A recent study rules in favour of this runner staple, in moderation.
The night before a long run or big race, your go-to is probably a heaping bowl of pasta. But in some cases, you may suffer from what I call “pasta guilt,” thinking that this traditional runners’ food may not be the best for you. That’s not entirely true. According to new research (from Italy, of course!), embrace your prerace pasta habit, but do so in moderation.
Researchers from the I.R.C.C.S. Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy took a closer look at the famed Mediterranean diet and its protective role in obesity. The Mediterranean diet consists of foods with complex carbohydrates and fibre, such as legumes, rice and cereals (not the breakfast kind, but edible components of a grain). Cereals are the main source of carbohydrates and, in Italy, are commonly eaten in the form of pasta. However, in recent years people have been eating less pasta.
The researchers took data from two different large studies, the Molisani Project and the Italian Nutrition & Health Survey, to analyse dietary and Body Mass Index data from more than 23,000 adults. Participants who consumed more pasta were found to follow the Mediterranean Diet more closely. They also tended to eat more tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, seasoned cheese and rice.
Pasta consumption was also linked to a lower prevalence of overweight and obesity. These findings support the overall benefits of the Mediterranean diet as a whole, pasta included.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR PASTA
- Use pasta as a vehicle for heart-healthy olive oil, sautéed colorful vegetables, and a sprinkle of calcium-rich hard cheese like Parmesan.
- Go for the whole-wheat noodles for a boost of fibre and nutty flavour.
- Reach for varieties with extra protein (e.g. chickpea or other legume-based pasta) to round out your pasta meal.
Remember: it’s all about moderation. Watch the portion size and measure out 1/2 to 1 cup of cooked pasta per serving.
PERFECT MEDITERRANEAN-STYLE PASTA
Makes 4 servings.
2 cups whole-wheat pasta (penne is recommended)
3 plum tomatoes, diced
1 medium white onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place the pasta in the pot and cook 10 to 12 minutes, until al dente, and drain.
Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
Add minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Then add diced onions and sauté 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown. Once browned, add diced tomatoes and sauté for 2 minutes.
Pour sautéed vegetables over pasta and toss. Add chopped basil and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
– Additional reporting by Debbie Fetter