What's that beautiful sound you hear? It's the angels singing in praise of pasta because a new study has linked pasta to weight loss. It all has to do with the carbohydrate-heavy food's low glycemic index (GI), the rate at which a food raises blood sugar levels.
Low GI foods are digested more slowly, so blood sugar levels don't spike as much. When blood sugar levels rise and then fall, you get hungrier more quickly. Unlike some other high carbohydrate foods like white bread or potatoes, pasta has a low GI, meaning the body burns it slowly. Researchers believe that because pasta leaves you more satiated than high GI carbs, you're more likely to eat less overall, according to Newsweek.
Researchers determined this by assessing almost 2,500 participants in 30 randomized control trials. Participants followed a healthy low GI diet for 12 weeks that included 3.3 servings of a half cup of pasta (it didn't have to be whole grain) each week instead of other carbohydrates.
When researchers analyzed participant's body weight, body mass index, body fat and waist measurements, they determined "pasta did not contribute to weight gain or increased fat levels." In fact, participants lost half a kilo on average, or a little over a pound, on average. While that isn't a lot of weight loss, the fact that participants didn't gain weight while eating pasta several times a week is what has the angels singing.
Of course, there's almost always a caveat with studies that shed a positive light on a food that was formerly believed to be off-limits in a healthy diet. The caveat here is that the pasta needs to be part of an overall low GI and healthy diet to achieve these positive results.
"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," lead author Dr John Sievenpiper told Newsweek.
Although the pasta doesn't have an adverse effect on body weight, what we put on that pasta could a negative effect. When pasta is smothered in cheese or layered with ground beef or sausage (we're looking at you lasagna, baked ziti and mac & cheese), you need to take into account the effects of the cheese and meat. Remember, it's the plain pasta that has the low GI number. Including pasta in a dish like Spinach Lentil Ragout Over Pasta (pictured at top) or eating spaghetti topped with a garden fresh pasta sauce are smart examples of healthy ways to include it in your diet.