New year, new you, new diet. It’s a familiar refrain. A popular diet technique is to create a food blacklist. It’s common to cut out “carbs” or packaged foods, which can mean avoiding supermarket staples like pasta.
But should we really banish pasta to improve our diet?
This is what we call a reductionist approach to nutrition, where a food is described in terms of just one of its key components. Pasta isn’t just carbs. One cup (about 145 grams) of cooked pasta contains about 38 grams of carbohydrates, 7.7 grams of protein, and 0.6 grams of fat. Plus there’s all the water that’s absorbed through cooking and lots of vitamins and minerals.
“But pasta is mostly made up of carbohydrates! “I hear you cry. That’s true, but that’s not the whole story. You have to think about the context.
Your day on a plate
You probably know that there are recommendations for how much energy (kilojoules or calories) we should consume per day. These recommendations are based on height, gender and physical activity. But you might not realize that there are also macronutrient profile recommendations – or types of food – that provide this energy.
Fats, carbohydrates and proteins are macronutrients. Macronutrients are broken down in the body to produce energy for our body.
Acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges describe the ratio or percentage of macronutrients that should provide this energy. These ranges are set by experts based on health outcomes and healthy eating patterns. They aim to ensure that we get enough, but not too much, from each macro. Consuming too much or too little of any type of food can have health consequences.
The ratios are also designed to ensure that we are getting enough of the vitamins and minerals that come with the energy from the foods we usually eat. We should get 45-65% of our energy from carbohydrates, 10-30% from protein, and 20-35% from fat.
Macronutrient ratios mean it can be healthy to eat up to 1.2 to 6.5 times more carbs per day than protein since each gram of protein has the same amount of energy as one gram of carbohydrate .
The carbohydrate to protein ratio in pasta is 38 grams to 7.7 grams, which equates to a ratio of about 5:1, well within the acceptable macronutrient distribution range. This means that the pasta contains enough protein to balance out the carbohydrates. It’s not just because of the eggs in the pasta either. Wheat is another source of protein, accounting for around 20% of the protein consumed worldwide.
If you’re worried about calorie levels and weight gain, that’s not so simple either.
As part of a healthy diet, people have been shown to lose more weight when their diet regularly includes pasta. And a systematic review of 10 different studies found that pasta was better for blood sugar after meals than bread or potatoes.
Instead of giving up spaghetti, consider reducing portion sizes or switching to whole-grain pasta, which is higher in fiber, which has benefits for gut health and can help you feel full. Longer.
Gluten-free pasta contains slightly less protein than wheat pasta. So while they’re healthier for people with gluten intolerance, there aren’t any increased health benefits of switching to gluten-free pasta for most of us.
Skip the pesto and leftover Bolognese
Pasta is also not usually eaten on its own. So while some warn of the dangers of blood sugar spikes when eating “naked carbs” (meaning only carbs with no other foods), it’s generally not a risk for people. pasta.
When pasta is the base of a meal, it can be a way to help people eat more vegetables in smooth vegetable sauces or with chunky ones. For kids (or fussy adults), pasta sauce can be a great place to hide pureed or shredded vegetables.
Not eating pasta alone is also important for the protein profile. Plant foods are generally not complete proteins, which means we have to eat combinations of them to get all the different types of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) we need to survive.
But pasta, even though we often focus on carbohydrates and energy, is very nutritious. Like most foods, it’s not just macronutrients, it also contains micronutrients.
A cup of cooked pasta contains about a quarter of our recommended daily intake of vitamins B1 and B9, half of the recommended intake of selenium and 10% of our iron needs.
The news for pasta gets even better when we eat it as leftovers. When pasta is cooked and cooled, some carbohydrates turn into resistant starch. This starch gets its name from its resistance to digestion, so it provides less energy and is better for blood sugar. Thus, your leftover pasta, even if you reheat it, is less caloric than the day before.
Take a closer look at the “carb” choices
There’s a lot of talk about cutting carbs for weight loss, but remember that carbs come in different forms and in different foods.
Some of them, like pasta, provide other benefits. Others, like cakes and lollipops, add very little else. When we talk about cutting back on refined carbs, think first about sweets that are eaten on their own before cutting out the basic carbs that are often served with vegetables, arguably the healthiest staple food group.
Emma Beckett, Senior Lecturer (Food Science and Human Nutrition), School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Newcastle University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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