A plate of pasta makes everyone agree! Whether it's with tomato sauce, seafood or vegetables, both adults and children like pasta. However, pasta is also at the center of numerous debates and you can sometimes read that within a healthy diet pasta should be limited or even eliminated as it would make you fat and would increase the risk of high blood sugar. But is it really so? Or can pasta be a recommendable ingredient in a balanced diet? Let's see what the science says! In the article we will refer to dry, not fresh, and wholegrain pasta.
Pasta is a precious source of carbohydrates, and therefore energy, essential for our body to move and carry out all the processes that are the basis of life. When pasta is cooked al dente it has a lower glycemic index and guarantees a sense of satiety (Fulgoni et al, Curr Dev Nutr, 2017 - Cioffi et al, Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 2016). Not only that, pasta, but in its wholegrain version, like other whole grains introduced in the diet, helps protect the heart. In fact, it has been observed that those who consume pasta and wholemeal bread have up to 40% lower risk of developing heart disease. It is believed that this beneficial action is due to the combined action of fibers, which help to keep cholesterol under control, but also antioxidants and minerals (Flight et al, Eir J Clin Nutr, 2006). Finally, pasta is one of the tastiest ways to fill up with substances characterized by antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties and able to support the cognitive and immune system thanks to the various sauces with which it can be served (Fulgoni et al, Curr Dev Nutr , 2017). For example, spaghetti with tomato sauce are a source of lycopene, which is an antioxidant contained in tomatoes and made available thanks to cooking and the combination with oil. Not only that, the delicious garlic, oil and chili pepper pasta stimulates the work of the stomach and liver, supports the defenses and detoxification processes. Pasta with hazelnuts and Parmesan cheese improves memory and concentration while when seasoned with broccoli and Brazil nuts pasta allows you to fill up on anticancer substances.
Pasta, better al dente
Cooking pasta is an important step to preserve its properties and make it a healthy food. In fact, cooking in water causes many nutrients to be dispersed. Therefore, the longer the time the pasta is left in the water, the greater the loss of these precious substances. Not only that, the longer the cooking time of the pasta, the more it will be soaked. As a consequence of this there will be a greater dilution of the digestive enzymes of the saliva and the gastric juices of the stomach, thus resulting in a slower and more difficult digestion and meteorism. Therefore, it is always better to cook the pasta al dente and, even better, after draining it, also cook it in the pan in order to reduce the absorption of water (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of foods).
Pasta, long or short format?
It might seem like a meaningless question, but in fact the shape of the pasta is also important when it comes to health. In fact, the pasta shapes are impressed through the drawing process. Drawing consists in passing the not yet dried dough through special grids, made of bronze or metal. This step generates friction and therefore an increase in heat that changes the structure of the dough. In fact, as the temperature rises, starches undergo transformations that make them become simple sugars, with rapid release and absorption. Therefore, short pasta, which is more processed, contains fast releasing sugars and therefore can be a good choice when there is an immediate demand for sugars. For example, after intense physical activity or during menstruation. For the same reason, short pasta is less suitable in case of diabetes or when there is a need for a more prolonged release of sugars, for example in the lunch break of a job that requires mental effort. In the latter cases it is better to use long-format pasta that has undergone a shorter processing (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of food). In any case, these are general advice and do not mean that in some cases it is good to completely exclude a certain type of pasta, they only intend to increase awareness of the choices.
Not only wheat pasta
There are different types of pasta. The best known is certainly the soft wheat pasta. But there are also excellent alternatives, such as durum wheat pasta, which is more digestible as it is less subject to water absorption and which is more yellow in color due to the presence of carotenoids, which are antioxidants, spelt and kamut pasta, which are often more tolerated even by those suffering from celiac disease. Do not forget the buckwheat pasta, which however has a higher quantity of starch and therefore must be chosen without exaggerating in those who must keep blood sugar under control (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of foods - Nilusha et al, Int J Food Sci , 2009).