not in pasta itself, but in the way it is prepared and served. Think sauce. Traditional vegetarian tomato sauce is made with lots of tomatoes and is therefore low in calories. But most other pasta sauces (pesto, carbonara, Alfredo) are made with a lot of oil and/or cream. And because of that, these pasta sauces are very high in calories. And then grated cheese is sprinkled on top. That’s even more calories.
The healthiest way to enjoy pasta is to eat it with lots of vegetables and a small amount of healthy sauce and just a little bit of cheese. By the way, did you know that you can make pasta creamier by adding a few tablespoons of the water in which you cooked the pasta in, to your pasta dish? Especially with pesto sauce this trick works very well.
Nutritional value of pasta
Is pasta healthy in terms of macro- and micronutrients? Let’s look at the numbers. Dried pasta contains an average of 350 kcal per 100 g. A single serving is about 75-80 g. A portion of pasta therefore contains +/- 260 kcal. Pasta contains virtually no fat and about 10 grams of protein per serving. Whole-wheat pasta has about 5 grams of fiber per serving, and regular pasta has about 2 grams. Whole wheat pasta is a good source of vitamins B1 and B3 and the minerals manganese, magnesium, copper and iron.
What about gluten?
Some opponents of pasta argue that it is bad because it contains gluten. The term gluten unites a group of proteins found in some grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is of great importance in the food industry. It is the gluten content that determines the elasticity and resilience of dough. Some people have a congenital intolerance (celiac disease) to gluten. There are also people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (also known by the abbreviation NCGS). A gluten-free diet is vital for people who suffer from celiac disease, which is about one percent of the world’s population. It is not clear how many people suffer from NCGS. Despite extensive research, it is still a matter of debate whether NCGS is caused by gluten or other components of wheat.
For most people, a gluten-free diet is not beneficial, but it poses a risk of deficiencies in essential nutrients such as fiber, iron, B vitamins and iodine. Also keep in mind that gluten-free substitutes often contain significantly more fat and sugar and less protein than the original foods they mimic.
Nowadays you can find gluten-free pasta in every supermarket. Gluten-free pasta can be made from, for example, buckwheat, lentils, chickpeas, rice, corn and what not. Gluten-free pasta does taste different than wheat pasta. This is a matter of trial and error.
Benefits of pasta
Except for minerals and vitamins, pasta provides some other benefits too. Let’s look at the positive aspects of pasta consumption.
- Dried pasta can be stored for years since it is a very natural product without added preservatives.
- Pasta is cheap and therefore very friendly to your wallet.
- Pasta is done quickly.
- All parents know: children love pasta. This is something you can always count on if you want to make sure your child eats.
- If you have made too much, you can still eat a pasta dish the next day.
- You can vary endlessly with pasta. By using different types of pasta, different vegetables and different sauces you can create countless combinations and so you eat, as it were, something different every time.