A recent survey by Oxfam to discover more about the modern diet has found that pasta tops the list of the world’s favorite foods, closely followed by rice, meat and pizza. Of the seventeen countries that took part in the study, nine listed pasta within their top three favorite foods.
The study was carried out as an attempt to highlight common worries about food in today’s society, and it revealed that the growing cost of food is a worldwide problem. Two thirds of people who completed the survey, including those in the U.S, indicated that the cost of food is their main concern about what they and their families eat, taking priority over whether their food is healthy and nutritious.
Many people reported they are not eating the same food they did two years ago because of rising prices, and the universal appeal of pasta may have something to do with the fact that it is relatively cheap, as well as being easy to store and prepare, filling, and relatively nutritious.
The Health Benefits of Pasta
Pasta was once considered to be very fattening, but these days it is recognized that pasta is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, which provide slow release energy. Pasta contains no more calories per gram than lean meat, but remember that pasta dishes can be high in calories if you use a creamy sauce.
The digestive system breaks down pasta and uses the carbohydrates to build up its supplies of glycogen, which is later converted to glucose to be used as energy for physical activity, bodily functions, or cell repair. Athletes and those who take part in endurance sports favor pasta as a great source of stored energy, and nutritionists recommend that complex carbohydrates such as those found in pasta should make up half of everyone’s daily energy intake.
Pasta forms an important part of the Mediterranean Diet which is recognised as a healthy way to eat and to reduce the risk of cardivascular disease and depression. In this diet, pasta is often combined with olive oil.
How to Eat Pasta for Good Health
It’s all very well to say that pasta is healthy, but there are so many ways to prepare it and so many different sauces you can use that it can be difficult to know how best to eat it. A single serving of dried pasta should be no more than one cup or 100g, although fresh pasta will be double the weight. Make sure you chew pasta well as the digestion of carbohydrates begins in your mouth.
Here are three golden rules on eating pasta for optimum health:
- Use whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta, which is made from 100% whole wheat flour, is far more nutritious than white pasta. It retains more of its nutrient-rich wheat germ and bran, and is a better source of fiber and the B vitamin thiamine which the body requires to produce glycogen. Whole wheat pasta also contains more protein than white pasta, and although it is slightly coarser in texture, the taste is not as different as you might expect.
- Use mainly egg free pasta. Most types of pasta are made with just flour, water, and perhaps oil, but some also contain eggs, especially if they are fresh rather than dried. Although it’s fine to eat egg pasta occasionally, your staple pasta should be egg free because the protein in eggs combined with the starch in the pasta can make egg pasta difficult to digest.
- Avoid heavy meat sauces. Popular dishes that make use of heavy meat or cheese sauces, such as spaghetti bolognese, should only be eaten in moderation. The animal protein in these sauces makes the starchy pasta difficult to digest, meaning we don’t absorb the nutrients very well and we get uncomfortable symptoms as undigested foods pass through our systems. Food combining experts recommend eating cooked or raw vegetables or vegetable based sauces with pasta at lunchtime, and then eating meat as a separate meal later in the day.