Carb lovers, today's your lucky day — an Australian food scientist has shot down criticisms that claim pasta is an unhealthy food.
"You probably know there are recommendations for how much energy (kilojoules or calories) we should eat in a day," writes University of Newcastle senior food science lecturer Emma Beckett in The Conversation. "These recommendations are based on body size, sex and physical activity."
"But you might not [realize] there are also recommendations about the profile of macronutrients — or types of food — that supply this energy," she adds, noting that this category of nutrient is made up of "fats, carbs and proteins" that "are broken down in the body to produce energy."
Pasta does indeed have high carbohydrate content, with about 38 grams of carbs on average per cup of cooked noodles, along with 0.6 grams of fats and 7.7g of proteins, the food scientist writes. But according to Australia's scale for acceptable macronutrient ranges, humans should aim to get roughly 45-65 percent of their energy from carbs, 20-35 percent from fats, and 10-30 percent from proteins.
Translated into ratios, that means that "it can be healthy to eat up to between 1.2 and 6.5 times more carbohydrates in a day than protein," Beckett writes, "since each gram of protein has the same amount of energy as a gram of carbohydrates."
"The ratio of carbs to protein in pasta is 38g to 7.7g, which equates to roughly a 5:1 ratio, well within the acceptable macronutrient distribution range," she adds.
What's more, "one cup of cooked pasta has about a quarter of our daily recommended intakes of vitamins B1 and B9, half the recommended intake of selenium, and 10% of our iron needs," the food scientist notes.
Beyond the gritty details, the way pasta is eaten — generally as the base for a meal with sides — makes it an excellent source for getting other nutrients as well.
"Pasta is also not typically eaten alone," Beckett muses. "So, while some warn about the dangers of blood sugar spikes when eating 'naked carbs' (meaning just carbs with no other foods), this typically isn’t a risk for pasta."
In short, eating pasta isn't just not bad for you, but can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. If you make sure to add vegetables to your pasta dishes or eat them on the side, all the better.
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