The Mediterranean Diet is characterized by an abundant variety of plant foods including fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta, cereals, whole grains, potatoes, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Olive oil is the principal source of fat in this diet, and fish, especially fatty fish is a mainstay. Dairy products (mostly cheese and yogurt) and poultry are eaten in low to moderate amounts, and eggs (as many as four) often appear on the weekly menu. Red meat is eaten only on occasion – a few times a month – and wine, although consumed regularly, is normally eaten with food and in modest amounts (no more than a small glass or two). Pasta meals are central to the Mediterranean Diet, not only because they are tasty, inexpensive and easy meals to prepare, but also because they are the perfect way to highlight and complement many of the other healthy foods in this diet. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of death from heart disease and cancer.
Pasta is a perfect foundation for healthy, nutritious and satisfying meals: pasta is generally eaten with nutrient-dense food partners, such as fiber-filled vegetables and beans, heart healthy fish and monounsaturated oils, antioxidant-rich tomato sauce and protein-packed cheeses, poultry and lean meats. Pasta offers:
Pasta makes the perfect delivery system for the healthy foods you should have each day. Pair pasta with a variety of nutrient-dense foods and create meals that you can feel good about. Nutritious and delicious “pasta partners” include:
Not sure where to begin? Search through our Pasta Fits original recipe database. All of our recipes are approved by a Registered Dietitian and are as delicious as they are nutritious. Each recipe is developed to contain approximately 500 calories or less per serving. You can also check out our Pinterest page for more healthy meal ideas for every occasion.
Ever wonder why it’s a tradition for athletes to eat pasta before a big race or event? Carbohydrates such as pasta provide glucose, the crucial fuel for your brain and muscles. Pasta is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, which provide a slow release of energy. Unlike simple sugars that offer a quick, yet fleeting boost of energy, pasta helps sustain energy.
Studies show there are no significant differences in weight loss over the long-term between low-carbohydrate diets and those considered “high” carbohydrate when dieters achieved similar calorie reductions
Pasta is a fat-free, low sodium food that can fit right in with your weight loss plan. One cup of cooked pasta contains just 100 calories, in addition to valuable vitamins and minerals. It also fills you up so you don’t feel hungry while trying to lose weight!
Pasta has a low Glycemic Index (GI) so it does not cause sugar in the blood to rise quickly. The GI measures how rapidly a carbohydrate triggers a rise in blood sugar – the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. A low GI means a slower rate of digestion, which can help with appetite control.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains in the wheat family like barley, rye, spelt, faro and bulgur. Foods made from wheat such as breads, cereals and pasta, contain gluten. Most people enjoy products that contain gluten without any side effects. A small group of people may have a gluten intolerance or allergy. For those individuals who have been diagnosed by a doctor with a gluten sensitivity, there are numerous gluten-free pasta options that allow them to enjoy a wide variety of pasta dishes.
Individuals who do not have gluten sensitivities derive no nutritional benefit from eating gluten-free pasta and will find that traditional enriched pastas provide good nutrient value, such as iron, folic acid and vitamin B.
While whole and enriched grain pastas offer bountiful nutrients and health benefits, some people prefer white pasta (also called “refined”), for its milder flavor and tenderness. However, refined or white pasta is also a healthy choice, as it enriched with vitamins such as vitamin B thiamin, making it a significant source of these nutrients.
Eating a balance of both whole and enriched grains is recommended by nutrition experts in order to ensure a diet rich in the essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that promotes health and helps reduce the risk of chronic disease. Both whole and enriched varieties of pasta provide a perfect foundation for healthy, nutritious, and satisfying meals.
The USDA recognizes the important role carbohydrates such as pasta play in a healthful diet. That’s why 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming 45 to 64% of your total calories from these kinds of nutrients. Exactly how can you do this?
Look at the USDA dietary guidelines. Grains should make up more than ¼ of your plate, or roughly 6 to 8 ounces for adults** per day (a 1 ounce serving is equivalent to ½ cup cooked pasta). Through MyPlate, the USDA encourages Americans to eat grains at every meal *based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
A diet that is high in sodium increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure as well as other negative health effects. The American Heart Association recommends foods with little or no salt to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and suggests you aim to eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
With so many mixed messages out there about diet, it’s hard to know who to believe. There is no scientific evidence that eating grains will affect your memory or other cognitive function. In fact, a recent study recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which examined adherence to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and Mediterranean Diet patterns and their respective associations with cognitive change over an eleven-year study period, found both diets to have a protective effect against age-related cognitive decline in men and women 65 years of age or older.
To help alleviate some of the confusion around wheat in the diet, visit GrainsforyourBrain.org where you will find factual information and scientific research to answer any questions you might have.