posted on: 2/10/2012 2:35:27 PM EST
Pasta comes from refined flour

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It always interests me to see how much pasta people eat. As a recovering pasta addict who will never fully recover, I know the appeal only too well. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it isn’t meat, it’s delicious, it’s filling, it’s nice and chewy, it goes with so many sauces, it’s kind of romantic in a way because it comes from Italy, and you can get it in all those great shapes. But will pasta keep YOU in great shape?

As far as I am concerned the answer is a resounding ‘no’. If you are on a mono-diet of pasta, pasta and pasta, you’ll feel a lot better if you give some of those alfabeto and strangolapreti (meaning ‘priest strangler’ – I know, they even have great names) to the kids to glue onto paper and fill the empty space in your life with something else.

Pasta comes from refined flour, so it is a starchy carbohydrate which won’t do your blood glucose or insulin levels any good (I always thought that was why Tony from the Sopranos got so aggressive). It has had its nutrient-containing fibrous part removed, making it a nutrient-robber, unless you eat whole wheat pasta. Pasta does have some kind of mistaken ‘health food’ identity, but that’s because it’s a vegetarian food and because it comes from Italy, where people are famously long-lived (although that’s really due to other aspects of the Mediterranean diet, such as fish, tomatoes and olive oil).

In Campodimele, they do eat pasta, home-made and irresistible with roasted red peppers, wild boar and tomato sauce or in a succulent bean and pork soup. However, pasta isn’t over-eaten and it is used as part of a balanced diet which is high in vegetables and not too starchy overall. If you love pasta, think of it as a treat to have with a favourite sauce rather than a staple; a lover rather than a spouse.

There are plenty of alternatives to pasta out there if you want to wean yourself off it and get the benefits. Quinoa, a venerated grain from the Andes, is light on the digestion and is a complete source of protein, containing all eight essential amino acids we need daily. It is quick to cook and goes well with sauces and casseroles or in salads. Buckwheat, which has nothing to do with wheat, is great for making wraps, pancakes, and blinis. There are also some excellent brands of non-wheat pasta made from brown rice and other gluten-free grains on the market; the brown rice ones look and taste almost like the real thing. For more about grains and what to cook with them, have a look at the information here. Ciao pasta, I’ll always love you but you know it’s better this way.

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