Most restricting fad diets demonize pasta as one of the main foods leading to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. But if pasta is that bad for you, then why doesn’t the Mediterranean diet (known for its long-term health effects) forbid pasta?
The circulating claims that pasta is unhealthy are 100% invalid and not based on any evidence. What research papers show is that pasta can be a great addition to a balanced, healthy, and satisfying diet, and can serve as a great source of a variety of nutrients.
In this article, we consider pasta as part of the Mediterranean diet: What type and how much pasta to eat, as well as the nutritional value of pasta, based on scientific studies.
But first, let’s see what the Mediterranean diet really is.
Let’s get started!
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is the typical cuisine of Italy, Greece, France, and Spain: all countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea. This eating plan is similar to a plant-based diet, as it encourages the consumption of plant-based proteins and high-fiber whole foods. Other important “rules” of the Mediterranean diet include using olive oil as the primary fat source and substituting saturated fats (often found in animal proteins and dairy) with unsaturated fats (fats found in fish and plant-based foods, such as avocados and nuts). 
The following is a list of foods to prioritize on the Mediterranean diet:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Fish and seafood poultry (in moderation)
- Dairy foods (in moderation)
- Lean meat (occasionally)
- Vegetable oils (primarily olive oil)
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been associated with beneficial effects on various health conditions and biomarkers, including :
- Reduced inflammation
- Balanced blood sugar levels
- Lower Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Weight loss
- Lower risk of metabolic syndrome
- Lower risk of heart disease and stroke
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- Improved cognitive function
How much pasta to eat on the Mediterranean diet?
There are no official guidelines in place, suggesting how much pasta to eat if you adhere to the Mediterranean diet. However, various sources provide such suggestions:
According to a 2014 paper published in the Nutrients Journal, the Mediterranean diet should include 3-8 daily servings of whole-grain products, like pasta. 
The Cleveland Clinic suggests that people adhering to a Mediterranean diet should consume 3-6 servings of whole-grain foods, like pasta, per day. 
The NHS recommends people to base their meals on starchy foods like pasta (other options are potatoes, rice, and bread) and choose a wholegrain version when available. 
According to the EatWell Guide, the correct amount of pasta to eat is 180 grams of cooked product (= two handfuls.) 
1 serving = ½ cup cooked pasta.
Keep in mind that the Mediterranean diet does not set guidelines for specific caloric intake, macronutrient distributions, or portion sizes. Therefore, if you follow the Mediterranean diet, be mindful of how much food you eat and aim to eat all foods in moderation.
What pasta to eat on the Mediterranean diet?
Traditional pasta is made from durum wheat, water, and eggs. However, nowadays, many other ingredients are added to pasta either to enhance its nutritional value or make it tastier.
Generally, pasta is low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates (which is a good thing), and contains a varying amount of protein. That being said, you can find different types of pasta enriched with protein, fiber, or vitamins and minerals  :
High-protein pasta (protein > 15%) can be made of a combination of wheat and protein flours: soybean, pea, lupin, or chickpea flour.
Enriched pasta that has higher vitamin, mineral, and fiber content than regular pasta, can be made of a combination of wheat and buckwheat, whole wheat, artichoke, and amaranth.
Flavored pasta can be made from typical pasta dough infused with basil, garlic, spinach, parsley, peppers, turmeric, and other vegetables and spices. Flavored pasta usually has the same caloric value as non-flavored pasta.
Pasta preparation tips
To get the optimal nutrition benefits from your Mediterranean-style pasta dishes, add some protein (e.g., poultry, cheese, seafood, chickpeas), vegetables (either fresh or frozen), and a bit of unsaturated fats (like olive oil) to make your meal more filling and balanced. Also, use spices and herbs (either fresh or dried) to enhance the flavor.
Is pasta healthy?
In recent years, low-carb diets are on the rise, demonizing all foods high in carbohydrates.  Pasta, in particular, is often wrongfully linked to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
Luckily, there is no scientific evidence supporting these “diet culture claims.” In fact, studies show that pasta could be a healthy addition to your diet, as it’s an efficient source of various micronutrients  :
- Folic acid
- Vitamin E
Furthermore, pasta has a low glycemic index (50-55 GI) and is digested differently than refined carbohydrate foods. This means that pasta consumed in moderation does NOT cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar levels. 
Last but not least: pasta is a very versatile base food that can be paired with favorite foods of yours. This way, pasta is not only a healthy but also delicious addition to your diet. 
Disclaimer: All the mentioned health benefits related to pasta consumption are in the context of a balanced and diverse diet, like the Mediterranean diet.