When it comes to the world of food, there are few countries who contribute as many wonderful things as the nation of Italy. Without our brothers and sisters down in Southern Europe, not only would we not be able to enjoy pizza, but tiramisu, gorgonzola and pannetone would also be out of the question (if you haven't had a panettone yet, you have not yet lived).
But for me, the biggest miss of all would be pasta. Whether we're talking linguine, lasagne or the always underrated pasta-potato partnership that is gnocchi, pasta forms the backbone of many an Italian meal, and these form the backbone of many a diet not only in Italy, but in many countries around the world.
We associate a lot of phrases with pasta, but one thing you'll never hear pasta being described as is a "weight loss food". Yes, pasta is full of complex carbohydrates, which keep you full and give you a slow-release of energy throughout the day, but without the right sauces and toppings, pasta isn't quite as nutritious as we think.
That being said: a new study from St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto says that pasta could be useful in helping you to lose weight. They figured this out by looking at 30 different studies of people on low glycemic index (GI) diets. On average, these people ate the equivalent of half a cup of noodles, three times a week for 12 weeks. Here's what lead author John Sievenpiper, a clinician scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, says the research found:
“The study found that pasta didn’t contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat. 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.”
What joyous news! But before you break out the penne, there's one tiny thing you should be aware of. Turns out, that "low glycemic index" thing is actually quite important. For the uninitiated, foods that rank highly on the glycemic index (such as sugar, french fries and other unrefined carbs) cause rapid spikes in your blood sugar, that leave you feeling hungry again soon afterward.
Sweet potatoes, beans and lentils are all examples of carbs that score lower than a 55 on the glycemic index, but what does this mean for your dreams of an all-spaghetti diet?
Well, the weight loss recorded in this study relates only to low GI diets, and it's not yet clear as to how pasta would affect other types of diets, or why it caused the weight loss. Or, in the researchers' own words: “Future trials should assess the effect of pasta in the context of other ‘healthy’ dietary patterns."
"The mechanism by which pasta in the context of low-GI dietary patterns lead to weight loss even under conditions of ad libitum dietary advice is unclear. Lower-GI diets may result in greater body weight reduction compared with higher-GI diets because lower-GI foods have been shown to be more satiating and delay hunger and decrease subsequent energy intake."
Well, folks, while pipe dreams of eating nothing but lasagne are still only just dreams, this is good for anyone who wants to lose weight, but isn't really enthusiastic on all the different kinds of celebrity-endorsed fad diets. Instead of making your life miserable, why not boil some pasta, slather on some sauce, and know that you're helping yourself live a healthy life.