The DIRTY truth about Italian food

Pasta – argh!

Quick, convenient, tasty and any half-Italian meal looks lost without it in one form or another.

It sounds like the perfect ingredient – that is, until you look at the content label. Carbs and sugar with hardly a sign of protein in sight.  Argh! again.

If you’re on a high-calorie diet as part of a weight gain program or intense exercise regime, pasta is brilliant for building up sugar for post – or pre-workout fuel.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking to lose weight, get trim and bring those abs to the fore, bog-standard pasta is the antithesis of everything you’re hoping to achieve.

And that’s before we look at the gluten content, its effects on celiacs, their digestive system and inflammatory issues related to too much wheat consumption.

Do we believe the gluten and wheat hype?

The marketers have done a darned decent job of highlighting many issues that foods containing wheat and gluten can be a precursor to or, in the case of existing conditions, aggravate.

It’s worth remembering that the majority of the headlines we see have to be tempered with the fact that someone trying to sell gluten-free products has probably supported the research in the article beyond the headline.

Certainly, not one official body is, at this stage, prepared to state categorically that gluten consumption is definitely linked the auto-immune, digestive and inflammatory conditions that researchers suspect.

As with most enjoyable pastimes (I was gonna write pasta-times, but thought better of it), moderation is the key.

Whilst the same can be said of shop-bought, standard pasta, there are variations on the market that are not only gluten-free, but are low, or lower, in carbohydrate than your standard fare.

Three gluten-free pastas encompassing a range of carb content

When we hear the word  “Vegan”, we automatically think low carbs, low fat, low protein (and some would say low taste).

Shirataki spaghetti is Vegan, almost carb and calorie-free and actually tastes like spaghetti.

There are additional benefits, too. The majority of its content is water and soluble fibre, making it lighter on the palate as well as on the scales. It can also aid digestion as an additional source of fibre.

The second pasta is yet another spaghetti.  Not quite as low-carb as Shirataki but certainly less than your run-of-the-mill (sorry, couldn’t resist) pasta.

Black bean spaghetti is, as you’d expect, made from black beans and water.

The bonus with this pasta – for those on a resistance training program and/or muscle-building regime – is that the pasta itself is proportionately high in protein.

Once you’ve trained and your body is crying out for both protein and carbohydrate, you have the perfect gluten-free answer, ready in minutes, to deliver protein to where it’s needed for muscle reparation.

Of course, not all pasta dishes call for spaghetti. Pasta shapes make up many a good Italian dish.

You can buy brown rice pasta almost anywhere, off the shelf.  However, whilst it’s gluten-free it does contain as many carbs as regular pasta products.

Many exercise regimes include cheat days, to either shake up the metabolism or to ensure depravation of your favourite food doesn’t see you chucking the diet in altogether.

So if your concern is purely gluten content, then brown rice pasta will do the job.  If you’re using pasta as fuel for training, just remember to treat brown rice pasta as you would any other wheat-based carbohydrate.

There you have it. Three pastas, all gluten-free, with a range of carbs, calories, sugars and protein ranging from very few up to your usual caloric value if weightloss is not your aim..

But just because you’ve got green or amber lights to indulge, moderation is not only suggested but advised.

The carbohydrate will always be the fuel; it’s the protein that’s the essential building block  for getting those muscles ripped.

Hone the ratio and, if the research is accurate, reducing your gluten intake should also negate inflammation, leaving your body at its optimum to get on with developing those abs.


Martin Smith
Author of The Definition Method
[email protected]

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