The type of pasta Americans eat could have an impact on the quality of their diet, new research from Purdue University reveals. Pasta is a commonly consumed food in the United States. However, little is known about the relationship between pasta consumption and nutrient intake among American consumers. To better understand pasta’s role in the American diet, Barilla funded an examination of the associations among pasta consumption, diet patterns, and diet quality.
The study consisted of more than 10,000 American adult participations classified into four groups: consumers of pasta/noodles, pasta mixed dishes, macaroni and cheese, and non-pasta consumers. Compared to non-pasta consumers, consumption of pasta/noodles is associated with a small increase in diet quality and fiber intake while consumption of macaroni and cheese is associated with a lower diet quality and higher saturated fat intake.
The study further indicated that American pasta consumers display quite different dietary patterns. One cluster of pasta consumers demonstrated a dietary pattern—with more fruit, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and less meat—closely aligned to the “Healthy Mediterranean Style” eating pattern, which can lead to large improvements in diet quality. A Mediterranean-style diet is primarily based on a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, cereal grains, olive oil, and fish, and small portions of meat and dairy.
About 2.5 percent of the adult American population currently consumes pasta in this “Healthy Mediterranean Style” pattern. Simultaneously, almost eight percent of the adult American population is consuming pasta in ways that are associated with poorer diet quality. The researchers stress that efforts should be made from health professionals and food manufacturers to help consumers better combine healthier foods with their favorite pasta dishes. Additionally, macaroni and cheese recipes that are more consistent with current dietary recommendations—especially reducing saturated fat—should be developed.
Pasta tossed with other healthy ingredients such as vegetables, beans, lean proteins, olive oil, and herbs is an easy, balanced Mediterranean-style meal. The Passion for Pasta Advisory Council, a project of Barilla bringing together scientists, nutritionists, and researchers to encourage sustainable consumption of pasta, provides a range of Mediterranean diet-friendly recipes on their website.
This research was supported by Barilla America, Inc., but the sponsor had no role in the implementation of the study, the analysis, or interpretation of the data.