I travel constantly for work, which hasn't been great for my waistline. After eating in all of the best restaurants in the world for a few years, I realized that I had gained around 30 pounds. Fortunately, I was able to work with a health coach who taught me some valuable skills for my way of life. She taught me how to recognize unhealthy foods and swap them out for better options--even in foreign hotels. The results were incredible. I was able to lose weight while enjoying my travel adventures. My blog is for anyone out there who wants to enjoy healthier food on the go.
If you like to frequent Italian restaurants but have avoided them because you're worried about how all that pasta will affect your health, it's time to start dining out again. Pasta has a reputation of being caloric and fattening, but that's because of preparation and presentation factors. Pasta can be a regular part of your diet if you have it prepared correctly, like the Italians do.
Soft vs. Al Dente
One of the differences you see between Italian food and Americanized pasta preparation is that Italian pasta is cooked al dente, or to the point where it's tender but still rather firm, like you still need to use your teeth to bite through the pasta. A common pasta dinner in the United States will often have pasta cooked to the point of being very soft, where you could gum the pasta instead of chewing it.
Many people prefer al dente pasta just for the texture, but cooking al dente also preserves pasta's low glycemic effects. Yes -- plain old pasta is not a glycemic villain, meaning it doesn't make your blood glucose levels spike as badly as other foods. But that low glycemic index disappears if you cook the pasta more than al dente because of the effect of the prolonged cooking on the starches in the pasta, and it becomes worse for your blood glucose levels. You still don't want to go nuts eating too much al dente pasta, but combined with other foods, the pasta you do eat can be in a pretty substantial portion.
Overcooking also affects the fiber in the pasta (even plain, non-whole wheat). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations notes cooking changes the insoluble fiber of grains to soluble fiber. You need both in your diet, but insoluble fiber is what helps you stay regular in terms of waste elimination. You get less of that type of fiber in overcooked pasta.
If you are now interested in going back and getting some good Italian pasta, visit the Italian restaurants near you. Ask for al dente to ensure you don't get soft pasta, and look for simple sauces and dressings like olive oil and garlic, or basic tomato and basil toppings. And if you get a large portion, take half home -- portion control is important for your health, too, and you'll have a tasty meal the next day.Share