From the October 2012 issue of Runner’s World
The latest whole-grain pastas are nutrient-packed and taste great – really!
By Matthew Kadey
If there's one food runners love, it’s pasta. High in carbs, it can power you through any workout. But the noodles many runners eat are made from refined wheat, which offers few other nutrients. A better choice? Those made from whole grains. “Whole-grain pastas provide fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants runners need for training,” says Anthony Meade of Adelaide’s Wakefield Sports Clinic.
Before protesting that you’ve tried wholemeal pasta (with unhappy results), know that unlike whole-grain pastas of the past – which often turned to mush – today’s are far tastier, thanks to production improvements. And there are more options than ever, including gluten-free for runners avoiding gluten. These unique whole-grain pastas have nutrient-rich résumés worthy of a carbo-load.
One of the earliest gluten-free options, brown-rice pasta has progressed from mealy and gritty to hearty and chewy. A 57-gram serving supplies up to four grams of fibre, “which will keep you feeling full longer,” says Meade. The pasta also provides vitamin B6. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that low levels of this nutrient are associated with an increase in heart-damaging inflammation.
Firm shapes like Casalare Organic Brown Rice Pasta twists won’t turn as gummy as brown-rice spaghetti if slightly overcooked. casalarepasta.com
Japanese soba noodles are made with buckwheat, which is not actually wheat; however, many brands contain wheat flour, so choose one made solely with buckwheat if you’re going gluten-free. Soba provide just as many carbs as traditional spaghetti, plus slightly more phosphorus. “Phosphorus is a major player in building bones,” says Meade. The noodles pack eight grams of protein per serving, making them ideal for recovery.
Hakubaku Soba Noodles are Australian-made wheat and buckwheat soba noodles. hakubaku.com
Nutty-tasting spelt is a relative of wheat and contains gluten. It’s rich in iron (which runners need for endurance), immune-boosting zinc, and magnesium – vital for proper muscle and nerve functioning. “Whole-grain pastas like spelt are slower to digest,” says Meade, “which means they provide more sustained energy than refined white pastas.”
L’Abruzzese Certified Organic Spelt Fettucine is low GI making it a great choice for runners with diabetes. labruzzese.com.au
This gluten-free pasta is often made with a blend of quinoa and rice flour, which improves the texture and makes it taste similar to traditional white pasta. Native to South America, quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse with impressive amounts of several minerals, including manganese. This mineral is needed for proper protein and carbohydrate metabolism and for increasing bone-mineral density, says Meade.
Olive Green Organics Quinoa and Rice Penne has four grams of protein per 60-gram serving, making it a light, easily digestible pre-race choice. olivegreenorganics.com.au
SECRET'S IN THE SAUCE
Healthy, delicious recipes complement any pasta
Quick and Easy Marinara
In a food processor, combine 450 grams of cherry tomatoes, 4 garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and oregano, salt and pepper to taste; process until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan; stir in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes.
Coriander Pumpkin Pesto
Place 2 cups coriander, 1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds, 1/3 cup Parmesan, 2 garlic cloves, juice of 1/2 a lemon and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely minced. With the machine running, pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and process until well combined.
Fire-Roasted Meat Sauce
Brown 450 grams of beef mince in a pan. Add 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped capsicum, and 3 minced garlic cloves; cook 3 minutes. Add an 800g can fire-roasted tomatoes and 140g can tomato paste. Season with oregano, basil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Add 1/3 cup red wine and 1 tablespoon sugar. Simmer, reduce heat and cook 1 hour.
Creamy Cashew Mushroom
Place 1 cup unsalted raw cashews in a bowl; cover with water and soak 2 hours. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion, 3 cups sliced mushrooms, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and salt and pepper. Cook for 7 minutes. Add to a blender with 1 cup low-fat milk and drained cashews; blend until smooth.
Tips For Preparing Whole-Grain Pasta
1 Use a big pot: The pasta will cook more evenly.
2 Add salt: Salting the water improves flavour.
3 Don't add oil: Oil in the water prevents sauces from clinging.
4 Stir the pasta:Whole-grain pastas tend to stick; stirring minimises that problem.
5 Taste often: It’s done when you bite it and it’s slightly resistant.
6 Don't rinse: It removes starch that helps sauces cling. But do rinse soba, which turn gummy otherwise.
7 Finish cooking in the sauce: This helps pasta absorb the sauce.
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