The folks at Fiber Gourmet recently plied me with a selection of their one-of-a-kind “light” pastas. Hey, I’m not one to turn away free food, so I gave their spinach, tomato and standard pasta noodles a taste try.
The Fiber Gourmet folks say “since fiber has 0 calories, as the fiber goes up the calories go down” – hence the “light” labeling.
As you all know, I’m cautious about the types of carbohydrates I consume. I rely on vegetables for the majority of my carbohydrate intake. I do eat some starchy carbohydrates such as brown rice, legumes, yams, quinoa and sprouted grain bread. But typically I don’t eat more than one starchy serving per day. Pasta, in particular, is hardly one of my favorites because it is refined wheat, making it high in empty carbohydrates that have a rapid, deleterious impact upon blood sugar. This is stressful to the body for a number of reasons, and the scientific evidence is compelling: excessive intake of refined carbohydrates is linked to our skyrocketing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
And while I understand that “low-carb” pastas like Shirataki can be helpful for jump-starting weight loss, I don’t personally recommend carb substitutes. (Although I am all for the jump start – start somewhere!) My preference against substitutes is not only because I favor whole, unprocessed, fresh foods for both weight loss and health maintenance. I also refuse to eat anything that tastes like cardboard, which seems to be a prevailing problem with light, low-carb and other assorted diet food products. Food will always taste better than a food product. If you can sustain a food product weight loss plan for more than a few months, you’re made of some tough stuff! But seriously, in my opinion, substitutes don’t successfully address the underlying problem with eating unhealthy foods: rather than shifting your cravings to healthier foods, they merely serve as a temporary fix to sate existing unhealthy preferences.
All right, Mark, we get it. What about this pasta? Fiber Gourmet pasta is made just like regular pasta, but contains 40% fewer calories (roughly 130 per 2-ounce serving). Of course, I don’t know anyone who can stop after just 2 ounces of pasta – and that’s the problem with carbs. Refined carbohydrates – sugars – are incredibly addictive.
The total carbohydrates of this product are not low by any stretch – about 43 grams (18 from fiber and 25 from starch). I recommend ruthlessly aiming for fewer than 20 grams of refined carbohydrates in a given day. In fact, I think we’d all be better off if we avoided refined carbohydrates entirely.
Now to the taste factor:
The Fiber Gourmet pastas tasted good – exactly like “real” pasta. Texture was not gritty, gummy or weak. The exception was the spinach pasta, which didn’t hold up well with the olive oil and sea salt I doused it with. The flavor was pleasant enough, but an actual spinach salad would have had better peppery bite and a much more satisfying, chewy texture. And, of course, fewer refined carbohydrates. The tomato and regular pastas were just as chewy and substantial as regular pasta.
Bottom line: I’m really not a pasta guy. I just don’t “do” refined carbohydrates. I genuinely prefer vegetables and more natural, flavorful sources of starchy calories such as yams and brown rice, both for taste preference and health reasons. If you are trying to lose weight and gotta have the pasta, you might want to give those slippery Shirataki noodles a try to get started (good luck!). If you are maintaining your weight successfully and really love pasta, then I think Fiber Gourmet is a smart replacement for standard pasta. In fact, I really wouldn’t consider it as a substitute food product, because it’s virtually identical in taste and texture to regular pasta. It’s really more like an improved food product.
Still, my health philosophy remains fundamentally the same: there’s food, and then there are food products. We can substitute and switch and modify to our hearts’ content, but ultimately, I believe that optimal health comes from fresh, whole, natural foods.
Now I’m off to enjoy my daily salad. What are your thoughts?
– Do you think that improving existing popular foods will be effective for addressing our country’s health and weight concerns, or do you think we need to take a more radical approach by shifting our food habits altogether?
– What are your views on carbohydrates?
I’d love to get your point of view and hear what works to keep you lean and healthy.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.