In this essay, I will answer the question: “Can you eat pasta on a diet?” and I will provide you with recommendations and ideas to include it as part of a healthier diet.
Can you eat pasta on a diet?
Yes, you can eat pasta on a diet. Pasta can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. For many people, whole-grain pasta is a preferable option because it contains more fiber and nutrients while being lower in calories and carbs. Besides, durum wheat pasta is considered as a low glycemic index source of carbohydrates (1).
However, in addition to the type of pasta you select, the toppings and sauces you use are also crucial.
Is pasta a healthy food?
Pasta is a great way to add variety to your diet while being healthy.
People on a low-glycemic index (GI) diet who ate pasta lost weight, according to a recent study. Pasta did not cause weight gain or a rise in body fat, according to the findings.
A carbohydrate-rich food’s GI is a measure of how quickly and severely it raises blood sugar. The sooner a person’s blood sugar levels rise, the higher and faster they will rise.
Lower-glycemic foods, in general, can help people lose weight and reduce their risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
According to the ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) definition, the GI is a property of the carbohydrates in different foods, specifically the blood glucose-raising ability of the digestible carbohydrates. It compares carbohydrates on a mass for mass basis in single foods or food items, in the physical state in which they are normally consumed. Low GI foods are those containing carbohydrates that have less impact on blood glucose levels, because their digestion and absorption is slowed or because the sugars present (e.g. fructose, lactose) are inherently less glycaemic. When combined in actual meals, low GI foods produce less fluctuation in blood glucose and insulin levels than high GI foods. Furthermore, the American Diabetes Association claims that starchy foods like pasta can be a healthy element of a diabetic’s diet (2).
However, it is critical to keep pasta portion sizes in check and to avoid high-sugar and high-fat sauces. It is also preferable to use whole-grain.
To address the question, “Is pasta healthy?”, the type of pasta, how it was cooked, the components it includes, as well as how much and how often it is consumed, must all be considered.
People should avoid thick, creamy sauces and high-calorie accompaniments when making pasta-based meals and instead add more vegetables and lean proteins.
What is the difference between white pasta and grain pasta?
The only difference between whole-grain pasta and white pasta (or refined pasta) is that whole-grain pasta flour contains the full grain (bran, germ, and endosperm), whereas white pasta flour has only the endosperm. Bran is the multilayered outer skin of wheat kernels and comprises dietary fiber, β‐glucan, minerals, carotenoids, and polyphenols. Germ is the embryo which sprouts into a new plant, and it contains vitamins, lignans, sterols, unsaturated fat, and other phytochemicals (3).
Traditional white pasta uses only a small portion of the wheat kernel, causing key nutrients to be lost during the manufacturing process.
Some of these elements, such as iron and B vitamins, are frequently artificially added to the finished product by manufacturers.
Because whole-grain pasta employs the entire wheat kernel, the nutrients, as well as fiber and other healthy components, stay in the pasta. In addition, whole-grain pasta has fewer calories and carbs.
Eating whole grains has been related to a reduced risk of obesity and its associated health risks.
Durum wheat pasta is also healthy and considered as a low-GI source of carbohydrates, Since durum wheat pasta is produced by mixing semolina with water and with energy input , its nutritional properties are prevalently linked to its matrix structure formed during the extrusion and drying processes. As a consequence of this technological process, the microstructure of pasta is compact and relatively dense, limiting the hydrolysis of internal starch granules, which explains its richness in slow digestible starch and its reduced enzymatic susceptibility during digestion. Postprandial studies conducted in both healthy and diabetic volunteers confirmed that durum wheat pasta induced a lower postprandial glucose response than other wheat-based products (i.e., bread) by virtue of its compact dense physical structure (dried pasta) and the network of gluten surrounding the starch granules (1).
Smart ways to include pasta in your diet:
Pasta can be a great base for healthy dishes. The following are some suggestions for making healthy pasta-based meals:
- Include a lot of vegetables: By increasing the volume of your meal with veggies, you can enjoy flour-based pasta while keeping calories low (and nutrition high). Start with a healthy base of whole-grain pasta, then add spinach, onions, peppers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, peas, mushrooms, and broccoli to put on top.
Vegetables that have been sliced into bits or strips can be simply sautéed or steamed, then tossed in after the pasta has been cooked or added to a prepared sauce.
- Include lean proteins: Skinless chicken (grilled, roasted, or sautéed) transforms pasta into a full main course in a matter of minutes. Another great topping for your noodles is steamed, grilled, or sautéed shrimp.
When cooked with lean ground chicken or turkey, even meatballs may be a healthy pasta topping.
- Create sauces at home rather than buying them premade: making home-based sauces is a great way to keep the sodium in your food under control. Simply combine low-sodium canned or diced tomatoes with fresh herbs such as basil and oregano in a saucepan on the stove and simmer. For a light, fresh flavor, toss pasta with a little olive oil, chopped garlic, and a splash of lemon or lime juice.
- Replace cheese with other substitutes: like nutritious yeast. Substituting cheese for pesto is also a fantastic idea. Choose between a basic basil pesto and something a little more innovative, such as sun dried tomato or kale almond pesto.
- Prefer pasta made from whole grains, beans, or lentils – It’s also critical to keep portion sizes in check. Half of a plate should include fruits and vegetables, and little over a quarter should be carbohydrates like pasta.
Alternatives to pasta
In addition to traditional wheat-based pasta, you can now easily find noodles made from buckwheat, rice, chickpeas, and lentils, giving you a variety of options to suit your needs. Pasta can also be made by adding legumes and algae to wheat, which decrease their GI (2).
Sweet potatoes have a low GI and are very nutritious. Proteins, fiber, or starch are components that could be attributed to the low glycemic index of sweet potatoes. However, the cooking method influences the glycemic index of foods. Boiled sweet potatoes have a low GI of 46 ± 5 (4).
It’s crucial to remember, though, that these alternatives aren’t particularly better than typical wheat-based pasta; they’re just different. Pasta substitutes are a wonderful way to enjoy a noodle dish for individuals who cannot consume wheat or gluten due to allergy, intolerance, or dietary restrictions.
Other FAQs about Pasta that you may be interested in.
In this article, I answered the question: “Can you eat pasta on a diet?” and I provided the tips to include it as part of a healthier diet. I have also presented alternatives to pasta especially for people suffering from intolerances and allergies.
Please feel free to contact me if you need additional information related to this subject.
- Augustin, Livia SA, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load and glycemic response: an International Scientific Consensus Summit from the International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium (ICQC). Nutr Metab cardiovasc dis, 2015, 25.
- Di Pede, Giuseppe, et al. Glycemic index values of pasta products: An Overview. Foods, 2021, 10, 2541.
- Niu, Meng, and Gary G. Hou. Whole wheat noodle: Processing, quality improvement, and nutritional and health benefits. Cereal Chem, 2019, 96, 23-33.
- Allen, Jonathan C., et al. Glycemic index of sweet potato as affected by cooking methods. 2012.