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Can Pasta Be a Part of a Healthy Diet?

Can Pasta Be a Part of a Healthy Diet?

We couldn’t help but laugh and shake our heads when we saw the headline, “Pasta is not fattening—quite the opposite, Italian study finds,” and then read the associated article that asserted pasta is not associated with obesity.

First, there’s a language problem: The opposite of “Pasta is not fattening” is “Pasta is fattening!” Second, the study says that in older adults, pasta consumption is associated with an increase in BMI and obese folks eat the most pasta. Also part of the data used in the study was funded by Barilla, the Italian pasta maker. Barilla has nine varieties of whole grain pasta (that’s what we recommend), but there wasn’t any mention of whole grain pasta in the study.

So here are the facts: Many Italians are healthy and trim because they live in walkable cities and towns and eat a Mediterranean diet (olive oil, lots of fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and great local wines). In addition, they enjoy a bit of pasta—sometimes daily—within the context of an overall healthy lifestyle. So for them, pasta is not necessarily a source of excess weight.

But that doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited amounts of pasta! You should focus on the produce, good-for-you oils, and lean proteins that adds up to a healthy Italian diet. And when you want pasta, opt for 100 percent whole grain pasta tossed with olive oil and plenty of grilled or sautéed veggies. In the context of American’s car-driven, prepared and processed food culture, that’s your smart choice.

Medically reviewed in September 2018.

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