This meal is easy and quick. But is it also healthy?
photo by: Paweł Rękas
If this is your favourite meal, conratulations! It definetely IS healthy when you prepare it from following ingredients:
1. Whole grain pasta
There are endless shapes of pasta. As much as certain types of pasta might seem fancy on the plate, the structure is what really matters. It has been much easier in the past – there was no such thing as whole grain pasta or bread, it was just white – as much as I remeber. Last couple of years when healthy eating was becoming a HUGE thing, nothing what you knew was no longer truth!
However it was much, MUCH easier further in the past, when there was NO white flour and people generally used whole grain flour for bread, pasta, baking etc. Why and when and how? I am preparing whole article about this, so don’t miss it!
What is it about this whole whole grain thing?
Grain kernels are made up of three parts: the bran, germ, and the endosperm. White flour is made from wheat kernels that have been processed, leaving only the endosperm. There is a benefit of better flavor and lighter texture, however such a process leaves only few nutrients.
The most common whole-grain pastas are made from whole wheat, brown rice or buckwheat. But quinoa, spelt, farro and kamut are also routinely used to make whole-grain pasta. However, not all whole-grain pasta is made from 100 % whole-grain flour. Some are made from a mixture of whole-grain flour and ground legumes and flax, ingredients that improve a product’s texture while boosting its protein and omega-3 fatty acid content.
When comparing the nutrients, the differences between whole grain and processed pasta are not that large, however the difference in fibre content is significant.
There is 6,3 g of fibre in one serving (1 cup of cooked whole grain pasta) which makes approximately 25 % of your daily fibre intake. White pasta has only 2,5 g of fibre and less micronutrients.
You don’t need to do radical changes overnight. Start by incorporating healthy choices step by step, get use to slightly different taste of whole grain pasta. You can additionally add cereal fibre to your cooked white pasta until you switch to whole grain completely and still have the healthy benefits.
photo credit: Jorge Zapata
When selecting any whole-grain product, search for the word “whole” in front of each grain listed on the label. Typical dried whole-wheat pasta might only list one ingredient – durum whole wheat. (Brown rice is an exception, as brown rice is itself a whole grain.) Pasta labeled as “100 % wheat” contains only wheat flour, but not necessarily whole-wheat flour. The term “multigrain” means a pasta is made from more than one type of grain, but the grains aren’t necessarily whole. Labels that state a pasta is “made with whole grains” must contain some amount of whole-grain flour, but typically contain a higher proportion of refined flour.
2. Olive oil
or (other cold pressed virgin oil) is a must.
Healthy fat like olive oil, linseed oil, hempseed oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, peanuts, almonds, cashew nuts are always a good choice.
Olive oil may be one of the healthiest foods you can eat for heart health.
- It lowers blood pressure
- Protects LDL particles from oxidation
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps prevent blood clotting
photo credit: Roberta Sorge
3. Tomato sauce
- Peel the tomatos (You can peel them with knife or cut an X shape at top and blanche. The skin will peel easily.)
- Remove the seeds (I usually skip this step)
- Gently stew with minced onion.
- Add garlic, basil and oregano.
photo credit: Mike Gardner
But why is tomato sauce such a good choice?
- Tomatoes are low in calories
- And rich in vitamin A and C and beta carotene, which helps your immunity
- Plus: magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B, E, K, biotin (good for skin, hair and nails) and tyramine (improves mood)
But their main asset is cancer preventive antioxidant – lycopene. Not only it makes tomatoes red, but also eliminates the growth of all types of tumors. Best sources of lycopene are tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce and ketchup.
The good news is that lycopene does not destroy by heat treatment of tomatoes, on the contrary, its concentration increases. It means cooked/ baked tomatoes are healthier than raw.
In 2012 the power of oregano was revealed. In an experiment, one of its phytochemicals called carvacrol managed to cause the death of tumor cells.
In addition, oregano has also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effect (which is why food spoils slower with oregano).
I use it at every possible opportunity (pizza, soups, potato and vegetable dishes, spreads, etc.)
5. Parmigiano Reggiano – Parmesan
Among cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano stands out for its high nutritional value. It is made from raw cows’ milk produced in a limited geographic area in Northern Italy (provinces of Parma, Modena, Reggio-Emilia, some areas of Bologna and Mantua).
It is a hard-textured, cooked and long-ripened cheese for rarely less than 15–18 months before consumption. The milk comes from cows whose diet is mainly composed of hay and green fodder in the area of origin, without the use of silage.
Parmesan contains many minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride) and trace elements (zinc and selenium).
This cheese is suitable for all age gorups, however be careful with the amount due to high sodium and higher fat content. Use 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan to your pasta meal.
photo by: Paweł Rękas
- Whole grain pasta
- Tomato sauce
- Olive oil
… make nutritionally ideally balanced meal.
What is your favourite pasta meal?