Does Pasta Make You Fat?

pasta
Large pieces of whole grain pasta. (Image: tycoon751/iStock/Getty Images)

Any food can lead to weight gain if you consume too much of it, since you gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn through your daily activity. Pasta is no exception. However, pasta can fit into a healthy diet, especially if you choose the right type of pasta and healthy toppings to go with it.

Type of Pasta

The regular pasta you can buy in grocery stores is made with semolina flour and is an example of a refined grain. Purchasing whole-grain pasta or one of the pasta blends that mixes whole grains and refined grains will give you more nutritional value per calorie and will be more filling due to the added fiber from the whole grains.

Toppings

What typically makes pasta so fattening is the toppings people put on their pasta. Butter and cream sauces and sauces with a lot of meat can contain a lot of fat and calories, making your pasta meal less healthy than if you chose pasta with a tomato sauce or a small amount of olive oil and lots of vegetables for toppings. Consider chicken or seafood rather than red meat for your protein source. Hard Parmesan cheese grated on top will provide a lot of flavor for relatively few calories.

Pasta Benefits

Pasta, even regular pasta, is low on the glycemic index when you cook it al dente, meaning it won't make your blood sugar rise sharply after you eat it. It can also be nutrient-dense if you choose whole-grain pasta with a low-fat sauce and vegetables, filling you up with relatively few calories. Both foods that are nutrient-dense and foods that are low on the glycemic index may help you lose weight. Pasta also contains essential vitamins and minerals.

Considerations

To keep your pasta meal healthy and limit the risk it will lead to weight gain, watch your portion sizes. A large plate overflowing with pasta contains many servings, since one serving is only a 1/2 cup of pasta. If you are not sure what a serving of pasta looks like, try measuring it next time you make pasta so you can more accurately estimate the number of calories you are consuming and stay within the amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your weight or lose weight.

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