Pasta Nutrition FAQ

Q. Do you recommend low-carb diets as a good way to lose weight?
A. There is no “quick-fix” to losing weight, despite what many fad diets promise.  Losing weight (or maintaining a healthy weight) is a result of burning more calories than you consume — so this means eating fewer calories and exercising.  There are also dangerous health risks associated with low-carb diets that may lead to chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers.    

Q.   Are carbohydrates bad for you?
A. No.  Carbohydrates are absolutely essential to everyone considering they are the main source of energy for the body and brain.  You cannot function properly — physically or mentally — without adequate carb intake.

Q. What is an appropriate daily carb intake?
A. It is generally recommended that daily food intake be approximately 45-50 percent carbohydrates, 25-35 percent fat (primarily from unsaturated sources), and 15-20 percent protein.

Q. Isn’t pasta a “bad” carbohydrate? 
A. No.  Pasta is one of the best carbohydrates you can eat.  It has a low glycemic index, which means it doesn’t cause a “spike” in blood sugar and provides the body and brain with longer-lasting energy.

Another great thing about pasta is that it serves as an excellent vehicle to get many healthy foods and nutrients into your diet — including vegetables, protein, and healthy fats.

Q.  Why does pasta sometimes get labeled as a “bad” carb?
A. People tend to place pasta into the refined carb category, which is why it’s sometimes misinterpreted as bad.  However, when eating pasta, blood glucose absorption is much slower than when eating other carbs, like whole grain bread and bran flakes.  This means that you won’t experience a “spike” in blood sugar after eating pasta as with other carbs.   

It is also important to note that pasta is made from semolina flour, which comes from durum wheat, which is a very hearty, hard wheat.  Semolina flour is different from the common, white flour used to make bread and other heavily refined products.

Q. Will pasta make you fat?
A. No.  Consuming more calories than you burn makes you fat.  The key to staying in shape and watching your weight is to watch your calorie intake and exercise regularly.

Q. What is Glycemic Index (GI) and why does it matter?
A. Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of carbohydrates based on their immediate affect on blood sugar levels.  The higher the GI number, the faster the blood glucose response.  Carbohydrates that have a GI lower than 55 are considered to be low glycemic index foods.  Pasta has a low GI of 41.

GI helps people understand which foods produce sudden spikes in blood sugar, which is especially important for people with diabetes and hypoglycemia.  However, foods that absorb slowly into the bloodstream are good for everyone, as they provide more sustained energy.

Q. What do you think of the low-carb pastas that are on the market?
A. Low carb pastas do not offer any significant health benefit over regular pasta.  Some varieties may provide slightly more protein or fiber, but when regular pasta is paired with healthy partners like vegetables, poultry, fish, and lean cuts of meat, you will get more than enough of what you need in protein and fiber…remember, pasta was never meant to be eaten alone!  It is also important to note that the Glycemic Index of regular pasta remains as low as low-carb varieties, and that the calorie count is approximately the same.  Furthermore, regular pasta tastes much better!  

Q. What is a healthy portion size of pasta?
A. A healthy portion size of pasta is 1-2 cups cooked, providing between 200 and 400 calories.  Restaurants are notorious for serving as much as four times an appropriate serving! 

Q. What are the best/healthiest ways to eat pasta?
A. Pasta is best when served with healthy accompaniments such as vegetables, fish, lean cuts of poultry and meat, tomato sauce, legumes, and olive oil.  These ingredients are traditional foods of the Mediterranean Diet, which has been proven to foster long and vibrant life in many Mediterranean countries.  Creamy sauces and other ingredients high in saturated fat can significantly detract from the healthfulness of a pasta meal — so it’s important to be mindful of what you’re pairing with your pasta.

Pasta is also an excellent vehicle to get healthy foods into your and your family’s diet.  For example, if you have a hard time getting your kids to eat vegetables, pairing them with pasta and other flavorful ingredients will help entice them, as most kids love pasta!

Q. Why are Americans becoming so obese?
A. Americans have lost sight of the fact that there is no quick-fix when it comes to weight loss.  Fad diets are not the key to staying slim — as a matter of fact, they rarely work long-term.  The time-tested secret to good health and a healthy weight is to eat a balanced diet that includes all food groups, watch your calorie intake, and exercise.

Q. What is carb-loading and why do people do it?
A. Carb-loading a technique used by athletes who compete in endurance sports, such as skiing and marathons.  It involves eating larger quantities of carbohydrates for several days before an event to provide sustained energy and strength to get you through it.  For sports like skiing and running, carbs are essential fuel to get you through the activity. 

Q. I see that you are representing members of the pasta industry [or Barilla, AIPC or NPA].  Why have you agreed to work with them?
A. I am partnering on this campaign with the National Pasta Association, Barilla America, and the American Italian Pasta Company.  The messages they are sharing involve common-sense thinking about good health and balanced diet that I have always advocated.  There is so much hype right now around low-carb diets that people have become very confused about how and what they should eat to maintain a healthy weight.  So we are responding with facts to set the record straight, put the low-carb craze into perspective, and let people know that there is solid nutrition science that says carbohydrates like pasta should not be cut from the diet and that consumers should feel good about pasta as a healthy food choice.  We also want to share tips on the healthiest ways to enjoy pasta and discuss its often-overlooked health benefits — such as its low glycemic index and versatility when it comes to being able to pair it with so many other nutritional foods.


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