I recently read an article about pasta being actually good for you if you want to lose weight. I’ve always been taught that pasta is a carbohydrate, and eating carbohydrates is ‘bad’ for you. What is the truth?

In food, new truths are being discovered every day.

Once upon a time, the food pyramid released by dieticians encouraged us to eat as much as we could from the bottom segment of the pyramid, which consisted of carbs.

There were theories that this was probably propagated by biscuit and bread companies as well, because this pyramid certainly appeared on the bread, cereal, and biscuit products that I consumed when I was a child.

Then along the way, the food pyramid changed to reflect new data. Each country has its own food pyramid, reflecting what is common in their cultures. For example, the Malaysian and Singaporean food pyramids had rice under the carbohydrate segment, while the Mediterranean food pyramid had olive oil and wine in moderation in theirs.

A food pyramid depicts the optimal number of servings to be eaten each day from each of the basic food groups. This depiction may differ from country to country. Photo: Filepic

A food pyramid depicts the optimal number of servings to be eaten each day from each of the basic food groups. This depiction may differ from country to country. Photo: Filepic

The pyramid segments changed throughout the years. Carbohydrate intake recommendations became more limited. Sweets and sugary items like cakes and ice-cream are extremely limited.

America and UK came up with food plates to reflect the portions of food you should be putting on your plate. Basically, this is an evolving science.

So is pasta good for us?

There was an Italian study involving 23,000 people in two parts of Italy. The study participants had to record everything they ate into a diary, and then they were interviewed.

The results, they found, were quite surprising. Apparently, there was no correlation between eating pasta and weight gain. In fact, eating pasta the Mediterranean way – with olive oil – made the participants slimmer. It contributed to a lower BMI (Body Mass Index), lower waist circumference and better waist to hip ratio.

However, it should be noted that the pasta eaten in these regions have been prepared the Italian way – with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, cheese. They were also following the healthy Mediterranean diet involving these same ingredients.

Wait, does that mean pasta prepared in cream sauces, like carbonara, is out?

There has not been a study on this. Suffice to say that cream is to be eaten sparingly in the food pyramid. Therefore, pasta prepared using huge amounts of cream can’t be that good for our diets!

It should also be said that the Italian researchers noted that Italians in general ate less pasta (around 50 to 65g a day) compared to their UK and US counterparts. Anyone who has ever been to the US will tell you that the pasta servings in the restaurants are as much as four times the amount served to you in Rome.

That can’t be good for your diet either.

What about other food myths? I recently read on Facebook that eggs are now considered good for us. I used to grow up with the notion that egg yolk contains cholesterol, which is bad for our hearts.

Eggs have a superior protein mix. They are low in calories, approximately 74 calories per egg, and also contain choline, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin D. Photo: Filepic

Eggs have a superior protein mix. They are low in calories, approximately 74 calories per egg, and also contain choline, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin D. Photo: Filepic

Eggs are actually very good for you.

There recently was a published peer-reviewed article on 17 different types of egg studies. When all these studies were analysed, it was concluded that if you consume one egg per day, this is NOT associated with an increased risk of heart disease or stroke in a healthy human being.

The myth was that eggs contained a lot of cholesterol in the yolk. Therefore, they are bad.

However, the truth is that although egg yolks have high cholesterol, they are actually low in saturated fat. And a major determinant of your blood LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) is the amount of saturated fat you consume.

So I should only eat one egg a day? But I love eggs! I usually like an American breakfast that contains two eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns and buttered toast.

That breakfast would contain 1000 calories, at least. Also, bacon, sausages, hash browns and buttered toast are very high in saturated fats.

Let’s return to the humble egg.

The American Heart Association does not limit the number of egg yolks that you should consume a day, but it limits your cholesterol intake to 300mg a day, or 200mg if you have heart disease or an LDL level of higher than 100.

The amount of cholesterol that an egg will raise in your blood level is extremely small. And eggs are very healthy in so many other aspects. Therefore, experts conclude that an egg a day is all right.

In addition, eggs have a very superior protein mix. They contain low calories – approximately 74 calories per egg. The proteins are absorbed and used efficiently by the body.

They also contain choline for brain development and utility, lutein and zeaxanthin to help prevent eye diseases like cataracts, and vitamin D for bones and teeth.


Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.