October is national pasta month

Pasta is a low-sodium, cholesterol-free grain that provides a slow release energy source when prepared in a healthy manner.

October is national pasta month with one day, October 26, designated World Pasta Day. According to the National Pasta Association, the average American consumes close to 20 pounds of pasta every year. Are these carbs all that bad for you? Not necessarily. A balanced, calorie in/calorie out, diet complete with exercise is what is most important. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Choose MyPlate campaign recommends that a quarter of your plate be filled with grains, with at least half of the grains being whole grain. Choose MyPlate also provides an overview of what a whole grain is and common grain food items.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that the average American should consume six servings of grains each day. A half cup of cooked pasta is considered the equivalent of one serving. Being mindful of how many servings (portions) are recommended per day and the amount being actually consumed is important. Many pasta dishes today offer more than half of the grain servings recommended for the average American.

Of the six recommended servings, at least three servings should be whole grain. This maximizes the nutrient potential of the grain and reduces the risk of some chronic diseases. In a July 2012 Journal of Nutrition study, results suggested that a healthy diet that included whole grains were associated with a lower risk of Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and weight gain. To learn how to make half of your grains whole, see this USDA tip sheet.

Pasta is low in sodium, cholesterol free and is a source for complex carbohydrates that gives a slow release of energy. By choosing the whole grain variety, up to 25 percent of a daily fiber requirement can be met. Pasta also has a low Glycemic Index (GI) and doesn’t cause blood sugar to rise as quickly after consuming as some higher GI foods will. For those actively managing their GI, high protein pastas are now available at some grocery stores. The high protein pasta can lower the GI even further and be a good choice for folks managing blood sugars or vegetarians looking for an additional protein source. Whole grain, high protein pastas will also help with the feeling of being full. For several recipes, pasta cooking tips, or a pasta shape guide visit the National Pasta Association website.

Try adding a variety of vegetables and some fresh herbs to whole grain pasta for a nutritious meal during national pasta month.

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