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23 October 2006

Is pasta making you fat?

Pasta has been the mainstay cycling fuel for generations. It contains 27g of carbs per 1⁄2 cup serving, 589kJ, and 1,6g of fibre and minimal fat. Pasta is your ally. Or is it?

Pasta has been the mainstay cycling fuel for generations. It contains 27g of carbs per 1⁄2 cup serving, 589 kilojoules, and 1,6g of fibre and minimal fat. Pasta is dependable. Pasta is inexpensive. Pasta is pre-race. Pasta is post-race. Pasta is carbo-loading. Pasta is your ally. Or is it?

Insulin explained
Insulin plays a pivotal role in energy metabolism. After you eat carbs, glucose (a sugar) surges into the bloodstream. (Remember that most carbs – from pasta to sweets – contain glucose.)

The good news
Exercise, especially cycling, changes the insulin story in a big way – and for the better. Regular cycling helps fight insulin resistance by pulling fat out of storage for use as fuel, which decreases the size of fat cells.

Use your noodle
For now, don’t rely solely on pasta for you daily carbs. Reach for other fibre-rich carbs such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. These foods release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream than sweets, cakes and biscuits do, so insulin surges are less dramatic.

GI of some South African pasta
The glycaemic index (GI) is an indicator of the effect a carbohydrate food has on the body. It describes the rate at which carbohydrate is digested, and its influence on blood sugar. Low-GI foods are digested and absorbed slowly and glucose is released into the bloodstream over a long period.

Top toppings
The healthy benefits of pasta can be undone by your choice of topping. Here are some good options:

  • Simple tomato sauce (check the label – low fat is less than 3g of fat/100g of tomato sauce).
  • Spicy tomato, garlic, and olive oil based sauces.
  • Spaghetti al la norma (tomatoes and eggplant).
  • Pasta con le sarde (fresh sardines, pine nuts, fennel and olive oil).
  • If you want vegetables, add them yourself – even though the label says it’s a vegetable sauce, they are not necessarily there in any large, readily recognisable pieces.

www.bicycling.co.za.

 
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