Everyone Likes Pasta – Right?

Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 5:49 am

pastaPasta is one of the great energy-packed foods -maybe that’s one reason it’s been around more than 5,000 years and can be found today in over 600 shapes. Pasta done right can fill you up and keep you going. Done wrong – that is, loaded down with rich sauces and fatty meats – it can load you down and put on pounds. But as some recipes will show, pasta can be done right deliciously.


* Pasta is low in fat and calories. Often pasta dishes are accused of being fattening and high in calories. And they can be – depending on the topping. Five ounces of plain pasta (one cup cooked) contains only 210 calories with only .2 to 3 grams of fat, and no cholesterol. A lean five-ounce steak, on the other hand, contains nearly twice the calories and 20 times the fat.

* It’s high in carbohydrates. And this is where the energy comes from. Plain pasta is composed of 80 percent carbohydrate, the chief fuel source for your working muscles.

* It provides protein. About 15 percent of plain pasta is protein, and a cup of cooked pasta (two ounces dry) provides about a sixth of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of protein for a woman 23 to 50 years old. It can be enriched with gluten to make the protein content even higher. The protein in pasta contains six of the eight essential amino acids that make up complete protein, and when combined with dairy products, meat or legumes, pasta gives you complete protein.

* It gives you fiber. A cooked cup of whole wheat pasta provides 16 grams of fiber – more than half the recommended daily amount. A cup of white flour pasta gives you 1.4 grams of fiber, which can be bolstered by adding vegetables or beans.

* It provides nutrients. One cup of cooked pasta provides women with 23 percent of their RDA of thiamine, 11 percent of riboflavin, 14 percent of niacin, eight percent of iron, 26 percent of selenium, and 27 percent of chromium. Other nutrients found in pasta include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc and copper. Most pasta is consumned with products containing vitamin C (such as tomatoes or green peppers), enhancing the iron absorption and utilization.

* It’s low in salt. If you cook pasta in unsalted water, a cup will contain less than .5 mg of sodium. If you add a teaspoon of salt to a quart of cooking water, the sodium content rises to about 300 mg per serving. If you rinse pasta cooked in salted water, you can reduce the sodium content by 50 percent.


So pasta by itself is pretty good stuff. But what happens when you begin adding to it? It all depends on what you’re adding.

The pasta mixes you get at the supermarket – from macaroni and cheese to Italian pasta salad – turn out dishes that contribute 30 to 70 percent of their calories in fat. People usually eat about three-quarters of a cup of pasta salad at a time, which gives you just under four teaspoons of fat – or the amount you’ll find in a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

But take heart. With some of the mixes you can modify the fat content. When making Kraft macaroni and cheese, for instance, of you substitute one-quarter cup of nonfat milk and two tablespoons law-calorie margarine for the regular milk and butter called for on the box, you lower the fat percentage from 40 to 19. If you loss in a one-pound bag of steamed and drained assorted frozen vegetables and a 6 1/2 ounce can of water-packed tuna, you’ll have a healthful and tasty entree.

Mixes are only one option, of course. Make your own dishes – with health in mind. Stay away from making cream, oil, and butter sauces. Try tossing your pasta, for example, with lightly-steamed vegetables, herbs, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and olive oil – giving you monounsaturated fat, which can lower yout blood cholesterol (use one teaspoon oil for each one to two cups of cooked pasta).

Use herbs and spices that lend themselves well to pasta: basil, bay leaf, chili, chives. garlic, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme.

Avoid those sauces and dressing with a rich cream base. And even the lower-fat sauces don’t need to be piled on to get the flavor.

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