Pasta can help you stay slim, Italian study finds

A new study has found having pasta as part of your diet can actually make you slimmer. AP Photo/Matthew Mead

Pasta fans, get out your forks. A new study suggests eating carb-loaded pasta is linked to lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and healthier hip-to-waist ratio.

Researchers in Italy examined the diets of more than 23,000 people, and collected their weight, height and measurements. Their findings showed that those who consumed pasta tended to be slimmer.

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“We found that pasta is associated with a lower BMI when eaten according to the individual caloric [needs],” said study co-author Dr. Licia Iacoviello in an email to Global News.

Since low-carb diets are a way of life for many, the findings might come as a surprise. And before you head to that all-you-can-eat pasta buffet, there is a catch.

The pasta was consumed as part of the Mediterranean diet, long-considered a healthy and balanced eating plan. The diet is characterized by a high intake of olive oil, nuts, fruits and vegetables, a moderate intake of fish and poultry and low intake of dairy, red and processed meats and sweets.

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The portion of pasta eaten with the diet is typically smaller and less robust than most North American servings — about 60 grams, Iacoviello says, or about one cup cooked.

“Pasta should be consumed in moderation…cooked al dente with tomato, legumes, fish, vegetables and extra virgin olive oil, but not with meat or animal fats (cream or butter),” said Iacoviello.

Toronto-based nutritionist and trainer Kyle Byron says he sees it time and again: people cut high-carb foods from their diet, such as pasta, but then don’t feel satisfied after a meal. And then what happens? They head back to the kitchen.

“Meanwhile a healthy portion of pasta, half a cup or a cup, could provide satiety. Whereas now this meal is still not very big… we’re talking 500 calories,” said Byron.

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“So when clients reintroduce small portions of pasta when the rest of their diet is really healthy — badda bing, they’re going to be losing weight if they’re exercising, and weight loss is their goal and calories are controlled, etc.”

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Iacoviello and Byron agree: it’s not necessarily what you eat, but how much. And branding foods as “bad” or “good” might not be as beneficial as you think.

“The calories contributed by pasta are not ‘bad’ calories. Pasta should be considered as a ‘good carbs,’ if consumed in moderation,” said Iacoviello.

“People should abandon the concept of low carbohydrate and high protein diet as a healthy diet and return to a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet.”

READ MORE: Reality check: Are low carb diets better than low fat for weight loss?

What determines your waistline goes what you put in your mouth says Byron.

“Fat loss is about resistance training a couple times a week, cardio a couple times a week, eating mindfully, eating lots of vegetables, protein with every meal. And if you’re tolerant to pasta and what then you can eat that every day in the right amounts and still lose weight.”

You can read more about the study, published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes, here.

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