THE Mediterranean diet, the website of the respected Mayo Clinic says, “is a way of eating that’s based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.
“Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, are the foundation of the diet. Olive oil is the main source of added fat.
“Fish, seafood, dairy and poultry are included in moderation. Red meat and sweets are eaten only occasionally.”
Not included in this list of ingredients is pasta, even though pasta is big in Italy and dates back to China BC and was a feature of the ancient Greek diet.
It may be that pasta gets left out of descriptions of the Mediterranean diet because it has a bad reputation. After all, pasta is supposed to be ‘just carbohydrates’.
So, is pasta as bad as lollies, useless as a food and fattening?
First of all, cooked pasta is two-thirds water, and water doesn’t make you fat.
And when pasta is cooked and cooled, some of the carbohydrates convert to ‘resistant’ starch, that is, resistant to digestion. So, your leftover pasta, even if you reheat it, is lower in calories than when first cooked and eaten and therefore less fattening.
Now, to the real benefits.
In a bowl of 150 grams of cooked pasta, there are about 40 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of protein and half a gram of fat. The rest of the 50 grams of the pasta (uncooked) is made up of vitamins (B1 and B9) and minerals (iron).
Carbohydrates, generally, are not as bad as they are sometimes made out to be.
In a healthy diet, we should get between 45 and 65 per cent of our energy from carbohydrates, between 10 and 30 per cent from proteins, and between 20 and 35 per cent from fats.
In pasta, for every five grams of carbohydrates, there’s one gram of protein. This means pasta actually has enough protein to balance with the carbohydrates.
Because pasta is rarely eaten just by itself and usually comes with vegetables or meat or both, pasta can be a very healthy meal.
Use wholegrain pasta, which has a higher fibre content, and things look even better.
Instead of avoiding pasta as a bad food or feeling guilty about indulging, consider reducing portion sizes.
Pasta is a good thing, but you can also have too much of a good thing!
This article draws on an article Emma Beckett, a senior lecturer in Food Science and and Human Nutrition at the University of Newcastle.