Pasta is a Pillar of the Mediterranean Diet  


May 2015  


Welcome to the fourth 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. Be sure to look for each new issue, with new topics and information.


Evidence that Pasta is a Pillar
of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is touted by many as one of the healthiest ways of eating.  

The Mediterranean Diet reflects a way of eating that is traditional in the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, and features abundant plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts; replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil; using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods; limiting red meat; fish and poultry at least twice a week; plus (optional) moderate consumption of wine.  

The Mediterranean Diet has gained international recognition for its delightful taste and superior health record. Pasta is a pillar of this nutritious and delicious diet, as families rely on this affordable staple food to compliment their meals of vegetables, olive oil, legumes, fish, and herbs.

Scientists recognize pasta's role in the health promoting Mediterranean diet as well. In 2010, nutrition researchers from four continents met to discuss pasta and health. The scientists emphasized the importance of total diet, rather than individual foods and nutrients, and concluded that "healthy pasta meals are a delicious way to eat more vegetables, legumes, and other healthy foods often under-consumed." The Mediterranean Diet, which includes healthful foods, like pasta, is the perfect example of total diet.

Experts Say...
Like many international experts on food and nutrition, Dr. Gabriele Riccardi, of Federico II University, in Naples, Italy, highlights the important "contribution that pasta has given to the development of the Mediterranean diet." Dr. Riccardi explains that, "in the Mediterranean tradition, pasta is always combined with tomatoes, with a small amount of olive oil, and with vegetables, legumes, fish, and if it contains meat or cheese, they are used in small amounts."

Indeed, in traditional Mediterranean recipes, pasta makes a wonderful "partner on the plate," with other nutrient-dense foods, and is the perfect delivery system for the region's famed tomatoes, vegetables, and olive oil. Scientists have even found that eating more pasta is linked with eating more vegetables.

Because of the synergistic combination of nutritious ingredients, the Mediterranean diet is linked with numerous health benefits, including healthy aging, as well as a decreased risk for heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and more. For this reason, Harvard School of Public Health Professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos describes the Mediterranean diet as "possibly the best ever."

And in February, 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of the Predimed Study, funded by the Spanish government's Ministry of Health, saying "among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events."

In a forum article of BioMedical Central in 2014, Michel de Lorgeril, a cardiologist and nutritionist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the School of Medicine at Grenoble University, France, said that it is noteworthy that wheat, both whole and refined, is a major ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, mainly under the form of bread, but also of other typical Mediterranean diet foods, such as pasta and couscous.  

For more studies validating the healthfulness of the Mediterranean Diet, please view the following links:  

Oldways Health Studies  

Pasta Health Summary - Pasta for All 

Mediterranean Diet 101 


Mothers Say...
Moms that work in healthcare and nutrition know that a Mediterranean inspired diet is the best choice for a healthy, happy family. Through her traditional Greek heritage and upbringing, Elena Paravantes, registered dietitian and mother of two, was introduced to the Mediterranean diet at an early age. Paravantes says, "my mom just wasn't convinced, she could not accept the fact that large servings of meat along with (mostly) canned vegetables swimming in butter (remember this was the 60's) was healthier than her favorite seasonal vegetables cooked in olive oil and tomato accompanied with feta cheese. And she was right, it wasn't healthier."

Now living in Athens, Paravantes promotes the traditional Mediterranean diet to her clients, and cooks Mediterranean meals for her family. Similarly, other mothers highlight the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In an interview for, physician assistant and mom Tricia A. Howard recommends the Mediterranean diet "to anyone who wants to make a healthy lifestyle change."

Video of the Month

Spanish Children and the Med Diet

La pira?mide de la Dieta Mediterra?nea
(The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid)
Fundaci?n Dieta Mediterr?nea 

Continuing the Tradition

The Mediterranean diet is so rich in culture and tradition that it has been recognized as an element of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. And certainly, no one can imagine this mouthwatering, culinary masterpiece without imagining hearty pasta, the preferred accompaniment to local specialties like olive oil, vegetables, and cheese.

Grain foods, like pasta, have long been recognized as an important component of healthy meals, as they deliver a long-lasting supply of energy and nutrients. Pasta has anchored the Mediterranean diet for centuries, and as we learn more about the link between diet and health, it's easy to see why. There is no reason to get caught up in carbohydrate confusion and fat diets. Let's bring back common sense and the old ways, and lets start with a healthy pasta meal.

Recipe of the Month

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Basil
For this month's recipe celebrating the Mediterranean Diet, we have chosen a simple pasta dish - and the one described by Dr. Gabriele Riccardi - Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Basil.
650 grams (1 1?2 pounds) spaghetti
450 grams (1 pound) tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced white onion,
10 basil leaves
4 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste

Dip the tomatoes into boiling water for about ten seconds and place in a bowl of ice water for 1 minute. Remove from the ice water, and dry. Peel them, remove the seeds and cut them in slices.

In a saucepan, brown the minced onion in the olive oil, then add the tomatoes.
Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about ten minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions in plenty of salted water, drain and add it to the sauce.

Garnish with basil leaves and sprinkle with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese before serving.

Nutritional Analysis:
Per Serving: Calories: 490, Total Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 70mg, Carbohydrate: 89g, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 17g

Yield: 6 servings


                  For more information, contact
                  Francesca Ronca

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