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How To Choose Healthier Pasta

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Do you love to eat pasta, but you're worried that it's just empty carbs? Prevention Magazine's Nutrition Director Cynthia Sass says fiber-rich whole grains are the way to go. Here's how to choose healthier pasta.

Hi I'm Cynthia Sass, nutrition director at Prevention magazine. Did you know that most of us are only getting about 50% of all the fiber we need for the whole day? One of the best ways to boost of your fiber intake is to eat more pasta. You might be suprised to hear that because a lot of people think that pasta's fattening or is a food that you should avoid, but it all depends on what kind you buy. There used to be mostly white pastas at the grocery store, but now when you go to the market there are all kinds of varieties, from those that have had fiber added to them to those that are naturally rich in fiber because they're made with whole grains like whole wheat or even oats or barley or other kinds of grains.

Now one of the tricks is getting the right amount. This is an entire box of penne; this is one serving which is 1/8 of the box. But what you should really keep in mind is a visual. One cup of pasta is about the size of a baseball or a tennis ball. This is the amount of dry pasta that makes that much cooked. Pasta normally doubles in size when you cook it, but it depends on how long you cook it for. If you like it al dente it's probably going to be a little bit smaller. If you like it more well done it will swell up to a bigger size.

Now when you look at this amount it doesn't seem like that much. You look at this and think how could I possibly be filled up by that amount of pasta. Well there's two things that you can do. One thing keep in mind that whole grains are higher fiber pastas, are more filling. Fiber actually slows done how quickly you digest or absorb carbohydrate in pasta so you feel fuller for longer. It also helps control your blood sugar and your insulin regulation so you actually have a more steady energy level over time and it delays the return of your hunger. But the other thing that you can do it add lots of chopped vegetables to your plate. One cup again about the size of a baseball or tennis ball of chopped vegetables is only about 25 calories and of course loaded with nutrients, whereas half a cup of cooked pasta is about 200 calories. Now if you had 200 calories a day that you couldn't burn off, you would gain 20 pounds of fat in a year. So it's more important to eat less pasta and add vegetables to it. You can also add lean proteins like the leanest ground turkey you can find or chicken or beans or even tofu.

So when you're at the market and you buy your whole grain pasta or fiber enriched pasta and you get home, how do you know how much to cook? Especially if it comes in strands like this. Well I would recommend doing this. A serving is about 1/8 of the container. So go ahead and take it in your hands and divide by half and then divide by half again and divide by half again and this is about the amount for one person. So go ahead and add that to the boiling water and whent it's ready to eat, add lots of chopped vegetables and protein to it. Maybe even a salad on the side and the other thing that you can remember too is adding some oil after you cook the pasta instead of before. Adding the oil after is a great thing because it helps you get a little more, let's say extra virgin olive oil, to your body. That's important because when you combine olive oil with vegetables you can absorb about ten times more nutrients in it that help you to reduce your risk of disease.

So that's all for today. I'm Cynthia Sass for Prevention magazine.

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