I remember when I was in high school. The cross-country coach would tell all the runners to eat a big bowl of pasta the night before a meet. Why? Because pasta gives you the energy to run long distances without hitting a wall, thanks to glycogen-rich carbohydrates.
In addition to being the perfect pre-game for runners, pasta has earned a spot as one of Americans’ favorite comfort foods. Imagine a rainy day and a nice dinner of spaghetti with red sauce. Yum.
In recent years, pasta has gotten a bad rap for being overloaded with evil, fat-inducing carbs. The conventional wisdom now is that if you want to eat healthily, ditch pasta all together.
Before jumping on the anti-noodle bandwagon, consider the findings recently published in peer-reviewed BMJ Open. Scientists have found that eating pasta actually doesn’t make your waistline expand.
Their research question was simple: Carbohydrate staples such as pasta have been implicated in the obesity epidemic, but is there really evidence to support that pasta contributes to weight gain, or, like other low-glycemic index (GI) foods, contributes to weight loss.
In a study of nearly 2,500 participants, researchers conducted 30 randomized control trials to analyze the alleged pasta-weight gain correlation. The subjects were asked to tweak their diets by eating 3.3 servings of pasta a week. Additionally, they were asked to adhere to a low-GI diet during the study. Researchers wanted participants to avoid things like white bread because the higher glycemic rates cause blood sugar to rise at a faster rate and, if eaten, would have confounded the data the scientists were collecting.
Lead author Dr. John Sievenpiper, consultant physician at St. Michael’s Hospital, said, “The study found that pasta didn’t contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat.” Sievenpiper went on to say that, “Contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet such as low-GI diets. In weighing the evidence, we can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern.” In fact, some participants actually lost weight! Can I get an amen?
This is excellent news for pasta lovers who have gone cold turkey since pasta got its bad reputation. Still, the researchers did say that further research is needed to see what happens when pasta is combined with other healthy diets. Sign me up!
In all seriousness, I think this is another great example of how prudence is key. Oscar Wilde once said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” So, if you want to treat yourself to that bowl of fettuccini or that piece of lasagna, I say go for it without too much guilt. But if you find yourself indulging too much, consider cutting back and substituting veggie noodles.