The Mediterranean diet is a popular healthy diet usually characterized by plants, fish, and some dairy products but can you eat pasta on the Mediterranean diet?
Most diets have numerous strict rules for everyone to follow, and some trendy ones don’t allow you to eat pasta or other sources of gluten and carbs.
This diet is different, though, which is why so many people prefer it.
The truth is, you can eat pasta when you are on the Mediterranean diet. In fact, pasta meals are central to this diet.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a diet that has a history tracing back thousands of years.
As its name suggests, it describes the diet developed around the Mediterranean sea in countries like Greece and Italy.
It has since spread across the world as a mainstream diet that doctors consider generally healthy.
The Mediterranean diet is defined by pasta, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fruits, herbs, spices, seeds, and fish.
The most common vegetables that you will see in the Mediterranean diet are beets, broccoli, artichokes, arugula, onions, okra, mushrooms, lemons, leeks, lettuce, cucumbers, and eggplant.
The legumes prevalent in the Mediterranean diet are beans, lentils, and peas. Legumes serve as the backbone of Mediterranean dishes.
Tip: You can also make pasta out of legumes at home if you have a pasta maker.
Nuts & Seeds
Almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnuts are the most common nuts used in the Mediterranean diet.
Nuts are very nutrient-dense foods high in unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, and proteins that make them very nutritious.
The common fruits used in Mediterranean dishes are apples, oranges, pears, grapes, figs, melons, peaches, dates, bananas, and strawberries.
These fruits provide an extra dose of fiber that helps with digestion and several antioxidants that have several health-boosting benefits like reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Herbs & Spices
Basil, bay leaf, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, saffron, thyme, and chervil are popular herbs used in the Mediterranean diet.
Herbs and spices can help reduce your chances of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
They can also be used medically to treat inflammation and lower blood clots.
Fish are typically fattier in the Mediterranean diet and include fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring.
You will usually find fish found natively in the mediterranean sea, but sometimes you can also find other fish and shellfish.
Fish have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can treat inflammation and helps balance cholesterol levels.
Fish are high in high-quality protein that your body can process easier than other types of meat.
Note: Fatty fish species are considered the healthiest because they provide absorbable fat-based nutrients that are important for heart health.
Though typically thought of as a seafood diet, some Mediterranean dishes have included poultry.
Poultry is lean meat that acts as a good source of amino acids. Our bodies use these amino acids to build and replace muscle tissue.
Tip: A few dishes have included beef, pork, lamb, and eggs, but typically Mediterranean dishes will not use these more land-based meats.
Can You Eat Pasta on the Mediterranean Diet? What Kinds Are OK?
Now that you know you can still eat your favorite food, you’re probably wondering more specifically, “What kind of pasta can I eat on the Mediterranean Diet?”
Whole Wheat Pasta
Whole-wheat pasta is one of the healthiest choices for pasta ingredients used in pasta.
Compared to regular pasta, it has more nutrients compacted into the same package.
These extra nutrients increase the pasta’s quality, fiber content, and overall nutritional value.
Whole wheat pasta will fill you up faster, meaning you don’t have to eat as much of it as typical pasta.
Legume pasta is made from chickpeas and red lentils but can also have combinations from other foods like corn to help bind them together.
They are generally lower in calories than other pasta types, so they are liked by those who want to cut calories where they can.
Veggie pasta is not used in quite as many dishes as other types of pasta.
Veggie pasta is typically made with semolina flour or durum combined with puree vegetables like carrots or beets.
Tip: Veggie pasta tends to contain more protein than other pasta and higher amounts of iron.
Some types of Veggie pasta are gluten-free, but gluten-free pasta is typically made using cornflour or rice flour.
The result of using these types of ingredients is that the pasta is very lightweight and has a lower density of calories throughout.
Gluten-free pasta is an excellent choice for people with food sensitivities and is very healthy overall.
What Kind of Pasta Should I Avoid?
If you are trying to eat healthy by switching to a Mediterranean diet, you should avoid certain types of pasta that have extra additives to enhance the flavor.
While these types of pasta taste good, consuming lots of them as a part of your Mediterranean diet can lead to an increase in weight gain.
Ravioli pasta contains lots of fat and added sugars. To get the caramel color of ravioli, people will typically add an unnatural coloring agent to achieve this brown look.
Ravioli also contains soybean oil, which research has shown that overconsumption can lead to obesity and diabetes.
Research has also shown a correlation between soybean oils and neurological conditions like anxiety, depression, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tip: Research has linked soybean oil to metabolic and neurological changes in mice.
Lasagna is popular comfort food, but it contains many dairies, fatty meat, and nutrient plain white noodles.
Lasagna has a high-density level of calories and almost a whole day of sodium and saturated fat in one serving of pasta.
White pasta isn’t necessarily unhealthy in moderation.
Still, the problem is that white pasta is a refined pasta that is made by stripping the nutrients away from whole wheat pasta while adding unhealthy additives.
White pasta is higher in calories and lowers in fiber content. This combination means that you need to eat white pasta to feel full.
You can easily exceed a calorie diet goal since you are consuming more calories anyway because white pasta has a higher caloric density.
The compounding effect of eating more with more calories means it is easy to gain weight eating white pasta.
You are also missing out on the extra nutrients that you could be eating from other pasta.
So, while white pasta isn’t too unhealthy on its own, you are missing out on nutrients by choosing it over other pasta.
Overall, white pasta is not bad for your health, but it is not good either.
While not technically made from alfredo, alfredo pasta is so ubiquitous a dish that it is commonly thought of as a pasta category.
Alfredo pasta is made by taking regular pasta and adding alfredo sauce. Alfredo sauce is chock full of butter, heavy cream, and cheese.
The result of these ingredients being added to your pasta is that you add high levels of sodium, fat, and calories to your meal.
Some people call alfredo pasta the “fast food” of the Mediterranean diet because of how many unhealthy types of fats and the deceptive amount of calories that it has.
It is easy to eat a lot of alfredo pasta because it is high in calories and low in fiber.
Like fast food, eating alfredo pasta regularly can contribute to significant weight gain over time.
So, can you eat pasta on the Mediterranean diet?
Yes, you can! Many participants of Mediterranean diets have invented and used many pasta dishes over the years.
There are many health benefits to consuming a healthy amount of pasta as a part of your diet, but you have to make sure you consume the beneficial types of pasta in moderate portions.
Whatever dishes you choose to try, you will see why Mediterranean diets have remained a popular staple for people worldwide for many generations.