Welcome to the first issue of The Truth About Pasta, the new monthly newsletter from the International Pasta Organization. Each month's newsletter will feature 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. This month's focus is on health. Be sure to look for each new issue, with new topics and information.


February 2015

Evidence That Pasta is Good for You  

Nutrition and health experts across the world recognize that carbohydrates, like all macronutrients, are vital to a healthy diet, but that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Pasta, a centerpiece of healthy cultural food traditions around the world (including the much praised Mediterranean Diet), is one such high quality carbohydrate.

  

Thirty years ago, when the concept of Glycemic Index was new, scientists quickly noted that pasta was somehow different, with lower impact on blood sugar. Because pasta is low on the Glycemic Index, the body digests it more slowly than many other carbohydrates, for a more steady, sustained energy source. It is no wonder, then, that a pasta dinner is a classic pre-race ritual for many athletes! Additionally, scientists found that eating pasta produces a low glycemic response, not only at that meal, but also at the following meal, in a phenomenon dubbed the 'second meal concept'. This slow digestion is good for both health and weight!

  

Of course, no one food can be considered a dietary savior or villain, as nutrition is determined by the total diet. However, because pasta pairs well with other wholesome foods, including vegetables and olive oil, pasta meals are a no-brainer for those looking to eat healthier. Scientists agree. In 2010, nutrition researchers from four continents met to discuss pasta and health, and they concluded that pasta is indeed a healthy carbohydrate food and a key ingredient of traditional diets around the world. (See here for more information.)

   
Watch the video from the National Pasta Association for many reasons to eat pasta!
The video with nutritionist Sarah Wally, MS, RD answers questions  
about the nutrition of pasta:  
        • Are carbohydrates fattening?
        • What type of pasta should I choose?
        • What are the nutritional benefits of pasta?
        • What's the perfect pasta meal?
Pasta Health & Nutrition - National Pasta Month 
 

Experts Say...
Numerous scientists agree that not only is pasta a delicious vehicle for nutritious ingredients, but that it's also a healthy staple food in it's own right.

According to diabetes expert Gabriele Riccardi, MD,of Federico II University, pasta is "particularly useful for diabetic patients or people who have problems with their body weight," and it's also "able to improve insulin sensitivity." For this reason, Dr. Riccardi explains that "you can have very healthy and nutritious, but also very appealing meals with pasta, because pasta is not particularly energy dense." Dr. Riccardi explains that, "in the Mediterranean tradition, pasta is always combined with tomatoes, with a small amount of olive oil, and with vegetables, legumes, fish, and if it contains meat or cheese, they are used in small amounts."

Similarly, Marta Garaulet Aza, PhD, DrPH of the University of Murcia and Garaulet Clinics in Murcia, Spain says, "the Mediterranean Diet is the best choice for good glycemic control." Dr. Garaulet Aza explains that pasta and other carbohydrates, foundations of the Mediterranean Diet, are "able to stimulate their own thermogenesis, so they spend part of their calories on their own metabolism."

As these scientists can attest, pasta is evidence of the mounting knowledge that good health and good food often go hand in hand!

Mothers Say...

Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss are registered dietitians and The Meal Makeover Moms.  They say, "pasta is the foundation for countless family-pleasing meals and snacks in our households. We love pasta salads for lunch and turn to it often when packing our kids' lunchboxes. Bowtie Pasta Salad with Basil Ribbons comes immediately to mind, made with whole wheat bowtie pasta, red bell pepper, cooked chicken, chickpeas, feta cheese, fresh basil, and Italian salad dressing." For dinner, Janice's family loves tortellini topped with broccoli florets, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan cheese; Liz's family can't get enough of her Mama's Amazing Ziti."

Credit:  Pastafits.org

Continuing the Tradition

Pasta (which predates Marco Polo's trip from China) has long been used as the perfect delivery system to turn seasonal vegetables and available meat or cheese into a delicious, satisfying meal. It is also a vital component of the Mediterranean diet, an eating pattern widely recognized for its role in disease prevention by a number of credible nutrition organizations and resources. Our healthy ancestors knew better than to be carb-phobic. Grain foods, such as pasta, have been at the core of traditional diets for millennia, as they are the ideal backdrop for many nutritious ingredients. In fact, pasta is related to a higher intake of vegetables. In the 1950s, the time period when Mediterranean countries (such as Greece) were being studied for their low incidences of disease, Mediterranean Diets were found to be vastly more grain-based than the US diet, with pasta being a popular choice. All the more reason to make a nutritious and delicious pasta meal today!

 


Recipe of the Month



Soup with Pasta, Beans, and Vegetables

This soup is very hearty and satisfying, loaded with pasta, beans, and vegetables. You can use whatever vegetables you'd like, or try red beans instead of white. Small pasta shapes such as ditalini or macaroni work well in this soup.  

 

Ingredients: 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8 pound (about 3 slices) pancetta, chopped
2 fresh sprigs rosemary
1 fresh sprig thyme
2 dried bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
Coarse salt and pepper
2 -15 ounce cans cannellini (white) beans
1 cup canned tomato sauce or canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1 quart low sodium chicken stock
6 ounces ditalini or other small pasta
Grated Parmesan or Romano for serving


Instructions: 
  1. Heat a stock pot over medium high heat and add oil and pancetta. Brown the pancetta bits lightly, and add herb stems, bay leaf, chopped vegetables, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add the beans, tomato sauce, water, and stock to pot and raise heat to high.
  2. Bring soup to a rapid boil and add the pasta. Reduce heat to medium and cook soup, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. The rosemary and thyme leaves will separate from stems as soup cooks-just remove the stems and bay leaf from soup after turning off heat.
  3. Let soup rest and begin to cool for a few minutes. Serve in deep soup bowls with cheese on top.
Nutritional Analysis: 
Per serving: Calories: 278, Protein: 12 grams, Fat: 8 grams, Saturated Fat: 2 grams, Carbohydrates: 42 grams, Fiber: 7 grams, Sodium: 389 grams.

Yield: 8 servings



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