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Pasta does not make you fat and helps counteract abdominal fat and mineral deficiency

February 01, 2024
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Pasta does not make you fat and helps counteract abdominal fat and mineral deficiency

Pasta does not make you fat, it is a low glycemic index food and, if included in a healthy and varied diet, it can even help you lose weight and reduce your waistline. But let's see what three recent scientific studies say about the properties of pasta, also offering important advice on how to best prepare it.

Pasta! Every worry, every thought or problem disappears in front of a good plate of pasta. Pasta is loved by everyone, adults and children, all over the world. You can find it seasoned with tomato, with oil, garlic and chilli, with vegetables or in a thousand other different ways and this is precisely its strength. The pasta lends itself to all the customizations you can think of. However, we often hear that eating pasta is to be considered a delicacy, an exception to the rule. There are even those who have excluded it almost completely from their diet for fear of gaining weight and increasing the waistline. But is it really like that? Let's see what the latest scientific research on the subject says.

Pasta doesn't make you fat!

Let's start by immediately dispelling this belief, pasta does not make you fat but can even reduce the risk of being overweight and obese. However, as long as pasta finds space within a healthy and balanced diet, then there really is no difference between those who give up pasta and those who eat it in high quantities. Indeed, it is even possible to observe a reduction in body mass index and abdominal obesity, or visceral fat, in those who eat pasta. This is thanks to the ability of pasta not to cause high blood sugar peaks, but also to promote a sense of satiety. What is reported emerges from an article published a few months ago in the journal Nutrients by an American team (Sanders et al, Nutrients, 2023).

Pasta provides minerals, but be careful with salt

Pasta can become a precious source of minerals, as emerges from a Polish study published in the journal Foods (Jachimowicz et al, Foods, 2021). However, the problem is that of salt, and therefore sodium, which is always too abundant in our diet and which, when in excess, increases the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Dried pasta, which we buy in stores, has a practically insignificant amount of salt. The problem is the salt that is added later. In fact, pasta is one of the foods to which we most easily add salt, both when it is already on the plate but also, and above all, during the cooking process. Cooking pasta in plenty of salted water is practically a usual action. Polish scientists analyzed 35 samples of pasta prepared in different ways, cooked with salt and without salt, rinsed after draining or not, to evaluate the presence of sodium and minerals. What emerged is that cooking in general reduces the mineral content of raw pasta, a source of magnesium, copper, calcium, potassium and manganese. Instead, cooking pasta in salted water, one teaspoon of salt per liter of water, considerably increases the sodium content. Cooking pasta in unsalted water led to a reduction in sodium, the little content in dried pasta, and an increase in mineral content, especially potassium, compared to pasta cooked in salted water. It is believed that in the latter case the sodium passes from the water to the pasta, taking the place of the minerals present. Finally, rinsing the pasta after draining it leads to a further reduction in the mineral content.

Therefore, to ensure an interesting supply of minerals and keep the salt intake under control, the best way to cook pasta is in unsalted water.

Then, after draining it, it would be better not to rinse the pasta.

Pasta for blood sugar control

We always hear about blood sugar levels rising in response to a meal. It is a physiological process that allows the body to use the sugars consumed through diet and supply the cells with energy. This value can be more or less high based on what we eat. For example, white sugar causes a very high increase in blood sugar, while salad causes a very low one. The difference lies entirely in the presence of starches within the foods and the speed with which they are absorbed by the intestine. Large quantities of starches that are quickly absorbed cause a significant increase in blood sugar to which the body must respond with a considerable increase in insulin released. And here the problems arise. On the one hand, if your body does not respond well and releases too little insulin or insulin that does not work efficiently, too much sugar remains in circulation. On the other hand, even if the body functions well, a continuous stimulus to high insulin production can, in the long run, increase the risk of overweight, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So, it is important to avoid huge peaks of blood sugar. The research we are talking about today conducted by the University of Parma shows that pasta, if prepared with durum wheat flour, does not cause a high blood sugar peak and therefore lends itself to being included in a diet aimed at keeping blood sugar under control (Dodi et al, Foods, 2023). It all depends on the preparation to which the flour is subjected to make the pasta. In this way, the presence of slow and delayed digestion starches is increased, which are therefore absorbed calmly, giving energy but also plenty of time for the body to manage the increase in sugars, without dangerous peaks or excessive quantities of insulin in circulation. Even the subsequent cooking of the pasta that we do at home does not alter this structure, keeping the pasta a low glycemic index food. Worthy of note is the fact that the scientists also analyzed other products made with the same durum wheat flour, namely bread and couscous, but pasta was found to be the food with the lowest glycemic index. Bread and couscous therefore stimulate a more considerable increase in blood sugar levels in the body. As regards the format of the pasta, fusilli and cavatelli were those with the lowest glycemic index, immediately followed by spaghetti and then penne.

Pasta and health, conclusions

Pasta is one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet, which has always been considered a diet that protects health. By the way, also for 2024 and for the seventh consecutive year, the Mediterranean diet was considered the best diet ever, in terms of health benefits, to combat diabetes and protect bones, heart and joints and for simplicity in implementation, according to the American magazine US News and World Report. Despite this, pasta is often considered a luxury food, capable only of making you fat and increasing your blood sugar. Pasta provides starches and energy, it's true, but we have seen that durum wheat pasta has a low glycemic index, much lower than bread or couscous. Pasta therefore helps keep blood sugar levels under control and also provides precious minerals. Furthermore, pasta, if included in a healthy diet, does not make you fat, in fact, it can even help you lose weight if you are overweight and reduce your belly fat. The studies analyzed here only dealt with durum wheat pasta but, as the authors of the study state, it is also possible to choose wholemeal pasta to have further benefits. In addition, the accompanying sauces can also provide additional health properties, including legumes, vegetables, garlic, onion, aromatic herbs and spices. So, let's not give up pasta!

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