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No, Pasta Isn't Bad for You

Spaghetti
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD - Blogs
By Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RDRegistered dietitianJanuary 10, 2020

For something so universally loved, pasta has been awfully villainized. It’s branded as nutritionally empty, blamed for unwanted pounds, and sworn off by countless dieters and detoxers. But is that even fair--or necessary? No! (Surprised?)

I’ve already griped about my irritation over the timeworn “don’t eat white foods” warning. It’s bad advice because it’s simply not true. It implies that white foods like pasta (and potatoes) are nutritionally wimpy and triggers for weight gain.

Let’s look at the facts instead.

Pasta isn't nutritionally empty

Yes, white pasta is a “refined grain”, which means that the outer coating of the wheat kernel has been stripped of some of its components. But white pasta does not belong in the same category as refined grain foods like donuts and cookies. White pasta still has a fiber and is enriched with B vitamins and iron. And if you want more fiber, choose whole grain pasta, which packs as much as seven grams of fiber per serving--that’s about a third of what women need for the whole day.

Pasta doesn't make your blood sugar soar

Pasta is actually low on the Glycemic Index, which ranks how much your blood sugar rises after eating different foods. The GI of pasta is between 50-55 (considered a low Glycemic Index food), compared to 70 for white bread (considered high). Low glycemic foods are thought to be metabolized more slowly and lead to lower fluctuations in insulin levels, which is better for health (and your weight). The GI certainly isn’t a flawless measure, but it suggests that pasta doesn’t cause blood sugar to spike and crash like some people might believe.

Pasta isn't a dieter's nightmare

Pasta is a part of the Mediterranean Diet, a pattern of eating that’s been shown in numerous studies to have health benefits like a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes--and a healthier weight. In one research review, the Mediterranean Diet, which also includes lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, and olive oil, was as effective as a low-carb diet when it came to weight loss. (But because it doesn’t restrict foods like pasta, it may be easier for some people to follow than other diets!)

Pasta isn't just about cream sauce

Although some people associate pasta with heavy cream sauces and piles of meatballs, it’s actually an excellent vehicle for all kinds of healthy foods like vegetables, nuts, lean proteins, and heart-healthy oils.

If you love pasta but still feel wary, stick to one portion (that’s about one cup of cooked), add an equal or greater amount of roasted or sauteed vegetables, drizzle with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, and add a sprinkle of Parmesan and shake of red pepper flakes. And enjoy!

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About the Author
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

Sally Kuzemchak is a registered dietitian in Columbus, Ohio. An award-winning reporter and writer, Sally has been published in magazines such as Health, Family Circle, and Eating Well and is a Contributing Editor to Parents magazine. She is the author of the book The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids. She blogs at Real Mom Nutrition, a "no-judgments" zone all about feeding families.

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