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Weight Loss

MD Reveals the Protein Pasta Tip That’s Helping Women Over 50 Lose a Meno-Belly

Sneaking in more protein into your diet can pay big weight loss dividends — discover how here

What if one of your favorite comfort foods could actually help you lose weight? Sounds too good to be true, but it’s why protein pasta is one of the top nutrition trends on the internet. Delivering the same taste you already love, protein pasta has that little extra to “help really crush your weight-loss goals,” explains food blogger Bethany Faye, who lost 82 pounds eating the stuff. She personally favors baked ziti and shrimp Alfredo, but the possibilities are endless. And they’re all backed by science. University of Maryland nutrition pro Pamela Peeke, MD, notes that nutrients in protein pasta “make it easier for your body to burn fat.” And that’s especially true for those of us over age 50, the doctor adds. Want proof it works? Look no further than Anne Schoenfeld-Rodkin, who sped off 69 pounds at age 81 (her complete story below). Keep reading to learn how protein pasta is good for weight loss, ways real women use it to maximize results — and to see if protein pasta can help you.

What is protein pasta?

Protein pastas typically use flour made from beans and peas to replace some or all of the empty-calorie white flour in traditional pasta. Popular brands include Barilla Protein Plus, Carba Nada and Banza. Texture varies among the options, but taste testers say they’re all pleasantly chewy, filling and have a “warm hug” quality to deeply satisfy comfort-food cravings.

Even more impressive? Protein pasta has up to double the protein, four times the fiber and half the net carbs of regular pasta. How does it compare to whole-wheat pasta? While whole-wheat noodles do have more nutrients than white-flour varieties, protein pastas typically have more protein and often even more fiber than whole-wheat options.

Is protein pasta good for weight loss?

When we replace a high-carb or high-fat option with one that’s high in protein like upgraded pasta, our body burns far more calories to break down the food, says Dr. Peeke. It’s called the thermogenic effect. Studies show the thermogenic effect of burning protein can help triple calorie burn compared to when we eat carbs and temporarily boosts metabolism by up to 900% compared to when we eat fatty foods. And that’s not the only way protein pasta is good for weight loss:

1. Protein dials down cravings

Without enough dietary protein, we can’t grow, heal or even maintain our own cells, so our body doesn’t signal true relief from hunger and cravings until our protein needs are met. A University of Washington study found that simply emphasizing protein helps us to spontaneously consume 494 fewer calories per day

RELATED: Proffee: The Delicious Breakfast Helping Women Over 60 Lose Weight Effortlessly

2. Protein speeds the burning of belly fat

Also worth noting: Protein helps blunt or entirely block blood-sugar spikes and crashes that are typical after a bowl of noodles or any lower-protein starchy meal. Steady blood sugar not only helps prevent cravings, it can also trigger slimming shifts in our body chemistry. Specifically, it lowers levels of insulin, a hormone that tends to store excess sugar in our abdominal fat cells. A recent study even found that when prediabetic women ages 40 to 60 were coached to eat protein first, they lost far more weight and doubled their rate of belly-fat loss versus a group on a traditional diet.

RELATED: Extra Protein in Your First Meal of the Day Is the *Best* Way to Fire Up Metabolism

How protein pasta helps women over 50

Exciting new research hints that the plant protein used to enrich protein pasta actually heals wear and tear to mitochondria, the little ‘furnaces’ in our cells. “This offsets age-related metabolic disturbances,” says study head Hana Kahleova, MD. (Click through for the best vegan protein powders for women.)

And in one Italian study, getting more plant protein helped postmenopausal dieters end up with a faster metabolism and greater weight loss than dieters many years their junior, according to lead researcher Maura Lombardo, MD, of San Raffaele Open University in Rome. Translation: If we focus on getting more protein from foods like protein pasta, we can start burning fat like we did as kids. Dr. Lombardo says more research is needed to explain the phenomenon — but there’s no need to wait.

The twist that makes weight loss almost automatic

Flour from beans and peas doesn’t just load pasta with protein, it also adds a big hit of resistant starch, a fiber-like compound the body struggles to break down. Resistant starch lingers in the gastrointestinal tract, releasing fatty acids that help ignite fat burning, increasing fat burn significantly for 24 hours. Resistant starch also has a unique ability to stabilize blood sugar for days after we eat it, and, over time, can improve insulin function by 898% and shift body chemistry in favor of effortless weight loss. 

The stuff is so powerful, “studies show just one serving a day can make a difference,” reveals Metabolism Reset Diet author Alan Christianson, NMD. Switch from processed junk to protein pasta dishes, “and the impact can be huge.”  (Click through to learn more about resistant starch.)

How much protein pasta to get the most benefits

No one is saying you can binge on protein pasta and still get lean. Rather, calorie for calorie, protein pasta can make it quicker and easier to get to your goals. That’s especially true if you add healthy, protein-rich toppings like turkey meatballs or cottage cheese–based ‘Alfredo’ sauce (scroll down for recipe below).

So how much should you eat? Experts suggest using protein pasta to help you get about 100 grams of protein and 30 grams of fiber a day. For best results, use a program like WeightWatchers or a free app like Cronometer to hit these goals while keeping portions healthy. (Click through to discover more about how much protein women need.)

Protein pasta for weight loss success: Bethany Faye lost 82 lbs 

After Bethany Faye and her husband, Brandon, got sick of the keto diet, they decided to try WeightWatchers. “I heard about protein pasta on YouTube,” recalls Bethany, who struggles with a slow thyroid, fibromyalgia and other health issues. Realizing protein pasta would let her make big meals for relatively few points, she experimented with Barilla Protein Plus and Carba Nada brands. “I noticed I felt really satisfied with a smaller portion.” And saving points at meals meant more leeway to splurge at favorite restaurants — another key way protein pasta kept her from feeling deprived.

“Most people ask if it can be substituted in regular pasta dishes. It can!” Tip: If you’re using Banza or a brand that’s mostly bean or pea flour, test often during cooking and remove from heat as soon as it’s done to avoid mushiness. 

As Bethany added more protein pasta dishes to her menus, she shrunk from a size 26 to a 12. Her husband lost over 70 pounds too. “My joint pain is so much better now and my liver enzymes are normal for the first time.”

Protein pasta for weight loss before and after: Anne Rodkin, 81

before and after photos of Anne Rodkin who dropped 69 lbs at age 81 with the help of protein pasta for weight loss
Mark Peterman, Getty

After losing several friends on 9/11, former New Yorker Anne Schoenfeld-Rodkin relied heavily on comfort food to cope. She tried diets as her weight crept up. “I didn’t like them,” she recalls. As years passed, her back pain became hard to bear. So on a whim, she rejoined WeightWatchers and discovered protein pasta. 

Why did it help so much? “I need my carbs, but I’m a volume eater and regular pasta is too many points.” Carba Nada brand has just 2 points per cup. Experimenting with pasta salads and skillet meals from ThePoundDropper.com, “I haven’t tried one I didn’t like!” raves Anne. Her favorite is Easy Chicken and Turkey Skillet Pot Pie Skillet Pasta. She often made big batches and portioned them out to eat all week, shedding 69 pounds in the process. “At 81, I look better than ever,” she says. “More important, I feel 100% better!” 

Easy protein pasta recipe ideas

For the ultimate lazy dinner, just top protein pasta with a healthy jarred sauce and some Parmesan. Or try one of these no-fuss and delicious ways to dress your pasta up:

1. Spinach-Parm Spaghetti

Bowl of spinach-parmesan spaghetti made with protein pasta for weight loss
luchezar/Getty

Over medium heat, sauté  2 tsp. garlic in 3 Tbs. olive oil until golden. Stir in 4 cups spinach, 4 cups cooked pasta, 1 cup peas, ⅓ cup broth and ½ cup Parmesan. Heat through and enjoy.

2. Easy Protein Alfredo

Alfred protein pasta
EzumeImages/Getty

In blender, blitz 2 cups cottage cheese, ½ cup Parmesan, garlic salt and pepper to taste. Toss with 8 cups hot cooked pasta. (Click through to learn more about how to make high-protein cottage cheese pasta sauce.)

3. Weeknight Ziti Bake

Casserole of baked ziti made with protein pasta for weight loss
Dar1930/Getty

Mix 6 cups cooked ziti, 24 oz. meat sauce and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with more cheese. Bake at 350ºF for 20 minutes.

Bonus recipe: Protein-boosted mac’ n’ cheese

Bowl of macaroni and cheese made with protein pasta for weight loss
Haris Calkic/Getty

This powered-up crowd-pleaser is courtesy of ThePoundDropper.com.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1 lb. uncooked Barilla Plus Elbow Pasta
  • 1 cup cheese dip, such as Tostitos Smooth and Cheesy 
  • ½ cup Velveeta Shreds 

Directions:

  1. In large pot, bring broth, garlic powder and dash salt and pepper to a boil. Add pasta and cook per package directions. Drain pasta. 
  2. Add dip and Velveeta; stir until well combined. Serves 8

For more on the health and weight-loss benefits of protein, click through:

Protein Brownies: Women Over 50 Are Eating Them for Breakfast and Losing 100+ Lbs

Study Shows a High Protein Diet Aids In Losing Body Fat and Improving Bone Density

Top Doc Shares the Forgotten High-Protein Foods Helping Women over 50 Lose Weight

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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