Pasta: 5 misconceptions about this starchy food


With an average consumption of 8.3 kg per year and per capita, pasta are a very popular food of the French. However, some people shun them, for fear that they will harm their figure or their health. A reaction often correlated with persistent received ideas about them. In his work Pasta to lose weight – Have fun while doing yourself good (Alpen editions), Lilli Carat disentangles the true from the false about this starchy food, which can be perfectly integrated into a balanced diet.

Eating pasta alone does not make you fat”, says the author. It’s the added ingredients, like sauces or cheese, that have a short-term impact on our weight curve. It all depends on your recipe! If you garnish them with seasonal vegetables and simply season them with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs, they make a perfectly balanced dish.

It is also recommended to prefer wholemeal pasta with white pasta. Indeed, the first are part of the family of “slow sugars” and have a low glycemic index, while the seconds are part of “fast sugars” and have a higher GI. In other words, the carbohydrates they contain are released more slowly in the body and therefore allow you to be satiated for longer. A good way to avoid snacking between meals! As a bonus, wholemeal pasta “retains all the elements of wheat, that is to say: the germ, the bran and the seed. Thus, they have undeniable nutritional qualities”, emphasizes Lilli Carat.

Note that, contrary to what one can sometimes hear, fresh pasta has no more calories than dry pasta. Both are made from the same ingredients and “differ only in their drying time”. On the other hand, beware of stuffed pasta, such as ravioli or tortellini, which are higher in calories due to the stuffing they contain. The specialist recalls, moreover, that it is “advisable not to consume too often ready meals, even if there is pasta inside”. These industrial meals are ultra-processed foods and often contain too much salt, fat and chemical additives, which are harmful to the body in the long term.

Pasta does not contain good nutrients

“Source of fiber, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B among others, pasta in general, and complete, in particular, are a real mine of benefits for the body,” says the author. In addition to providing proteins and carbohydrates to the body, they contain their share of vitamins and minerals. Thus, 100 grams of fresh egg pasta contains:

  • 26mg sodium;
  • 46mg magnesium;
  • 163 mg of phosphorus;
  • 179mg potassium;
  • 15mg calcium;
  • 0.55 mg of manganese;
  • 1.2mg iron;
  • 0.23 mg of copper;
  • 1.22mg zinc;
  • 38 mcg of retinol;
  • 15 mcg of beta-carotene;
  • 0.32 mcg of vitamin D;
  • 2 mg of B vitamins.

“The minerals are: magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, sodium and selenium”, recalls the expert. “They are essential for the proper functioning of our body and all have a role to play. Magnesium, for example, is an immune system fortifier.”

It is harmful to eat it every day

It is not harmful to consume pasta every day, especially if it is whole pasta. “However, in order to maintain a balanced and varied diet, it is recommended to alternate starches”, specifies Lilli Carat in her book. The National Health Nutrition Program (PNNS) recommends consume at least one complete starch per day (wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal, wholemeal flour, etc.), for its high fiber content and its ability to provide energy that the body is able to use gradually.

Should starchy foods be banned in the evening?

We also hear that we should not eat starchy foods in the evening. In reality, it is not harmful as such. Simply, by tasting pasta for lunch, “your body will burn the calories contained and transform them into energy necessary for its proper functioning”. Reducing your portion of pasta in the evening can therefore be interesting if you have a weight loss goal. Moreover, note that this food does not make you fat as such, provided you do not serve yourself a huge plate or serve yourself cheerfully, until you finish the dish…

In general, starchy foods should represent approximately 50% of our daily calorie intake. But what does it represent, in portion. To simplify, imagine that you divide your plate into three parts: two quarters and one half. The first quarter must be filled with starches. The second quarter, by proteins (meat, fish, egg, tofu, legumes…). The remaining half is reserved for vegetables, which you can season with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, herbs and spices of your choice.

Pasta is not natural

The composition of the pasta is framed by a specific legislation. They are made with durum wheat semolina, water and salt, and may also contain eggs and vegetables. “In the case of fresh egg pasta, for example, their manufacture involves a humidity level above 12%, high quality durum wheat semolina, a minimum of 140 g of eggs per kilo of semolina, little ‘apart from additives: salt, eggs, gluten, skimmed or non-skimmed milk, fresh vegetables, vegetable juices or extracts and herbs’, deciphers the specialist.

No chemical additive, therefore, in your package of shells, since the law forbids it. The product will simply be kneaded, molded and then dried. As for fresh pasta, they do not require preservatives, reassures Lilli Carat.

Gluten must be banned

the gluten means “a group of proteins belonging to the same family, which are called prolamins and glutenins”, explains the Canadian Ministry of Health. It is found in wheat, rye and barley… and therefore in derived foods, such as durum wheat semolina pasta.

“Gluten is harmful to patients with gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease, wheat allergy, as well as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, dermatitis herpetiformis and gluten ataxia”, specifies the institutional site. On the other hand, it does not present any danger for people without these disorders. There is therefore no point in banishing it from your diet if you are in good health.

In her book, Lilli Carat specifies, however, that rice-based pasta is a little more digestible than those made from wheat. Indeed, “rice is digested more easily than wheat, limiting digestive discomfort of any kind, such as bloating”. If you are regularly subject to digestive discomfort, it may be interesting to turn to this type of pasta.

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