Meatless Monday

As journalist and social critic H.L. Mencken wrote, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” Avoiding all carbohydrates such as pasta just because they are carbohydrates seems to fit this notion.

This was me…I once avoided all pasta because it was a “carb”.  I now have more knowledge and have successfully added pasta back into my diet.

Pasta has been unjustly vilified in recent years as a leading culprit in the rise of obesity around the globe. It has been attacked as a (gasp!) carbohydrate, a food type many health experts say we should avoid.

The truth is, pasta is and has long been a healthy carbohydrate and broadly considered one of the best lifestyle diets for maintaining a healthy weight.

How did pasta get such a bad rap? The primary reason is a simple misconception — that pasta is akin to bread made from wheat. In fact, pasta is made from durum, a wholly different species from bread wheat in that it contains a third fewer chromosomes. Durum is an older species and a hybrid of wild grasses; modern bread wheat is more domesticated.

The second reason why pasta gets criticized is what we tend to do to it: over-process it and top it with salty and fatty goo. This is what has turned inherently healthy pasta into something far less desirable.

What makes pasta healthy is the fact that it has a low glycemic index (GI) — a modern concept of how fast glucose, a sugar from carbohydrates, is absorbed into the bloodstream. The GI runs from zero to 100, and foods with a higher index number tend to spike the blood with sugar. This taxes the organs — in particular, the pancreas — and can lead to diabetes and obesity.

Pasta is remarkably low on the glycemic index. Pasta is around 25 to 45, depending on the type. That’s in the range of many fruits and (non-potato) vegetables. Compare this with two staples of the American diet: white bread, with a GI of about 75; and potatoes, with a GI of about 80. (Mashed potatoes come in at 90.) Did you have corn flakes from breakfast? They have a GI of 80, as do many breakfast cereals.

Pasta should be cooked al dente, or slightly firm. Anything longer slightly raises the GI. Pasta becomes unhealthy when it is overly processed, such as the mushy stuff in a can, or when it is topped excessively with fatty meats and cheeses.

Source: Mother Nature Network



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