Pasta Perfect: New Lower-Sodium Sauces Really Hit the Spot

By Hurley, Jayne; Schmidt, Stephen | Nutrition Action Healthletter, April 1996 | Go to article overview

Pasta Perfect: New Lower-Sodium Sauces Really Hit the Spot


Hurley, Jayne, Schmidt, Stephen, Nutrition Action Healthletter


As if you needed another reason to eat spaghetti. the average American consumes just under 20 pounds of pasta a year. While that's pretty meager compared to the average Italian's 65 pounds, it does represent some serious fork twirling.

And if the results of a new study from Harvard University are confirmed by further research, we could end up giving the Italians a real run for their linguine.

According to the latest findings, men who eat tomato sauce just once a week have a 23 percent lower risk of prostate cancer than men who never eat it (see March 1996, p. 12).

Researchers think the benefit may come from lycopene, a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color. But even if tomatoes turn out to be nothing more than tomatoes, there are other reasons to eat pasta.

To start with, for every half cup of tomato sauce you use, you can scratch off one of the five-to-nine servings of fruits and vegetables you should eat every day.

Maybe that's one reason the spaghetti-loving southern Italians have lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Or maybe it's just that the more pasta they consume, the less room they have for red meat, high-fat dairy products, and other sources of saturated fat. Or perhaps it's all the fresh fruits and vegetables they eat.

Either way, few meals are as satisfying as a bowl of al dente spaghetti with tomato sauce, a hunk of crusty bread, and a green salad fragrant with garlic and vinegar.

Unless, of course, the sauce comes out of a jar.

Just kidding. That may have been true a few years ago. But our latest survey turned up a passel of sauces that taste great, are low in fat, and aren't salty enough to boost your blood pressure or cause calcium losses (see p. 2).

YOUR SERVE

Before you can figure out if a pasta sauce is worth buying, you need to know how much you're likely to use. The Food and Drug Administration, which is in charge of such things, says that a typical serving is a half-cup of sauce over a cup of pasta.

Try that at home. When you're done laughing, fill up your plate. We bet you end up with at least one cup of sauce over two cups of pasta. That's why we've doubled the numbers we got from the manufacturers. Make sure you do the same at the supermarket.

If you do, it will become clear that the problem with pasta sauces isn't fat ... as long as you steer clear of cream-based Alfredos and oil-drenched pestos. Just a half-cup of Contadina Alfredo sauce, for example, will infuse your poor arteries with 38 grams of fat (half a day's worth) and 21 grams of saturated fat (a full day's worth).

In contrast, it's easy to find a great-tasting tomato sauce with no more than eight grams of fat per cup. …

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