For many people, pasta is a food that is associated with fitness. Most dishes which contain it also contain lots of tomato, onions and herbs, and endurance athletes traditionally fill up on pasta before big races. If athletes eat it, then it has to be good, right?

Sadly, pasta, like any other grain-based food, is not particularly good for you. In fact, it could be harming your digestive system, and contributing to weight gain. There’s a reason that grains are discouraged under the Paleo diet.

The Dangers of Grains

White starchy foods are bad for you because they have a high glycemic index, are calorie-dense and contain very little in the way of fibre and nutrients. All you’re doing is consuming calories that spike your insulin levels and offer no value to your body.

Humans did not evolve to eat grains, at least not in the quantities that we eat them today. Our ancestors, the people who inspired the Paleo diet, were hunter-gatherers. They would eat fish, meat, berries, nuts and whatever vegetables they could gather. They didn’t stay in one place long enough to grow, harvest and prepare grains.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors got enough nutrients from the foods that they collected, so they didn’t need to eat grains. In fact, eating grains would be counter-productive for them because these calorie-dense foods contain phytates that hamper the absorption of certain essential minerals. They also contain lectins, a substance which makes your gut more permeable and can cause your immune system to start attacking your body. Not everyone experiences severe side effects from eating grains, but gluten intolerance is surprisingly common. According to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic, one in a hundred people suffers from celiac disease, and the number of people with mild gluten intolerance is far higher. Most of those people go undiagnosed, but the effects of repeated exposure to gluten through a typical Western diet can be quite debilitating, leading to everything from skin conditions to Multiple Sclerosis.

Going Gluten-Free

IF you want something that has the same filling, stodgy taste as normal pastas, but without the gluten and carbs, why not try Konjaku noodles or Shirataki noodles? These noodles are low in calories and carbohydrates, gluten-free and high in fibre. What’s more, they aren’t made from grains, so they fit into the Paleo diet quite well. They’re made out of yam flour from the konnyaku imo tuber, but they taste just as good as normal flour-based offerings.

The Paleo diet advocates eating the foods that your caveman ancestors would have enjoyed. The thought of giving up ravioli, spaghetti and other nice treats might be depressing at first, but there are alternatives. Swapping traditional products for gluten-free offerings is a good start, and exploring Paleo-friendly recipes that use other kinds of flour can yield impressive results. Once you cut out the grains, sugars and artificial ingredients that you have been eating for decades, you’ll be amazed how good you feel and how quickly your cravings melt away.