Friday, January 7, 2011

The Stats on new 'stas (Pastas that is)

My friend Lauren requested that I write a blog about all the new pasta and grain products on the market. In the future, I plan to give my two cents on gluten-free diets (so look for that blog to come). One of the reasons there are so many new pasta products on the market is because of exceptional marketing strategies by food manufacturers and the media hyping up gluten-free diets.

Quick background: Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Note: gluten is not naturally found in oats, but many people on a gluten free diet avoid oats because of potential cross-contamination.

People who need to avoid gluten are those with Celiac disease (more info: or people who have been told by their doctor to avoid gluten or wheat because of an intolerance. To give you some sort of reality, it is estimated that up to 1% of the population may have celiac disease (which is high, but the media would have you believe it is much higher).  However, a lot of people have gone on gluten-free diets because they have seen reports that eating gluten-free will resolve any problems they may have (ADHD, autism, stomach pains, learning disabilities, etc) or because it is a great weight loss method. There is limited research showing the benefit of a gluten-free diet on children or adults who do not have a gluten allergy or intolerance. However, if a person does actually have celiac disease, they probably will see an improvement of symptoms by going gluten-free:
"The data indicate that ADHD-like symptomatology is markedly overrepresented among untreated CD [Celiac Disease] patients and that a gluten-free diet may improve symptoms significantly within a short period of time" (2).

If you don't believe that gluten-free won't benefit people without celiac, I would first advise doing your own research through reputable sources (ie: not just typing in a search engine or looking at media sources- use PubMed and other research databases to look at research through peer-reviewed scientific journals) and talk to your doctor before going on this diet for a long period of time. As far as weight loss, you might actually GAIN weight if you go on a gluten free diet, and miss out on very important nutrients. But anyway, my blog on this topic will come in the future, right now I need to focus on the new products on the market:

A general rule of thumb is to always look for a pasta or grain product that is a WHOLE GRAIN. So, if you are going to buy rice pasta, make sure that it is brown rice pasta and contains at least 4 grams of fiber per serving. It is simple to determine whether a pasta or grain product is good for you, here are the steps:

  1. Look at the ingredients. Make sure the #1 ingredient is a whole grain (whole grain wheat, whole grain oats,  quinoa, barley, etc.). Then, make sure there are no additives or strange ingredients you have never heard of in the mix. Whole grain wheat, whole grain corn, whole grain rye, whole grain triticale, whole grain oats, soy beans, whole grain millet, whole grain barley, whole grain brown rice, oat bran, and flaxseed are all good!
  2. Check out the fiber content (I recommend >4 grams/serving).
  3. Look at the serving size and make sure that the amount you eat won't add up to a couple hundred calories.

Do not be afraid of wheat unless you have a valid reason to be. Most people have survived on eating wheat, and it is not until recently that every disease and possible problem has been blamed on wheat. Whole grain wheat contains fiber, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and iron, magnesium, and selenium, making whole grain wheat a very nutritious food!

When buying pasta or grain products, I recommend the following:

  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Wild Rice
  • Super Pastas (high in fiber, protein, Omega-3's)
  • Whole grain/Multigrain (Wheat) Pastas- or anything made of whole grains with high fiber, protein, and lots of vitamins/minerals without fake ingredients

2) Niederhofer H, Pittschieler K.; A Preliminary Investigation of ADHD symptoms in Persons With Celiac Disease; Journal of Attention Disorders, 2006 Nov;10(2):200-4

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