Pasta is a superfood - because it leads to eating a healthier diet, according to new research.
It boosts consumption of vegetables, lean meats, fish and fruit, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, say scientists.
The humble spag bol, a mainstay of Italian Mediterranean cuisine, has soared in popularity in the UK.
Brits now consume about 80 grams of pasta a week - about three times more than four decades ago - while Italians eat more than 450 grams.
And the good news is it not only tastes good, but does you good.
Pasta is a low sodium and cholesterol-free food with a low glycemic index - foods that keep blood sugar levels in control.
The study found eating pasta leads to lower consumption of saturated fat, which can help reduce harmful blood fats to protect against heart attacks and stroke.
Pasta eaters had a greater intake of nutrients and minerals that most people lack in their diets such as folate, which boosts red blood cells and reduces the risk of defects during foetal growth.
They also consumed more iron which keeps tissues healthy by carrying oxygen in the blood, magnesium which boosts bones and muscles and dietary fibre which lowers the risk of heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
In addition, eating pasta also led to more intake of essential nutrients and less of added sugar, like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, that contain a lot of calories..
The research, presented at The Obesity Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, found pasta consumption was associated with better diets when compared to adults who did not eat it.
It analysed the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2001-2012, a program of studies in the US, and was carried out by Nutritional Strategies, Inc. on behalf of the National Pasta Association (NPA).
Registered dietitian Diane Welland, nutrition communications manager for the NPA, said: “The new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines encourage the consumption of all types of grains for the many nutrients they provide.
“Pasta can be an effective building block for good nutrition, as it serves as a perfect delivery system for fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and legumes.
“This analysis underscores the nutritional importance of grains, such as pasta, as consistent with a healthy diet. It shows that pasta eaters have better quality diets than those who don’t eat pasta.”
The study examined associations between pasta consumption, shortfall nutrient intakes as defined by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines (2015 DG) and diet quality in comparison to non pasta consumption in US adults.
The data review did not look at any health outcomes associated with pasta consumption.
Pasta consumption was defined as all dry domestic and imported pasta/noodle varieties made with only wheat and no egg.
Pasta has long been celebrated as one of America’s favorite foods and advocated by nutritionists for its good nutrition.
In addition to the nutrients mentioned in this new research, pasta also provides important carbohydrates, which the body uses for energy.