SPAGHETTI FUNC­TION

What much­ma­ligned carb sta­ple could ac­tu­ally help you lose weight?

Men's Health (UK) - - In This Issue -

Turns out ev­ery­one’s favourite carb has a de­li­cious role to play in your nu­tri­tion plan

Pasta has been on the Bri­tish menu since at least the 14th cen­tury, when King Richard II’S chefs in­cluded the recipe for a mac­a­roni-lasagne hy­brid in the royal cook­book. But when, in the late 1950s, the BBC aired an April Fool’s Day re­port show­ing a fam­ily har­vest­ing spaghetti from trees, view­ers in­un­dated the broad­caster with letters ask­ing where they could buy their own pasta plant.

Six decades later, a less in­nocu­ous myth sur­rounds spaghetti. It has widely been blamed – lumped along­side other re­fined foods such as white bread and white su­gar – for to­day’s di­a­betes, obe­sity and heart dis­ease epi­demics. Is pasta a fat-pil­ing “poi­son”, as tennis player Pat Cash re­cently claimed? And if so, how did it be­come the world’s most pop­u­lar dish?*

Sci­ence is on your spag bol’s side. In a study pub­lished in the jour­nal BMJ Open, Cana­dian re­searchers an­a­lysed how pasta af­fects body­weight and BMI. They found that test sub­jects who ate spaghetti in­stead of other carbs ac­tu­ally lost a small amount of weight. This was at­trib­uted to its neg­li­gi­ble fat and choles­terol con­tent, and the fact that it’s an ex­cel­lent source of low-gly­caemic car­bo­hy­drates: it re­leases its glu­cose slowly into the blood­stream, mak­ing you feel full for longer. These find­ings sup­port an ear­lier re­port pub­lished in Nu­tri­tion and Di­a­betes, in which Ital­ian sci­en­tists (per­haps pre­dictably) ar­gued that pasta con­sump­tion de­creases your chances of obe­sity.

The prob­lem with spaghetti, then, isn’t that it’s in­her­ently bad for us – it’s that it’s so good, so sat­is­fy­ing, that we’re tempted to fork it down in un­healthy quan­ti­ties. “We serve… im­mense por­tions,” sighed Fred Plotkin, au­thor of The Au­then­tic Pasta Book, back in 1997. Yet even af­ter two decades of well­ness cul­ture and car­bo­pho­bia, we con­tinue to over­load our plates. A bolog­nese in Bologna typ­i­cally con­tains 100g of pasta. It’s likely to con­tain dou­ble that here**.

Ital­ians have tra­di­tion­ally lived by what they call “l’arte di ar­ran­gia­rsi”, or the art of get­ting by on what you have. This credo man­i­fests on the plate as the cel­e­brated, no-non­sense Mediter­ranean diet, with a sen­si­ble por­tion of pasta as its cen­tre­piece. So, whether you’re in Rome or Rom­ford, do as the Ro­mans do – and re­sist the urge to have too much of

a good thing.

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