Pasta is Good for the Earth  
April 2016 
Welcome to the new issue of The Truth About Pasta, the newsletter from the International Pasta Organization. Given that Earth Day is celebrated all around the world on April 22, we are especially excited to share with you the many reasons that healthy pasta meals are good for the planet. Each 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.

In the aftermath of the
Paris climate conference agreement , nations are more committed than ever to improving the health of the planet. Given the heightened awareness of climate change and our environment, it is clear that the long term sustainability of food is inseparable from discussions of health and wellness. After all, the food system is thought to account for up to one third of global greenhouse gas emissions , and is the largest contributor of non CO2 greenhouse gases.

Luckily for food lovers everywhere, dry pasta is poised to become a part of the climate solution as policy makers and public health officials seek alternate sources of nutrition. Grains are among the least intensive foods to produce, requiring fewer resources and water per calorie than most other foods. As farmers strive to feed a growing population in the face of uncertain climate patterns, traditional pasta meals are a great way to get a big nutritional bang for your buck.
Similarly, because dry pasta is shelf stable, you don't have to worry about food waste, as you would with fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, healthy pasta meals are the perfect way to make use of produce that is on its way out, so that no ingredient gets left behind.


Experts Say...
Traditional diets based on grains, pasta, beans, seeds, and seasonal produce nurture both healthy people and a healthy planet, and real world data backs this up. At the 2015 World Pasta Congress, Luca Ruini explained that t he carbon footprint of pasta is only 15.5 oz CO2eq/lb (34.44g CO 2eq/kg), much lower than many other foods. In fact, at the 2015 Healthy Pasta Meals Scientific Consensus meeting, nutrition experts added a new point to the Scientific Consensus statement, declaring that "pasta is a simple plant based food, and has a low environmental impact."

Source: BCFN Foundation 2015

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, vegetarian diets around the world use less water than meat-containing diets. Similarly, a study of over 70,000 people in California found that the diets of vegetarians produce 22-29% less greenhouse gases than that of meat eaters.P
asta meals are one of the most popular and satiating plant-based entrees. And for those that don't wish to give up meat completely, pasta meals are a great way to savor small amounts of these environmentally intensive ingredients in hearty, healthy meals.

Another speaker at the World Pasta Congress 2015, Alessandra Luglio, a nutritionist in Brazil, explains that pasta "has many environmental advantages. With just two ingredients, it comes straight from nature and the process is simple." Brazil is one of the many nations that has incorporated sustainability into their dietary guidelines, encouraging more plant foods (like pasta), and fewer animal foods (like meat and dairy).  
To further underscore the link between the health of people and the health of the planet, the United Kingdom recently released their new Eatwell Guide (below), which emphasizes sustainable food choices, like fruits, vegetables, plant proteins, and starches, over meat and dairy. These updates were due in part to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition's Carbohydrate and Health Report, which helped prompt Public Health England to review their healthy eating messages. 

Good taste and food for the earth can go hand in hand. In a presentation at the 2015 World Pasta Day and Congress, Duncan Williamson of the World Wildlife Foundation explains how pasta has a high "sustainability index." According to Williamson, healthy pasta meals are an affordable way to embrace more sustainable diets, as "Traditional ways of eating are more sustainable and less expensive."  

Similarly, the new dietary recommendations from the Dutch government recommend slashing meat consumption by almost half for reasons of health and sustainability, a move that sustainable food experts around the world are calling "a breakthrough." The change is illustrated in the Dutch "Wheel of Five," a visual healthy eating tool that encourages more plant foods, like pasta.
But in the United States, politics got in the way of sustainability, and despite a recommendation from the Scientific Advisory Board to include sustainability, sustainability was not included in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. However, consumers disagree. A national poll from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found that 74% of Americans say dietary guidelines should include sustainability measures, and that 92% believe that producing food in a sustainable way is a high priority.

Courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Did you Know?
Research published in Ecosystems found that grains (like the wheat used to make pasta) use only 0.51 liters of water to produce 1 calorie of food. On the other hand, beef production uses 10.19 liters of water to produce 1 calorie of food, while fruits use 2.09 liters per calorie, and vegetables use 1.34 liters per calorie.
Here are 4 tips to decrease, albeit slightly, the impact on the environment in the preparation of a good plate of pasta:  
  • Use only the necessary amount of water, on average 1 litre per 100 grams of pasta, but for short cuts 30% less (700 ml ).
  • Always use the cover on the pot to boil water in less time and use less gas.
  • Never put salt before the water starts to boil, as this would slow down the boiling process.
  • Use the cooking water to water plants on your balcony and avoid wasting new water resources.

Recipe of the Month

Penne with Cherry Tomatoes
Salting the tomatoes ahead of time gives you rich flavor with less salt than if you add it at the table. Plus, once you allow for the tomatoes to release their juices, you can make this easy recipe in less than 15 minutes.

1 pound cherry tomatoes    
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil    
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta     
2 tablespoons pesto (optional)     
Salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Cut the tomatoes into halves and put them in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Add the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss, cover and leave at room temperature for several hours or overnight, tossing once or twice.

  2. When you're ready to eat, gently stir the pesto into the tomatoes, which will be juicy.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook according to the package directions. Drain and return the hot pasta to the pan along with the tomato-pesto mixture and all the juice. Toss.
  4. Season with freshly ground pepper and serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.
  1. If you have some fresh local tomatoes, by all means use about three or four, diced, to make the sauce. But the new cherry tomato varieties, including colorful heirlooms and yellow pear, provide plenty of flavor.
  2. Substitute ½ cup each of chopped fresh basil and Parmesan cheese for the pesto.
Nutritional Analysis
Per serving: Calories: 290 , Total Fat: 11g, (Saturated Fat: 1.5g), Sodium: 600mg, Carbohydrate: 40g, Fiber: 9g, Protein: 10g.

Yield: 4 Servings

An Oldways recipe.

Video of the Month 

Pasta is Good for the Environment

Pasta is Good for the Environment
Video courtesy of AIDEPI 

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