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Eat away: Italian study shows pasta doesn’t make you fat

If you've banished pasta from your kitchen cupboard in the hope of squeezing into last year's Speedos or bikini before your summer holidays, you're making a terrible mistake.

Eat away: Italian study shows pasta doesn't make you fat
A new study has revealed pasta might not be public enemy number one when it comes to weight-loss. Photo Wei-Duan Woo/Flickr

An Italian study published in the journal 'Nutrition and Diabetes' this month, reveals for the first time a link between how much pasta you eat and how slim you are likely to be.

The study questioned some 23,500 men and women of varying ages and social backgrounds across Italy about their dietary habits and recorded their body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio.

The results of the study were surprising and good news for pasta-lovers everywhere.

“Our findings show a negative association of pasta consumption with general and central obesity” the authors wrote. In short: the more you eat pasta, the less you are likely to be overweight.




Body mass was found to decrease with pasta consumption in men and women. Source: 'Association of pasta consumption with body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio'. Nature and Diabetes, July 2016

The results run contrary to the popular belief that servings of pasta will have you piling on the pounds, a misconception which has caused pasta consumption to fall worldwide.

Even Italians are turning away from pasta, a food which has played a central role in the country's famed Mediterranean diet since medieval times.

The traditional Italian diet, based around cereals, legumes, seasonal fruit and veg and lashings of olive oil is considered to be one of the healthiest ways to eat.

But if the traditional Italian diet is so healthy, how did pasta get such a bad reputation?

The researchers lay the blame squarely at the feet of fad diets.

“Pasta consumption has decreased as the concept of adopting low-carb, high-protein diets against obesity has increased,” the authors wrote. But in spite of their popularity, there is still significant scientific debate surrounding the possible negative effects of such diets on kidney and bone health.

It turns out, that even among people who don't follow a healthy Mediterranean diet, pasta is still associated with a more streamlined physique. But why does pasta make you slimmer?

The precise mechanisms are still a mystery, but scientists think it has to do with the foods we tend to eat pasta with.

“Pasta intake was observed as being associated with the intake of other important food groups, such as tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and onions,” – foods, which can all be helpful when losing weight.

The true extent of pasta's weight loss powers will perhaps be revealed by a future study. Until then, feel free to tuck into as much pasta as you like, safe in the knowledge that a plate of spaghetti in and of itself is not going to cause you to balloon. Buon appetito!

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FOOD & DRINK

From spritz to shakerato: Six things to drink in Italy this summer

Summer in Italy means lots of things - trips to the beach, empty cities, strikes, and metro works - but it also ushers in the spritz and negroni season. Here are some of the best drinks to cool down with in Italy this summer.

From spritz to shakerato: Six things to drink in Italy this summer

Spritz

Venice wins all the prizes for being the home of the spritz: the jewel in Italy’s summertime daisy crown and one of the country’s most popular exports.

To first-time customers, the sweet-and-bitter combo can taste unpleasantly like a poisoned alcopop. Stick with it, however, and you’ll soon learn to appreciate this sunset-coloured aperitif, which has come to feel synonymous with summer in Italy.

The most common version is the bright orange Aperol Spritz, but if this starts to feel too sweet once your tastebuds adjust then you can graduate to the dark red Campari Spritz, which has a deeper and more complex flavour profile.

What are the best summer drinks to order in Italy?

Photo by Federica Ariemma/Unsplash.

Negroni

If you’re too cool for the unabashedly flamboyant spritz but want something not too far off flavour-wise, consider the Negroni.

It’s equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari – though if you want a more approachable version, you can order a ‘Negroni sbagliato’ – literally a ‘wrong’ Negroni – which replaces the gin with sweet sparkling Prosecco white wine.

Served with a twist of orange peel and in a low glass, the Negroni closely resembles an Old Fashioned, and is equally as stylish. A traditional Negroni may be stirred, not shaken, but it’s still the kind of cocktail that Bond would surely be happy to be seen sipping.

Crodino

Don’t fancy any alcohol but still crave that bitter, amaro-based aftertaste?

A crodino might be just what you’re after. With its bright orange hue, it both looks and tastes very similar to an Aperol Spritz – so much so that you might initially ask yourself whether you’ve in fact been served the real thing.

Similar in flavour are soft drinks produced by the San Pellegrino brand; bars that don’t have any crodino on hand will often offer you ‘un San Pellegrino’ as a substitute. These drinks are usually available in multiple flavours like blood orange, grapefruit, or prickly pears.

A barman prepares a Campari Spritz cocktail in the historic Campari bar at the entrance of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II shopping mall. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Chinotto

Much like the crodino, the chinotto is another distinctive bitter Italian aperitivo drink.

With its medium-dark brown colouring, however, the chinotto bears more of a resemblance to Coca Cola than to the spritz, leading to its occasionally being designated as the ‘Italian Coca Cola’.

In reality far less caramelly and much more tart than coke, the chinotto has its detractors, and the fact that we’re having to describe its flavour here means it clearly hasn’t set the world alight since it was first invented in the 1930s (it was subsequently popularised by San Pellegrino, which became its main Italian producer).

If you’re looking for another grown-up tasting alternative to an alcoholic aperitivo, however, the chinotto might just be the place to look.

Bellini

What’s not to love about the bellini?

Its delicate orange and rose-pink tones are reminiscent of a sunset in the same way as a spritz, but with none of the spritz’s complex and contradictory flavours.

A combination of pureed peach and sugary Prosecco wine, the bellini’s thick, creamy texture can almost make it feel smoothie or even dessert-like. It’s a sweet and simple delight, with just a slight kick in the tail to remind you it’s not a soft drink.

Shakerato

Not a fan of drinks of the fruity/citrusy/marinated herby variety?

If caffeine’s more your thing, Italy has an answer for you in the caffe shakerato: an iced coffee drink made with espresso, ice cubes, and sugar or sugar syrup.

That might not sound inspired at first, but hear us out: the three ingredients are vigorously mixed together in a cocktail shaker before the liquid is poured (ice cube-free) into a martini glass, leaving a dark elixir with a delicate caramel coloured foam on top.

You couldn’t look much more elegant drinking an iced coffee than sipping one of these.

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