Leftover Lunch | #FrugalFriday


Is pasta the new broccoli?

First of all, don’t be put off by the title: I have no intention of boring you with the usual “make more dinner than you need, then take the leftovers to work for tomorrow’s lunch” advice.

Why would I? We all know that packing your own lunch is a great way to reduce your spending instead of buying lunch from your favourite sandwich shop or café every day: that’s just common sense.

No, what I want to discuss today is a far more compelling reason to take last night’s dinner as lunch: your health.

“What’s Myles been sniffing today?” you may ask. “Everyone knows that fresh food is better than re-heated or microwaved food.”

And until yesterday I would have been 100% on your side. I am a big advocate of cooking from scratch and using fresh ingredients. Fresh meat, fresh fish and fresh vegetables all the way… they’re tastier, healthier and cheaper by far.

But according to a recent experiment, there is strong new evidence to suggest that reheated pasta is less fattening than fresh.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? The idea that you could pig out on lasagne whenever you like, but still manage to avoid packing on the pounds…

But I am intrigued to find out more. Aren’t you? I mean, who doesn’t love pasta?

When is a carb not a carb?

Okay, so we all know that pasta, along with other starchy foods like potatoes and rice, is a carbohydrate. And we know that carbs are converted to sugars in order for your body to use them as energy. And if you want to delve into the technical nitty-gritty, we can start talking about the way your body produces a flood of insulin to deal with sudden spike in your blood sugar, because too much sugar in your blood is extremely bad for your health.

As the article points out,

“That’s why dieticians emphasise the importance of eating foods that are rich in fibre, as these foods produce a much more gradual rise and fall in your blood sugars.”

But here’s the interesting thing…

Researchers at the University of Surrey did an experiment which seems to prove that cooking pasta, then cooling it down, makes your body treat it more like fibre: the carbohydrates are converted to something called “resistant starch” and it slows down your body’s ability to convert the carbs into sugar, thereby reducing the insulin spike and reducing your body’s need to store the sugar as fat.

Don’t tell me that’s not mind-blowing!

And even more interesting, if you cook the pasta, cool it down and then re-heat it, the effects are even more pronounced: re-heated pasta reduced the rise in blood glucose by 50% in the test subjects.

There is no mention of a further experiment using other sources of carbohydrate to see how those could be converted to resistant starch, but this one simple rule could be a massive bonus to weight-conscious individuals and diabetics worldwide: re-heat your food to reduce blood-sugar levels.

I hope the research doesn’t stop here. Just think what else the discovery might be applied to and consider how it could change people’s lives…

  • This experiment concentrated on pasta of course, but what about pizza?
  • Could you double-bake cakes and biscuits to reduce their fattening properties?
  • And surely there can be little doubt that the first person to come up with non-fattening beer would be a shoo-in for a Nobel Prize.

Clearly more research is necessary, but the miracle of non-fattening pizza and beer may be closer than we think…game-changer!

And now, by taking left-overs for lunch, you can legitimately claim that you’re looking after your waistline as well as living the frugal life and saving money.

* Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt