Pasta has a bad rap in America as an empty-calorie enemy of dieters; however, noodles remain a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet (and many Asian diets, for that matter) and are not associated with weight gain. A research team from Italy recently conducted a survey of nearly 15,000 Italians and 9,000 other participants to analyze pasta-eating habits and body mass indexes (or BMI, a measure of body fat). The study’s findings showed no correlation between pasta consumption and obesity.
Eating a recommended portion size of pasta in a traditional Mediterranean recipe (many of which are vegetarian) may even help you lose weight. A combination of flavorful ingredients — fresh produce, olive oil, healthy seafood, small amounts of lean animal protein and calorie-free seasonings like lemon juice, chili peppers and herbs — means you’re taking in plenty of nutrients and fiber that help you feel fuller for longer.
Now, to be clear: If you subsist on fettuccine alfredo, three-cheese steak penne and Guy Fieri’s bacon chicken mac and cheese with saltines crumbled on top (but why?), your BMI will neither stay the same nor go down. Eating larger portions of pasta without high-fiber, nutrient-dense accompaniments negates the health benefits because the body processes these types of dishes too quickly, causing blood sugar to spike and extra calories to be stored as fat. But incorporating pasta as a satisfying starch in a healthy dinner is a great way to rekindle your love for this oft-vilified pantry staple.