For many, a lotta pasta is key to ability to keep on going

Carbo-loading still the norm

3rd annual baltimore marathon

October 16, 2003|By Sarah Schaffer

In recent years, dozens of newfangled diets, including the Atkins plan, have warned Americans about carbohydrates.

The hype has caused many diet-conscious folks to limit their daily intake of starchy foods. But carbs are an important - and necessary - part of a healthy diet.

The compounds "provide much-needed vitamins and minerals and folate, in particular," said American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Noralyn Wilson. They also supply energy, she added.

In fact, many marathon runners and other hard-training athletes eat large amounts of carbohydrates - a practice called "loading" - just prior to a big event.

"It gives them better performance from an endurance perspective ... to be able to do the activity for a longer period of time," Wilson said.

So take a look at how a marathoner's carb-laden pasta dinner stacks up to other common foods: One large serving of pasta (three cups of cooked spaghetti and a ladle of sauce) has more than 125 grams of carbohydrates. To get the same amount of carbs, you'd have to eat one of the following:

752 oil-roasted peanuts

223 hard-boiled eggs

18 full-sized carrots

11 cups of 2 percent milk

8 1/2 slices of white bread

5 1/2 cups of oatmeal

4 large bananas

1 1/2 large baked potatoes (flesh and skin)

Information was gathered from the United States Department of Agriculture's online National Nutrient Database. For more information on the nutritional content of more than 6,000 foods, visit www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/

A pre-marathon pasta party will be held at various restaurants in Little Italy. A list of participating establishments will be available at the Health and Fitness Expo. Tickets for the dinner are $15 for runners and $20 for all others.

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