When you hear the words "healthy diet," you probably don't think of pasta. After all, carbs in general have a bad reputation for causing weight gain. But do our beloved noodles really deserve to be shunned completely if we want to live a healthier lifestyle? According to a new study, not necessarily — as long as we pair them with the right foods.
Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital did a review of 30 randomized control trials involving nearly 2,500 people who ate pasta instead of other carbohydrates as part of a healthy low-glycemic index diet. If you're unfamiliar with this diet, here are the basics: It's an eating plan based on how certain foods affect your blood sugar level, according to Mayo Clinic. The results of the study, published in BMJ Open, suggest that pasta can be part of this specific type of healthy diet without causing people to pack on the pounds.
"The study found that pasta didn't contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat," said lead author John Sievenpiper, PhD in a release. "In fact, analysis actually showed a small weight loss. So contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet such as a low GI diet."
Researchers say that unlike most "refined" carbs, pasta has a low-glycemic index. That means that it causes smaller spikes in blood sugar levels than those caused by foods with a high-glycemic index. The people in this study ate an average of 3.3 servings of pasta a week — with one serving equaling about one-half cup of cooked pasta — instead of other carbohydrates. These participants lost about one-half kilogram (or about one pound) over a follow-up of several weeks.
"In weighing the evidence, we can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern," said Dr. Sievenpiper.
But before you start loading up your plate with heaps and heaps of pasta for dinner tonight, keep in mind that there are several caveats to this study. The researchers stress that these results are only linked to pasta consumed with other low-glycemic index foods as part of a low-glycemic index diet. So eating pasta with high-glycemic index foods — like white bread or pumpkin — is not recommended if you want to follow this type of diet. The researchers also caution that more studies are needed to determine if pasta can be part of other healthy diets without causing weight gain.
That said, it's good to know that pasta in moderation might not necessarily wreak havoc on our waistlines. If you're anything like us, you know there's nothing quite like a spaghetti supper!
Next, learn some easy food swaps that can help with weight loss in the video below: