Pasta gets a bad reputation with diet culture, mainly because of its high levels of carbohydrates. Because of this, food companies have put out several different versions of pasta and pasta replacements. This can make food shopping confusing and overwhelming! Hopefully this post will help provide some insight into the different types of pasta available.
Though WHITE pasta is not included in this list, it is ok to have. Every once in a while there will come a time where a recipe just works better with a white pasta. And there will be some days where you just don’t feel like having a whole grain or bean based pasta. That’s ok! Part of the reason why we don’t love white pasta by itself is because of its fairly low protein and fiber content. This means that your white pasta and sauce, though tasty, won’t keep you full for very long. This can lead to increased snacking or cravings later at night.We recommend pairing it with a source of protein and veggies to help keep you full and satisfied.
We’ve listed some chickpea, lentil based, and whole grain options that all mean more fiber and protein! This means that these choices will be much more filling than their white counterparts.Try a variety to see what you like.
Whole-grain pasta means that the wheat used contains the bran, germ and endosperm. It is typically high in fiber, manganese, selenium, copper and phosphorus. Refined white pasta has had the bran and germ removed, leaving only the soft endosperm. Although this results in a softer pasta product, it means that several micronutrients are removed during processing and is often enriched to add those micronutrients back in. That’s why refined white pasta tends to be higher in iron and B vitamins.
Beans, lentils, edamame, and chickpeas can be counted as either vegetables or protein sources. So it’s no surprise that pastas made with any one of these are packed with protein. Some of these bean-based pastas provide as much as 25 g protein in each 2-oz serving. Bean-, lentil-, edamame-, and chickpea-based pastas also are much higher in fiber and can provide as much as 50% of the recommended fiber intake of 25 g/day. Like whole wheat pastas and most other alternative pastas, they aren’t fortified with B vitamins and iron. Like traditional durum wheat pastas, bean-based pastas are convenient and easy to prepare. They’re great to have on hand for quick and easy meals. Each product provides its own cooking instructions, which are usually similar to those for traditional pastas.
With the bean based pastas you will likely see vegetable based pastas – those made with spinach, parsley, kale, green peas, zucchini, or tomatoes, claiming to help you hit your veggie goal for the day. While the ingredient list will tell you the the vegetables the pasta is made from, they don’t always show how much of a given vegetable is included. In addition, some contain durum wheat flour like traditional pasta, while others don’t. A few things to keep in mind before you swap out your go-to pasta for a vegetable based one: The serving sizes needed to obtain a significant amount of vegetables can be as much as two to three times the standard (2 oz) serving size for pasta. Because vegetables typically are added to the products in the form of powders or purées, the fiber provided may be much less than what’s available in an equivalent amount of whole vegetables. The vegetables may also lose many of the beneficial nutritional properties of whole vegetables during processing, such as vitamins and minerals, in addition to fiber.
Another option for those who want to increase their vegetable intake is to opt for the real thing by using pasta replacements such as spiraled veggies, spaghetti squash, and hearts of palm. These contain a lot of fiber and water, which together, means more volume and less calories per serving. “Spiralizers” are great tools that turn raw vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, turnips, beets and sweet potatoes into vegetable noodles. These pasta replacements are an especially good option for someone who is eating gluten-free or who is watching their carbohydrate intake. These options are not shelf stable and have a fairly short shelf life (unless you opt for a frozen version).
Pasta is a dietary staple around the world but is typically high in carbohydrates. High-carb diets may raise blood sugar levels and have been associated with some negative effects on health. For this reason, it’s important to keep portion sizes in check and pick healthy additions to pair with your, such as vegetables, healthy fats and protein (if your pasta choice doesn’t already have a hearty serving). As with most food items, moderation is key. While you can enjoy it on occasion, it’s important to pair it with other nutritious foods and make sure it is just one component of an overall healthy diet.