Stop the presses. Have I got some news for you.
Before I spill, though, picture this. You’re at that new Italian restaurant you’ve been waiting to try. You look down at the menu, and for a flickering moment you tell yourself that you’ll order a salad. Then your eyes somehow spot the mouthwatering list of pasta dishes. And suddenly you’re powerless. Of course you order the pasta, of course it’s delicious, and of course you reflect on your decision after the meal is over. What’s this feeling? Guilt. That’s what it is. Because you’ve trained your brain to think that carbs are BAD for you. All caps—BAD.
Well, maybe it’s time to retrain that brain of yours. Researchers at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital recently published a study on pasta and its (supposed) relation to weight gain. What did they find out? That pasta does NOT contribute to more weight gain or higher levels of fat. (!)
It’s all about the glycemic index (GI), a rating system that tells us how quickly a food affects blood sugar levels. If a food has a high GI, that means it gets digested and absorbed by the body quickly. (Think rice and potatoes.) Pasta, on the other hand, has a relatively low GI.
Researchers studied 2,500 participants for 12 weeks, testing what happened if they ate low-GI diets, eating pasta instead of other carbs. They each ate about three servings of pasta a week. By the end of the study, the researchers found that the pasta-rich diet did not cause weight gain or increased fat levels. In fact, participants lost about a pound on average. According to the study, this result was most likely caused by the fact that foods with lower GI satisfy hunger better, stopping you from eating other foods.
One of the authors of the study, Dr. John Sievenpiper, said, “In weighing the evidence, we can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern.” That’s the key: you have to eat a well-balanced diet of low glycemic foods, keeping portion size in mind. And remember: even the lowest GI foods aren’t good for you if they’re smothered in fat or sugar.
So, there you have it. Pasta isn’t your enemy—it’s that friend that you love but have to keep an eye on, in case they get a little wild.
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