Is Pasta a Good Diet Food?

Italian Pasta alla Norma close-up and ingredients. horizontal to
Pasta (Image: ALLEKO/iStock/Getty Images)

People have been eating pasta for hundreds of years and not all of them are overweight. One surefire way to sabotage any diet is to eat more than you burn off. Pasta is considered a grain, and should be included in your diet when appropriate. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average adult should consume 5 to 8 oz. of grains daily. A few things should be considered when choosing pasta as part of your diet.

Activity Level

Most dieters who exercise frequently need more grains in their diet than other people. The carbohydrates in pasta and other grains replenishes your body’s energy stores and keeps blood sugar from dipping too low. Never cut too many carbohydrates from your diet when you exercise heavily as this leads to muscle weakness and fatigue. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that 45 to 55 percent of your daily calories come from carbohydrates.

Protein Content

Most pasta is made of wheat flour and fortified with protein and fiber, making it an excellent choice of complex carbohydrates. The added fiber and protein in the pasta keeps your body from absorbing it too quickly and causing an insulin spike. The added protein helps you maintain muscle mass, which is important for weight loss. Choose pasta with at least 6 to 7 grams per serving.

Portions

Pasta fits into most diets if eaten in the right amount. If you are trying to lose weight, watch your carbohydrate intake. Eat proteins first and follow with small portions of carbohydrates along with healthy fats. This keeps blood sugar low and helps protein find its way to your muscles more efficiently. Eating too much pasta, like any other food, raises your insulin and promotes fat storage. If you are on a weight-gaining diet, up your pasta intake a bit, but always make sure to eat protein and healthy fats with it. Stick to small servings and eat them more frequently throughout the day. This keeps your metabolism high and fat accumulation low.

Additions

Most people don’t eat pasta all by itself. Avoid canned sauces and dressings as these contain a lot of sodium, which leads to water retention. Water retention promotes weight gain and makes you feel bloated. Try cooking pasta with olive oil and fresh tomatoes. Avoid adding table salt whenever possible to keep sodium intake low. Stay away from creamed sauces because most include high amounts of saturated fats that are not healthy.

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