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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Benefits of Pasta

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I was sitting in a restaurant the other day eavesdropping on the woman at the table next to me. She was deciding what to order and talking to her friend. She said, "I had a PBJ sandwich for breakfast and pasta for lunch so there is no way I can eat any more bread or pasta today otherwise I will be so bloated with carbs!" As a dietitian I have to laugh sometimes at the misconceptions some people have about certain foods they eat. The low carb craze is thankfully over again (I am sure it will resurface in another few years) but it has left many people feeling that all carbs are "bad" and "fattening."

Pasta is one of those foods that I often hear is "fattening." Let's just clear up that ANY FOOD contributing calories for your daily total that are more than what you burn can contribute to adding fat to your body. It doesn't matter if this food is "healthy" or not, too many calories make you fat. Too much tofu or too much chocolate cake. Doesn't matter if it is too many daily calories.

Back to pasta. Here are some facts about pasta:

  • Pasta is a “good” carb. Carbohydrates are the source of most of the body's glucose, which is the crucial fuel energy source for the brain, red blood cells, muscles and organs. Pasta is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates.
  • Pasta is not a “white” food. Pasta is golden or amber because it is made from semolina flour, which is ground from durum wheat. White flour used to make white bread is ground from common wheat.
  • Pasta is nutritious. Pasta is a good source of B vitamins, iron and niacin. It is very low in sodium and is cholesterol free.
  • Pasta has a low Glycemic Index (GI) so it does not cause sugar in the blood to rise quickly. The Glycemic index measures how rapidly a carbohydrate triggers a rise in blood sugar; the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response.
  • Pasta is affordable. At just pennies per serving and with so many sizes and shapes available, Americans can serve pasta everyday of the year and never make it the same way twice!
There are numerous "healthier" pastas on the market as well. Tonight I made a baked ziti for my family using Ronzoni Healthy Harvest whole grain pasta. I also am a fan of Barilla Plus and Dreamfields. Dreamfields has a very low glycemic index and is wonderful for diabetics.

EatingWell Magazine's food editor Jessie Price has developed some great recipes in collaboration with the National Pasta Association.

For more information on pasta and for other great recipes, check out www.pastaisperfect.com
or www.eatingwell.com

Here is a recipe I thought you would like. It is from Jessie Price of EatingWell magazine.
Pasta and Walnut Fruit Salad

8 oz. Shells, Penne (or your favorite pasta shape), uncooked*
1 (11 oz.) can juice-packed mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup seedless red grapes, cut into halves
1 cup seedless green grapes, cut into halves
1 apple, cored and chopped
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup walnut halves

1 cup low fat, plain yogurt
1 tbsp. honey

1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine next six ingredients (oranges through walnuts). Add pasta and stir to mix.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix yogurt, honey and orange juice concentrate. Add yogurt mixture to pasta; toss to coat. Cover and chill thoroughly.

*Whole-grain, multi-grain or whole-wheat pasta varieties may be substituted.

Makes 6 servings">. Per serving: 312 calories, 7 g total fat,

9 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 42 mg sodium.


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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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