The brilliant Hollywood icon, Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993), was known for her talent, of course, but also her waif-like thin figure long before it was runway-required. It’s as eponymous with her name as big sunglasses, LBDs, and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
While her weight may have been the subject of debate over the years — including accusations of an eating disorder — the truth is, the Oscar winner didn’t diet. In fact, according to her son, Luca Dotti, the secret to his mother’s trim silhouette was actually...wait for it. Pasta.
Yes, pasta. As in Carb Mountain.
“She loved Italian food and pasta. She ate a lot of grains, not a lot of meat, and a little bit of everything,” Dotti recently told People Magazine. Though the actress was also known to enjoy chocolate after dinner, baking, and having “a finger or two of Scotch at night,” her biggest food passion remained pasta.
“She was crazy about the pasta,” Dotti also told People in 2015. In his own book, “Audrey at Home,” which included her signature dish, spaghetti al pomodoro, Dotti wrote: “Mum had a serious pasta addiction. She couldn’t do without pasta.”
Adding, “She would eat it almost every day. Her absolute favorite was spaghetti with tomato sauce. She could live on that alone.”
So what gives? How in the world did the ever-slim Hepburn get away with so much pasta? In the age in which too many carbs are still deemed “bad” in terms of weight gain, is pasta good or bad? The answers might surprise you.
It’s Actually Nutritious
On its own, pasta isn’t fattening. It’s usually what we eat with it — creamy sauces loaded with cheese or fatty meat — that adds inches. One cup of cooked noodles has approximately 220 calories, 1 gram of fat and no cholesterol. Most pastas are enriched with nutrients and minerals, like iron and folic acid, while whole-grain pastas, which contain about the same calories as regular pasta, have even more protein, fiber and vitamins. Other pastas, like those made with brown rice, corn, and quinoa, also come with added fiber, protein or omega-3 fats. For the most nutrition, however, skip the white-flour pasta and reach for the whole-grain or bean varieties.
Your Body Needs Carbs
Your body needs carbs, period. Complex carbs, like pasta, are essential energy sources, which may help you lose weight by filling you up and preventing hunger because they release energy slowly, causing you to eat less. Carbs also have glucose, which is critical for providing fuel to your brain and muscles. This explains why it’s a tradition for hardcore athletes to eat pasta before a big event or game.
It’s All About Portion Control
As Dotti said of his legendary mother, Hepburn was “very good at listening to her body. She was lucky with her physique but she had normal plates of pasta.” Like with any meal, portion control is crucial. Eating huge platefuls of cheesy pasta will, no doubt, increase your waistline. You can keep your calories in check by adding tons of veggies to your favorite pasta meal, either within the sauce or by adding a side salad, to keep you feeling full without overindulging. When in doubt, listen to your body. Sticking with a small bowl of pasta over a plateful might also help with keeping your portions healthy.
As with anything, moderation is key when it comes to enjoying pasta. Lay off rich, creamy and cheesy sauces, and make sure your fave bowl of pasta comes with a hefty serving of veggies and lean protein. Experiment with new recipes, or you might want to stick with your tried and true favorite, just like Audrey Hepburn.
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