Living in the land of La Dolce Vita, it's almost impossible to go too long without eating pasta, but is pasta fattening and is pasta healthy?
You'd be hard-pressed to find an Italian who doesn't eat pasta. In fact, in this part of Italy, my neighbours eat it every lunchtime with homemade sugo, a tomato sauce made from their own tomatoes.
To some, pasta is the devil, a food that piles on the pounds and that can be discouraging when we enjoy it. However, there's good news!...research shows that pasta, when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet, can support weight loss.
In a study involving more than 20,000 randomly recruited people, 14,402 participants aged over 35 from the Molise region of Southern Italy (the next province down from where I live) and another group of 8,964 participants aged over18 from all over Italy, Italian researchers found that pasta could help maintain a healthy weight.
Participants had their weight and measurements recorded and were asked a series of questions. Portion sizes were taken into account, and participants were asked whether they were following a particular diet and whether the food they'd had in the past 24 hours was different from the norm.
Not only did the study find no correlation between eating pasta and an unhealthy weight - the opposite was true, pasta consumption was actually linked to being slimmer. It's important to note that these benefits were seen in individuals who were already following a balanced diet, which included other complex carbohydrates and fibre-rich foods like legumes, rice, cereals, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and fish.
It's also worth emphasising that portion control significantly influenced the study's results. Participants who consumed moderate amounts of pasta as a side dish, along with fish and vegetables, enjoyed the benefits of the Mediterranean diet without overindulging. As with any healthy diet, moderation is key. Remember my neighbours? They eat between 75 and 100g of pasta daily, so there's your guide.
It's great to have a scientifically-supported reason to add pasta back into our meals. As with any dietary changes, it's important to consider our overall lifestyle and health goals. But when we enjoy pasta as part of a balanced Mediterranean diet, we can savour its flavour without worrying about the negative impact on our weight.
So the answer to the question, is pasta bad for you? The answer is no!
Full details can be found here for anyone interested in reading about the study.