If you’ve seen all of those photos of celebrities taking pasta selfies on Instagram, the paradox of how they manage to eat all of those carbs and still stay so fabulously thin might have finally been solved.
While we’ve all been led to believe that pasta is the number one thing you have to avoid on a diet, a recent study found that eating pasta as part of a low-glycemic index (GI) diet can actually help you lose weight.
Food that has a a high-glycemic index causes your blood sugar to spike. According to the American Diabetes Association, products that have a high GI are those that are processed or full of refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, bagels, instant oatmeal, shortgrain white rice, macaroni and cheese, pumpkin, pretzels, popcorn, and crackers (though, surprisingly, melons and pineapples are also on the list). Low GI foods include whole wheat/pumpernickel bread, steel-cut oatmeal, barley, bulgur, sweet potato, corn, lentils, legumes, non-starchy vegetables, most fruit, and (hurray!) pasta.
The study, conducted by Laura Chiavaroli from the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and published in BMJ Open last week, reviewed 32 studies involving 2,448 adults on the effect of pasta on weight loss. The research found that people who ate pasta lost 1 and a half pounds per week over the course of 12 weeks, compared with people who ate food with a high-glycemic index. A similar study, conducted over the course of 12 weeks, had similar results.
So, does this mean those of us hoping to get a summer bod should pile bunch of pasta onto our plates? Not quite.
As mentioned before, only those who ate pasta combined with other food with low-GI actually lost weight. So if you have a bagel for breakfast, some fried rice for lunch, and pasta for dinner with a glass of wine, you’re still likely to see your waistline expand.
Similarly, how the pasta is made and what kind of pasta you eat is also important. When I spoke with Gian Luca Ranna, who now manages the pasta empire created by his father, Giovanni Rana, last fall, he said that there were some studies in the pipeline that would soon reveal that pasta is not the weight loss enemy we’ve all been led to believe, but choosing the right pasta is key.
Dry pasta on its own, for example, is not particularly “bad” for you, but the alfredo and bolognese sauces that people heap onto them can turn them into quite a caloric meal. That’s why he suggests eating tortellini—ring-shaped pasta filled with various types of stuffing, given that they provide all of the nutrients of a balanced meal and make it easy to control calories.
As always, portion control is also key. Anyone who’s been to Italy has no doubt noticed that the amount of penne on their plate is significantly smaller than the mound you get at Olive Garden, which is in large part the secret to that infamous Italian physique. The Cleveland Clinic advises eating only 1/2 cup of cooked pasta per serving.
The study bolsters the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet, which has been growing in popularity, and seems to unravel the mystery of how Italians can eat pasta and still look so good, not to mention have some of the longest lifespans on the planet. For more healthy living tips courtesy of the Italians, check out Top Longevity Secrets from the World’s Oldest People.
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