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Can Eating Pasta Leave You as Slim as Spaghetti?

Can Eating Pasta Leave You as Slim as Spaghetti?
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BY GEORGE ZHU

I remember watching an episode of Melrose Place back in the 90s, as one character proclaimed that eating pasta would make her instantaneously gain several pounds. That left an indelible impression on my teenage mind which was already preoccupied with my body’s sudden metamorphosis.

At that point, I made a mental note that I must not consume pasta if I expected to keep any semblance of my figure. Along with chocolate, fatty cuts of meat, and ice cream, I kissed spaghetti arrivederci.

Fast forward a few years to college and eating in the dormitory halls. There was no time to be restrictive with my diet if I wanted to have a healthy social life. After all, most social interactions occurred in the cafeteria, on late night food-runs, and in cafes as we pretended to be studying for upcoming exams.

Fearful of the “Freshman 15,” I had to figure out how I could have my bowl of spaghetti and eat it too. So, what does a college student do to find answers? I began to do research.

My research did not take place in libraries or on the computer. I took note of those fellow students who ate with abandon yet maintained a lean build. Refusing to believe in the idea of superior genetics, I figured that if I copied their habits I could do away with my pasta-phobia.

There was an informal Italian restaurant on the streets where our food-runs took place, close by the main entrance to campus. Eating there one night with a bunch of kids from my dorm, I made my greatest finding: the slimmest members of our group were too busy laughing and joking to consume large amounts in short periods of time. Before they could finish their animated conversations, they professed they felt stuffed and the venue announced it was closing for the night.

A light-bulb went off in my head: they actually ate less than I would consider filling yet spent an exceeding amount of time enjoying the dinner. Portion control, I realised, turns out to be the number one way to enjoy any food without any accompanying guilt and pounds.

“Everything you see I owe to Spaghetti.” Sophia Loren

From Sophia Loren to Monica Bellucci, we have all seen Italians who maintain desirable figures on a diet of lasagna and ravioli.

There are many reasons why pasta does not have to be a sentence of obesity. The Italians manage to stay slim with healthy BMIs even though pasta is a main constituent of their Mediterranean diet.

Ms. Appleford also points out that the main ingredient, wheat, is not the same all around the world. The wheat grown in the U.S. and Australia, for example, contains a lot more gluten than found in Italy’s variety. Gluten makes pasta harder to digest.

She also distinguishes between fresh and dried pasta, explaining that the fresh variety, prepared with flour as well as eggs, contains fewer carbohydrates and overall calories.

Refined versus whole wheat is another factor to consider if you wish to remain in your best shape. Pastas made from whole wheat contain more than double the amount of fibre found in regular versions. This additional fibre fills out our tummies so we feel full faster.

Fibre brings up an integral feature of Italian dishes, namely colourful vegetables and salads. They contribute fibre as well as flavour. The former ensures that bellies feel sated before overeating can occur. It also helps digestion. The latter allows our taste buds to enjoy the experience as well.

Contrary to the Italian homemade meals, most pasta dishes I have seen in the U.S. feature store-bought, heavy sauces. These fancy-named sauces hide a secret. They contain a lot of added sugar and other unhealthful ingredients. Sugar, a simple carbohydrate, has been implicated as a major cause of obesity.

So What’s the Verdict?

Can you eat pasta and maintain a trim figure? From personal experience, my answer is certainly “yes.”

Portion control is key. I have found that with any food, I absolutely cannot put it on a list of forbidden pleasures. As long as I know that I am allowed to have it, I do not feel deprived. Thus, when I do eat pasta, I do not feel the urge to gorge on it.

If you have a harder time controlling your portions, try eating a salad at the beginning of your meal. The fibre really does curb your hunger.

When I am in an Italian restaurant, I focus on the ambiance, the company, and the conversation. Between laughter and banter, I slowly savour each mouthful of deliciousness. Then I take my leftovers home for next day’s lunch.

At home, I look for healthful recipes online, such as this Herb and Spinach Penne with Garlic Crumbs. I pay attention to the ingredients and choose dishes which incorporate fresh veggies and no added sugars. This way, I leave the canned sauces (and added sugar) on the grocery store shelves.

As the saying goes, all is well that ends well. I choose to end my meals with a walk rather than dessert. In the words of Sophia Loren, “I walk, walk, walk, walk, that’s very good for your heart.”

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