Is Pasta Healthy? Insights from an Italian Lifestyle

Italians are famous for their lifestyle, their fantastic cuisine, and of course, pasta. Their obesity rate is low compared with other European countries and the United States. The average person in Italy eats more than 51 pounds of pasta a year. And still, according to the Bloomberg Global Health Index, Italy ranks as the No.1 healthiest country.

Many believe the secret to the Italians’ lifestyle and health is thanks to the Mediterranean diet, which includes an abundance of pasta, pizza, and many other delectable foods.  In fact, recent studies suggest that moderate pasta consumption is linked to lower chances of general and abdominal obesity, contributing to a healthy body mass index and lower waist circumference. Plus, the Mediterranean diet has also been linked to many heart benefits.

The Diet

Italians do not diet; instead, they learn how to eat well. Italians manage their portions and usually eat foods within the Mediterranean diet, which features fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, peas, beans, olive oil, poultry, and fish.

Italians also manage their portions. A typical pasta portion is about 1 to 1 ½ cups per person. They also vary their pasta toppings. Instead of consistently choosing creams or sauces, they use lemon, capers, herbs, vinegar, and other low-calorie foods for seasoning, as well as lean meats, beans, vegetables, and fruits to finish their creations.

Most importantly, Italians stop eating when they are full. They also make healthy choices to satisfy their sweet tooth, choosing fresh fruits instead of sugary desserts. Plus, Italians live an active life, with lots of walking or biking, maintaining a well-rounded lifestyle.

The Dining Experience

Italians truthfully enjoy the experience of eating. They take the time to socialize, relax, and enjoy the moment. Before and after supper, most people in Italy engage in a leisurely stroll through their village, called passeggiata. People walk together, talking and keeping an old tradition alive.

Most meals are considered an experience, with first and second courses, such as salads, a sandwich, or a small plate of pasta, followed by a small portion of fish or chicken paired with vegetables or beans. Also, Italians tend to pair their meals with wines, which aids digestion and has many other benefits including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

It seems like Italians know the secret to a healthy lifestyle. And while eating tons of pasta will not help you lose weight, enjoying a healthy portion of pasta, topped with fresh vegetables and lean meats, could be the road to a healthier (and tastier) diet.