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Pasta Power Q and A

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Nutritous pastas

Question: Will I lose more weight on a high-protein diet than a high-carbohydrate diet?

Answer: No. Health experts say the best way to lose weight is still a low-fat, high-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet. Portion control and serving size, coupled with a healthy lifestyle including exercise, are key elements in any attempt to shed pounds. If carbohydrates are restricted, particularly to less than 60 grams a day, water and salt loss occurs, not fat. When carbohydrates are reintroduced in the diet, the water weight is regained. There is no quick and easy weight to lose weight; it's basically a question of calories taken in versus calories burned.

Question: What is insulin resistance?

Answer: Insulin resistance appears to affect a small percentage of Americans and is most common among overweight individuals. It is related to a form of diabetes called Type II diabetes. In an insulin-resistant person, the pancreas produces too much insulin after he or she eats sugars or starches. Additionally, cells in insulin-resistant individuals' bodies may not respond to insulin, causing their blood sugar to stay abnormally high after a meal or snack.

Question: Can a high-carbohydrate diet cause insulin resistance?

Answer: No, the reality is that being overweight causes insulin resistance. A high-carbohydrate diet does not make an insulin-resistant person overweight, nor does it cause insulin resistance. Adopting a high-carbohydrate diet actually enhances insulin function for most people by lowering insulin levels.

Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body and insulin helps cells utilize glucose for energy. While it is true that insulin is a key hormone in the maintenance of blood sugar, eating more carbohydrates does not mean insulin will increase. Even if you do have an elevated insulin level, it is still wiser to cut back on consumption of saturated fats and increase your consumption of carbohydrates, preferably in the form of grains, fruits and vegetables.

Question: Will I gain weight if I eat a lot of foods high in complex carbohydrates?

Pasta Shapes Answer: Weight gain cannot be blamed on any single food or food group. Eating too much of any food can make you gain weight. Complex carbohydrates are not fattening. It's what you add to them that is, such as butter, margarine, sour cream, mayonnaise, gravies and cream sauces. Remember that a gram of fat has nine calories which is more than twice the calories of a gram of carbohydrates.

The reality is that all calories count. Even if you eat large amounts of fat-free foods, you may find yourself gaining weight. No matter how boring it may sound, the key is to eat all foods in moderate portions, and in the context of an overall healthy diet coupled with regular exercise.

Question: What is the Mediterranean diet?

Answer: The Mediterranean diet, which is high in complex carbohydrates, is one of the healthiest diets in the world. It is low in fat, includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, pasta, legumes (dried peas and beans), and whole grain breads, plus small amounts of dairy products and meat, poultry and fish. Mediterranean countries like Italy have lower rates of obesity and heart disease than the U.S. does, although a definitive link between this diet and one's health has not been (scientifically) established.

Question: How can I tell if I'm eating right?

Answer: The best guide to healthful eating is the Food Guide Pyramid, a moderate and balanced diet that includes neither too much nor too little of any one food group. The Pyramid shows you how many daily servings you should eat from each of the five food groups: the grain group which includes pasta, bread, cereal and rice; the fruit group; the vegetable group; the dairy group; and the meat and protein group, encompassing beef, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and legumes. For example, you should eat six to 11 daily servings from the grain group. Since a typical serving of grains is one-half cup of cooked pasta or cereal, or one slice of bread, most of us eat more than one serving at any given meal -- for instance, a one-cup portion of pasta equals two servings from the grain group.

The National Pasta Association supports the dietary recommendations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid, which recommends eating six to 11 servings per day from the grain group. Diets built on a base of pasta, bread, cereal, and other grain-based foods tend to be low fat. A low fat diet, along with regular exercise, helps to achieve an overall healthy lifestyle.

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