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This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Pasta Every Day

Eat This, Not That! logo Eat This, Not That! 3/30/2020 Anthea Levi

a close up of a plate of food: plate penne pasta tomato sauce © Shutterstock plate penne pasta tomato sauce Pasta is one of the first foods people cut out when they're trying to drive down carb consumption. But during these times when you're cooking most of your meals at home, pasta is often a go-to choice. It's fast to whip up, easy to make, lasts for a while, and is overall a versatile meal. Pasta is one of those foods many have stocked up on and are probably eating every day—lunch or dinner, there's never a bad time for pasta! But what exactly is happening to your body when you're consuming it every single day?

Well, let's keep in mind that unlike other items that are often considered "off-limits" for those following a diet or looking to lose weight (think sweets and alcohol), pasta actually does possess some redeeming nutritional qualities. There's even research to suggest that pasta may be beneficial for weight loss.

To find out what place pasta can hold in a healthy diet, we called in Carolyn Brown, RD, a nutritionist at the private practice Food Trainers in New York City, to get to the bottom line of is pasta bad for you, once and for all, and what it means if you're eating a bowl every day. And if you're sipping on some vino along with that pasta too, be sure to check out What Happens When You Drink a Glass of Wine Every Night.

What exactly does pasta do to your body?

First things first: pasta is packed with carbohydrates. Just one cup of cooked spaghetti delivers 42 grams of carbs, about a sixth of one's recommended daily carb intake on a 2,000-calorie diet. That may not sound like much, but it bears noting that almost no one ever eats just one cup of pasta at a time. "Pasta is a food many people tend to overeat," says Brown. Whether you're ordering in spaghetti Bolognese or making a whole box for dinner, you're likely to eat at least two to three servings of pasta in one sitting.

So, why does that matter?

"The simple carbs [found in white pasta] quickly translate to sugar in our bodies, and can increase blood sugar levels quickly," explains Brown. "Blood sugar is closely related to cortisol and hormone levels."

What's more, is that calories add up fast when we eat pasta. Just one cup of cooked pasta contains about 200 calories. Multiply that by two or three, depending on the portion size served, then add a creamy sauce and cheese on top, and, well, you get the idea. And if you're indulging every day, you're most likely eating more calories than you're burning, as we know access to gyms is not something most people have at the moment.

Read more: Here's Exactly How to Stay Your Healthiest While You're Stuck at Home

OK, where's the good news—is pasta ever healthy to eat?

Before you trash all that tortellini you bought, rest assured: pasta isn't the enemy. Just pay attention to the type you choose to consume and yes, how often you're eating it.

"White pasta is refined during processing," explains Brown. "With the bran and germ stripped away, most of the nutrients contained within the wheat kernel are removed. This makes white pasta higher in calories and lower in fiber."

That said, most refined pastas are fortified with vitamins and minerals like niacin, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, and folic acid, so they aren't entirely devoid of nutrients. Whole wheat pasta is made from the entire wheat kernel and naturally contains those nutrients (and therefore doesn't need to be fortified), as well as protein and fiber. The higher fiber content of whole-wheat pastas can help keep you full for longer and also mitigate rises in blood sugar levels post-meal.

More good news: Research suggests pasta may not deserve its notoriously bad rep. A 2018 systematic review published inThe BMJ found that overweight or obese individuals who ate pasta while following a low-glycemic index (GI) diet experienced significant weight loss compared to those following a high-GI diet. According to the authors, the findings indicate that pasta consumption in the context of other healthy dietary patterns is a-OK, and may even be beneficial for those looking to lose weight.

RELATED: These are the easy, at-home recipes that help you lose weight.

Bottom line: Can you eat pasta regularly and still meet your health goals?

Moderation is key here. Brown recommends having white carbs just one to two times per week, so perhaps eating pasta every single day might not be ideal if you're trying to watch your weight and drop some pounds. But if that's all you have on hand right now, don't be afraid of the carbs. There are ways to be smart about eating it, even if you are eating it every day.

"I sometimes go 50/50 with zucchini noodles and a brown rice- or bean-based pasta, then add a little protein like chicken, shrimp, or even an egg," Brown says. "[Be sure to] eat a small- to normal-sized portion that's one cup or about the size of your fist, and bulk it up with veggies and a little protein." Adding in one to two tablespoons of a healthy fat—such as olive oil, grass-fed butter, or pesto—helps complete the meal, too. "This will help big-time with fullness," adds Brown, so you won't end up needing to turn to bread to add on to the meal, which will have you overly stuffed! Eating small portions with plenty of veggies and protein is the way to enjoy pasta every day, the right way.

And in case you need some help making pasta the right way, here are 35+ Healthy Pasta Recipes for Weight Loss.

Gallery: 101 unhealthiest menu items in America

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