April 2015  


Welcome to the third issue of The Truth About Pasta, the new monthly newsletter from the International Pasta Organization. Each month's newsletter features a new and different topic -- all pointing to The Truth About Pasta. The truth is......pasta is healthy, sustainable, convenient, delicious, affordable, doesn't make you fat, and much, much more. This month's focus is on pasta's low glycemic index, which means it is digested more slowly and provides steady fuel to support energy levels and overall health. Be sure to look for each new issue, with new topics and information.


Evidence that Pasta is Energy that Keeps You Fuller for a Longer Time

With obesity and chronic diseases on the rise, health and nutrition experts recommend eating filling meals that provide a lasting source of energy. Pasta, with its deliciously satisfying flavor and low glycemic index, is a key ingredient for one such meal. The glycemic index ranks the effect of individual carbohydrate-rich foods. Foods with a low GI score (under 55) are digested more slowly and provide steady fuel to support energy levels and overall health.

All carbohydrates release necessary simple sugar, mainly glucose, into the bloodstream, to fuel our muscles and brain. But some carbohydrates send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride, while others dole their energy out slowly and steadily. Pasta falls in the latter group. If we mix durum wheat with water and extrude it through dies we get spaghetti, with a glycemic index of 42-45; if we take the same ingredients and bake them into a nicely-leavened dough, we get bread with a glycemic index of 70-80. This means that pasta will provide a steadier source of energy to your body, keeping you full and energized for a longer time.

Of course, just as important is how much you eat, and what you pair it with. Luckily, traditional pasta meals are full of nutritious inspiration. When you combine pasta with olive oil, vegetables, and some lean meat or fish, for a healthy pasta meal, the glycemic index drops even further. That is because fats, proteins, and fiber ease the glycemic response, providing lasting energy and fullness. It is no wonder that marathoners consume the ritual pasta dinner the night before a race.
Experts Say...

At the International Scientific Consensus Summit on Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load and Glycemic Response, University of Sydney professor Jennie Brand-Miller recommended that consumers "eat slow carbs, not no carbs. And by slow, we mean that it's slowly digested and absorbed so that it makes you feel fuller for longer." Pasta, a low glycemic index food, is the perfect example of a 'slow carb'. Additionally, Dr. Kantha Shelke, of Corvus Blue, explains that eating pasta can "produce a low glycemic response, not only at that meal, but also at the following meal," in a phenomenon dubbed the 'second meal concept'. This slow digestion does wonders for managing hunger, and consequently, in managing weight and health! Pasta is a satiating food -- key for people watching calories and weight, while also eating for pleasure and health. In other words, the glycemic and digestive properties of pasta can help create perceptible benefits that people can "feel", ideal for motivating compliance and adherence to healthy diets, offering convenient and affordable goodness and emotional benefits.

Similarly, Dr. David Jenkins, one of the original developers of the glycemic index, explains that diabetes may be prevented by "slowing absorption of carbohydrates from the gut," which can be achieved by choosing low glycemic foods, like pasta.  Other experts in the field reach similar conclusions, which culminated in the Scientific Consensus Statement on Glycemic Load, Glycemic Index, and Glycemic Response. Additionally, while fiber is known for its role in moderating the glycemic response and providing fullness, Dr. Jenkins found that fiber "was only one of many" characteristics that influences how quickly food is absorbed, and that size and starch structure (how carbohydrates are packaged and stored) matters as well. The importance of these other characteristics helps explain pasta's documented difference on blood sugar.

To hear experts at the International Scientific Consensus Conference, click here for a series of short video interviews.  

Health and Cooking Time
The length of time pasta is cooked influences the glycemic index. If pasta is cooked for a very long time, it has a higher glycemic index. Instead, al dente pasta is the secret to building delicious and nutritious meals for their families. Registered dietitian Mary Brighton explains that "pasta cooked al dente, or firm has a lower glycemic index (GI) than pasta that is cooked for a normal bite or overcooked (soft). That is the goal: eating foods lower on the glycemic index for better blood sugar control." Brighton's secret to creating a healthy pasta meal is to "Make your meals longer, eat slower, use fresher ingredients, and stop eating your al dente pasta when you are full."

Mothers Say... ® is the premier online youth sports information site in the United States with a world-class team of expert psychologists, nutritionists, athletes, medical doctors, journalists coaches, referees and parents.

In addition to her work with Olympic athletes, the Boston Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, Nancy Clark (left) is also a nutrition expert team member for Mom's Team. Click on the links below for videos of the month.  

Her advice to parents of athletes is to be sure children get enough complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, pastas, oatmeal, because they are the foundation of any athlete's diet -- fuel for exercise. Nancy Clark also recommends that the three things an athlete should remember about nutrition are: first, think of food as fuel; second, fuel by day, diet by night; and third, think quality calories and meals combining carbohydrate and protein as the foundation of their diet.

Continuing the Tradition

Centuries ago, our ancestors did not snack as often as we do today. Their meals had to last them for several hours on end, often powering them through labor-intensive jobs, like farming. Pasta, a staple of traditional diets across the globe, was the perfect choice to keep people energized throughout the day.

When reflecting on the current diabetes epidemic, Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Chair, Walter Willet, says, "Glycemic index and glycemic load are in most places contributing to this problem because diets are moving away from traditional foods and becoming more refined, more industrialized." Similarly, Dr. Jenkins found that "traditional foods tended to be low glycemic index... and could be very good in preventing diabetes." Indeed, experts agree that returning to traditional foods, like pasta, is a smart solution to help curb obesity and chronic disease. With culinary heritage as our guide, we can look back to traditional pasta meals as a blueprint for healthy, long lasting energy.
Recipe of the Month

Penne with Arugula Pesto, Peas and Grilled Chicken
Pesto, from the verb "to pound" in Italian, isn't just limited to basil-based recipes. Spicy arugula and toasted walnuts create a flavorful pesto that pairs well with penne's sturdy shape and texture 
1 lb whole grain penne pasta
1 12-ounce bag fresh arugula, washed and dried
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup peas, warmed
2 cups cooked or grilled chicken
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Fill a large stock pot with 6 quarts of cold water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Turn heat to high and cover to bring to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, add arugula, walnuts, and whole garlic cloves to a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until all begins to break up, about 15 seconds or 15 1-second pulses. Scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula and add salt and pepper. Process 5 seconds and scrape down sides a second time. Process again, adding olive oil in a slow stream until fully incorporated. Remove pesto to a fresh bowl and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

Cook pasta in stock pot until al dente and drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid in the pot. Return pasta to the pot and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Add approximately 1/2 cup of the finished pesto to the pasta and cooking water in pot, stirring well to incorporate.

Add cheese and stir, then cooked chicken, and peas. Serve with extra cheese if desired.

Nutritional Analysis:
Per Serving: Calories: 400, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 295mg, Carbohydrate: 48g, Fiber: 8g, Protein: 25g

Yield: 8 servings

An Oldways recipe.

Video of the Month

Gordon Ramsay's BAFTA-nominated food show opens its doors for another night of mouth-watering food, with every dish something you can cook at home, plus recipe-based challenges and fast food that won't make you feel guilty.

Gordon Ramsay prepares three pasta dishes for athletes and brings new meaning to fast food.

Pasta dishes for Athletes - Gordon Ramsay

Pasta dishes for Athletes - Gordon Ramsay


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                  Francesca Ronca

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