Pasta is the classic example when it comes to “guilty pleasures” or “bad” food that is oh so good…
But is it really so “unhealthy” like it’s often portrayed as?
A Meal Garden user - who appreciates the tool for the health guidance it provides for her recipes - recently asked a great question, addressing the much debated topic. She always thought that pasta (even the whole wheat kind) was considered not so healthy, and hence had made a point of avoiding it in her diet, but was intrigued to see that the Meal Garden health rating categorizes pasta as a healthy source of carbohydrates. She wanted to know Meal Garden’s stance on why.
I turned to one of our trusted health experts in the Meal Garden community, Livia Augustin, who holds a PhD in Human Nutrition and has extensive experience in the field as a Nutrition research at the Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Using scientific evidence and research at her side, she was a key contributor to the development of the Meal Garden health algorithm that we now all know and trust!
Here’s Dr. Augustin’s take on the matter:
“The fact is, we need to eat some carbohydrates in order to survive, and whole grains are a good source, albeit not the only one, because they also contain many vitamins and minerals necessary for health and to fight diseases - including chronic diseases. Carbohydrates foods contain fiber so if you avoid carbohydrates you avoid fiber.
Pasta is a staple carbohydrate food of the Mediterranean diet and this diet has been repeatedly shown as the healthiest diet to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and it is inversely associated with mortality (so you live longer and disease-free). Pasta al dente (slightly undercooked) has a low glycemic index (GI) whether it is whole grain or not. This means that it rises your blood glucose less compared to other carbohydrate foods and about half compared (high to the same amount of carbohydrates from another wheat product white or wholemeal bread (high GI). A plate of pasta made in the Mediterranean style can be a whole meal and a vehicle to introduce healthy ingredients in your diet. For example, when it is combined with vegetable sauces, some protein and a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat like olive oil or canola oil. However, quantity is still important as for all good things. A portion of pasta for an adult woman is about 70 grams before cooking and for an adult man about 100 grams.
People who are gluten intolerant should consider gluten-free whole grains while the minority of people who are highly sensitive to the rough fiber of whole grains which can irritate their gut may want to consider finely milled fiber products or soluble fibers (e.g. oat and barley rather than wheat which contains mostly insoluble fiber).”
In other words: pasta isn’t the deadly sin we all think we should be ashamed of - regardless of what those #eatclean Instagramers tell us! If you actually have a sensitivity to gluten, then sure, zucchini-noodle it up, but if not...there’s no need to be ashamed of feasting in a delicious plate of pasta!
Whether you’re planning a pasta recipe to your schedule as a Meatless Monday option, or on any other day just because it’s pretty darn delicious, you can trust you’re not “cheating” on a healthy meal plan ;)