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Sugar, pasta, salt. Dark is really better? – Italian Cuisine


For centuries the most sought after foods were the white ones, considered the most refined. And in fact, never definition has been so apt as it is precisely the refining process that deprives them of the most "coarse" components (such as bran or some minerals) modifying their color and nutritional value. The association of values ​​between the light color of food and refinement continues today, but in the opposite sense: just when "refined" food is considered unhealthy. Therefore, the white from positive and "noble" has passed to be considered negative and "poor". And, on the contrary, dark foods are today considered naturally rich and healthier. But is it really (and always) like that?

Dark does not mean "integral"

The fact that a food is dark in color is no guarantee that it is healthier or less manipulated, nor richer in terms of nutritional content. It could be so in nature (like raw sugar) or it could be a "complete false", that is a food made with refined flour and then enriched with bran or fibers. In addition there are "wholewheat" foods that are clear in color, such as oatmeal. Then, if you want to be sure of buying an "integral" food, do not limit yourself to the images you find on the packaging or to the color: look for the product definition, which is indicated before the list of ingredients, and verify that it shows the word "integral".

Salt, refined or whole

The white salt that is on the market is sodium chloride, obtained from the evaporation of sea water or extracted from the mines of rock salt. In both cases, before being packaged, it must be purified with washes in water and then refined to eliminate the other salts it contains until only almost pure sodium chloride remains. To whom substances are added that prevent the crystals from sticking to each other (such as sodium or potassium ferrocyanide additives, indicated respectively with the abbreviations E535 and E536).
therefore, the refined salt is pure sodium chloride, without other minerals or trace elements, in particular if it is salt of rock salt. In fact, there is a type with 99% minimum sodium chloride, a percentage well above that of sea salt: it is the salt of the "pure" type, the driest, crystalline and selected.
instead the whole salt it does not undergo any treatment and is not refined. Therefore, in addition to sodium chloride, preserves the other minerals and trace elements it contains in nature. It is usually not added with antiplatelet agents and therefore, often, appears more humid and forms lumps more easily.

Sugar: white or brown?

To make it white, sugar (technically it is sucrose) comes subjected to numerous treatments: first it is purified, then bleached with sulfur dioxide and then concentrated. To make it more pure, it is then filtered with charcoal and then bleached with hydrosulphite. Finally, crystallization is carried out, to obtain smaller crystals of more regular size, and sometimes a second coloring is applied to make the product more attractive and eliminate any yellow veins left in the sugar.
Better then a dark sugar? It depends. If it is "raw" sugar, it is not really a "wholemeal" product, but simply a partially refined sugar, where the differences in color and flavor are due to the traces of molasses, present in very minimal quantities and not significant in terms of nutritional intake. In some cases to darken it is added with coloring: caramel (E150 c).
Another thing is "integral" sugar: it is boiled and then dried, and during this process it naturally aggregates into granules of heterogeneous size. Here because it never presents itself in crystals, but in grains or in powder form. Moreover, the fact that it does not undergo any refining process keeps its nutritional value unaltered.
In reality, whole and raw sugar have just a little more minerals, vitamins and enzymes, but, given the recommended quantities of consumption, they are irrelevant. The most significant difference is another: raw and integral sugar contain less sucrose and more molasses. And this makes them darker and more aromatic and, in the case of cane, even less sweet than refined sugar.

Pasta: normal or whole

Refined carbohydrates, like those found in "normal" pasta or white bread, raise the level of sugar in the blood and this causes a peak of insulin. In parallel i intestinal bacteria produce inflammatory compounds. Result: regular consumption of "refined" pasta or bread shifts the metabolism. It triggers triglycerides and body fat accumulates.
instead whole wheat pasta has a better impact on the body because it is obtained from durum wheat or other cereals (such as rye or spelled) processed without refining processes, and then complete with all their parts, including the outer one, where the fibers are concentrated. For this the wholemeal pasta maintains all nutritional properties of the cereal from which it is obtained.
In particular, in the case of whole wheat pasta (ie the typical Italian one) also contains more minerals, vitamins (especially group B and E) and tryptophan, an amino acid that stimulates the synthesis of serotonin. This is why wholemeal pasta does not help only the intestinal regularity but favors good mood too.
And then it is also ideal when you are on a diet: in fact, in addition to being a little less calories of the other pastas, being rich in fibers, the wholemeal pasta Satisfy much more and it lowers the glycemic index of the meal, exercising a control on the insulin that helps not to get fat.

Manuela Soressi
December 2018

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