Pasta is Good for You

February 2018  
Welcome to the new issue of The Truth About Pasta, the 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 more topics and information.

Olympic athletes rely on the most nutritious foods to maximize performance and keep their bodies in tip-top shape. But if you think they just rely on grilled chicken, hardboiled eggs, and kale salads, you might be surprised.

"Pasta is my superfood," says US Olympic alpine ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin. "I've always loved pasta and think it's a good addition to any meal and a great base for pretty much any vegetable. It's also great when I have a nervous stomach before race day," says Shiffrin.
Shiffrin is hardly the first athlete to appreciate the transformative power of a healthy pasta meal. Pasta is also a favorite among Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps,  and many other athletes around the world. A whopping 2.7 tons of pasta (enough to prepare 1,000 plates of spaghetti and fusilli per day) were served in Rio at the 2016 Olympic Games, and pasta is also a staple in the Olympic village at PyeongChang.
However, it's pasta's documented difference on blood sugar that intrigues nutrition experts and athletes the most. Because pasta is a complex carbohydrate with a more compact starch structure than other grain foods, it keeps you fuller for longer, and doesn't spike your blood sugar. 

Experts Say:
Dr. Nevin Sanlier , of Biruni University in Instanbul, explains that "carbohydrates are the principle energy source in our diet, especially complex carbohydrates." Nutrition experts around the world recognize the importance of carbohydrates, because our muscles and brain rely on them for energy. Complex carbohydrates, which are broken down more slowly, are preferred because they offer a steadier source of energy, without spiking blood sugar.

"Pasta is a great source of complex carbohydrates and is highly recommended for athletes," said Michelangelo Giampietro, MD, Sapienza University (Rome, Italy) and formerly associated with the Sports Science Institute of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI). "With the Mediterranean Diet, athletes have no need for supplements. I am of the opinion that pasta has probably contributed positively to the success and medals of many athletes, for sure the Italian ones."
Pasta's benefit for athletes is so clear that at the 2015 World Pasta Day meeting, scientists from around the world added a point about pasta and sports to the Scientific Consensus Statement on Healthy Pasta Meals. According to these experts, "Pasta consumption is suitable for people who do physical exercise and particularly in sports.  Pasta, as with other cereal foods, provides carbohydrates and is also a source of protein. Pasta may be used alone or lightly seasoned before training or combined with other foods after training, in order to improve physical performance.  High protein and low carbohydrate diets are discouraged in active people."

Did you Know?
A healthy serving of pasta is about 1/2 to 2/3 cup cooked, or about 80g uncooked. If you're enjoying pasta at a restaurant but the portions are too large, take some home and enjoy it for lunch the next day! 

Of course, if you're an Olympic athlete, your plate might look a little different. U.S. Olympic Medalist Michael Phelps reportedly ate 1 kilogram of pasta per day when training for the Olympics. Alternatively, before races, Jesse Owens , the hero of Berlin 1936, ate only pasta, provided by a friend from Little Italy.

Video of the Month   

Learn more about why Pasta is Good for You 

Recipe of the Month

The crisp crunch of Brazil nuts yields an unexpected pesto. A delicate anise flavor from the basil makes it familiar, yet the herbal zest of flat-leaf parsley adds a new dimension.

½ cup Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped
2 cups gently packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup basil leaves
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
Fine sea salt
1 pound dried penne or fusilli pasta or any fanciful shape that will grab pesto
  1. Place the nuts and the garlic in a good processor or in a mortar and pulse or crush until they are coarsely chopped. Add the herbs and lemon zest and process or pound until all are blended into a relatively smooth but still somewhat chunky mixture. With the food processor running, or stirring with a pestle, slowly add the olive oil until it is combined with the herbs and nuts.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano until thoroughly combined. Season with salt if necessary and reserve.
  3. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Place the pasta in the salted water and cook just until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and stir in half the pesto. Taste for seasoning and moisture. If you want the pasta with a more intense pesto flavor, add additional pesto. If the pasta is dry, add some of the cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the pasta is moist enough to suit you. Serve immediately.
Yield: 12 servings

Nutrition Information
Calories: 180, Fat: 19g, Saturated fat: 4g, Sodium: 55mg, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 3g

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