There's nothing better than curling up on the couch with a big bowl of pasta after a long day at work. Those starchy, delicious noodles make for the perfect comfort food, but according to nutritionists, it isn't exactly a healthy choice; Until now. Yep, you read that right; There really is such a thing as healthy pasta.
We are all taught that pasta (and carbs in general) don't do our waistlines any favors. Almost every diet on the market has consumers swearing off carbs in order to succeed. But, new research shows that pasta no longer needs to be the enemy. In fact, when reheated, it turns into a nutritious, fiber-filled addition to any diet. Did someone say spaghetti?
The Science Behind Healthier Pasta
It's not a secret that pasta has a correlation with weight gain. The reason why pasta leads to an expanding waistline comes down to a single factor: Pasta's carbohydrate content. When carbohydrates enter our bodies, they turn into sugar right away. They are quick to be digested, which raises insulin levels and floods the body with sugar. That sugar and insulin reaction then disappears as quickly as it started, leaving the body hungry all over again, and fast.
This rapid spike and crash of blood sugar is the real problem when it comes to weight gain. Although pasta itself isn't particularly high in calories (about 200 calories per serving), it leaves the body desiring more. Typically, whole wheat and multi-grain alternatives are suggested by nutritionists for that reason; High fiber foods take longer to digest, leading the body to feel full for longer.
Carbohydrate-rich foods cause a quick spike in blood sugar, making you hungry faster
But new research is showing that by simply reheating your leftover spaghetti noodles, you'll be on your way to indulging in a healthy pasta dish. It may sound too good to be true, but it all comes down to the structural changes that come as a result of the cooling and reheating process. As pasta is cooled down after being cooked, it turns the carbohydrates into what are called "resistant starches."
Resistant starches work by actually resisting the enzymes that lead to digestion. Carbohydrates are quick to be absorbed and digested, which is why blood sugar levels spike after a carb-rich meal. Resistant starches, however, move right past the enzymes towards the large intestine. Once there, they act more like soluble fiber, slowing the digestive process down and offering some pretty amazing health benefits.
Does That Mean Fresh Pasta is Out of the Question?
During his research on the structures of pasta during cooking, Chris van Tulleken from University College London found that cold pasta does in fact have less of an effect on blood sugar than warm does. His findings show that eating cold pasta gives the body a much smaller spike in blood glucose levels than warm does, thanks to the transition into resistant starch. But does that mean that cold pasta is the only way to reap the benefits of soluble fiber?
Luckily for us, warm pasta is still on the menu; And reheating cold pasta back to warm may even be healthier than just sticking with the cold! Over the course of several weeks, Tulleken and his team carefully recorded glucose levels of people who ate freshly cooked, cold, and reheated pasta. What they found was that the cold pasta continued to be the healthier option than hot, fresh pasta, but also that reheated pasta had an even better effect on blood glucose levels. In fact, the reheated pasta showed a reduced rise in blood glucose levels by 50%. So, in order to indulge in healthy pasta, all you have to do is reheat!
Reheating cooked pasta turns the carbohydrates into resistant starch, according to recent research
The Importance of Healthy Blood Glucose Levels
When blood glucose levels are too high (or too low), the body is in a state of distress. Normally, glucose works as a source of fuel for all of the cells within the body. But, if not balanced, they can serve as a sort of "slow-acting poison" for the body. Over time, consistent and severe high blood sugar can actually hinder the pancreas' ability to make insulin, which is the body's way of regulating sugar levels naturally. The results can range from mild weight gain to diabetes.
With this new knowledge of carbohydrates' ability to transform into a resistant starch, the doors are opened to new areas of research. One of the most affected topics is diabetes research. Doctors are looking to see which foods may have the potential to be made into resistant starches, which could greatly improve the health of diabetic patients across the world. And with roughly 29 million Americans currently living with diabetes, the impact would be huge.
The discovery of healthy pasta methods are also a potential solution to dietary issues across the world. Pasta is a dietary staple in many different cultures. From Mexico to Morocco, cultures have long been using heavy carbohydrates in many of their traditional dishes. But with such a high amount of carb consumption comes those unpleasant side effects; Weight gain and high blood glucose levels.
This new knowledge of the benefits of reheating pasta could change the health of people across the world. Children, the elderly, and those of general poor health would no longer need to battle the unhealthy effects of an extremely carbohydrate-rich diet. Instead, the simple act of cooking pasta ahead of time for reheating could help with digestion, nutrient absorption, and prolonged satiety. Plus, pasta serves as a low-cost, long-lasting source of food. Eliminating it from diets across the world wouldn't even be a feasible choice; And now it doesn't have to be.
Pasta is a dietary staple for cultures all around the world, and this new healthy pasta discovery can help keep people in good health across the globe
Food science and technology are constantly changing the way we nourish ourselves. From lab-grown meats to healthy pasta choices, humans are discovering new and more efficient ways to feed ourselves in healthier ways. At this rate, there's no telling where we will be in the next couple of years. But one thing is for sure: We are steadily moving towards a more sustainable, health-conscious future.