Many people have a love-hate relationship with pasta because they fear they’ll gain weight. However, the problem isn’t the pasta but how it’s cooked, the portion size, and the toppings used in Western countries.

Pasta is a simple food made with only two ingredients: durum wheat and water. Contrary to popular belief, when consumed as part of a Mediterranean-style diet abundant in plant foods and extra virgin olive oil, pasta is linked with a smaller waistline! Following are ways to prepare it and achieve both health and pleasure:

What to do

1. Serve a modest portion, as in Italy, where pasta is never the main event but part of a varied meal. Allow 60 to 80 grams of dry weight per person rather than the 125 grams commonly recommended on packages.

2. Cook it al dente, meaning firm, as it will have a lower glycemic index (GI, which refers to the rate the carbohydrate is digested and raises your blood sugar). Avoid mushy canned pasta, which has a higher GI.

3. Partner pasta with foods that will further lower the GI of your entire meal such as nuts or seeds (ground into pastes or tahini used to make cream sauce), sofrito (a rich tomato sauce made with extra virgin olive oil, onions, garlic, and herbs), or cooked dry beans (for example, pinto or kidney).

4. Choose wholegrain and wholemeal varieties, when possible. However, even regular pasta has a lower GI compared to refined carbohydrate foods like white bread or white rice.

5. If you’re eating pasta as a main meal, bulk it out with fresh salad dressed with vinegar/lemon juice and olive oil.

Pasta alternatives

For those wanting more variety, try the following:

  • Mung bean vermicelli (also known as glass noodles), made from mung beans.
  • Kelp noodles made from edible brown seaweed—a favorite with raw foodists, because they simply need hydration before use.
  • Konnyaku or konjac noodles are traditionally used in Japan and made from the root of a plant in the taro family.
  • Spaghetti squash or spiral-cut raw vegetables (for example, zucchini linguine). 

Food Matters

by Sue Radd
  
From the May 2017 Signs