Pasta has been around for centuries and is universally loved. However, due to its high carb content, pasta often finds itself on the list of restricted foods for weight watchers. Life with no pasta at all is almost too painful to imagine and so we started finding ‘healthier alternatives’ to pasta. These pastas were not really pasta at all, but were supposed to be healthier and lower in calories than regular refined wheat pastas. But are these fake pastas actually better for you than the real thing? And are they more weight-loss friendly than actual pasta?
Spiralized Vegetable Pastas
Veggie pastas are one of the most popular pasta alternatives today. Vegetables like sweet potato, cucumbers and especially zucchini are spiralized into thin, noodle-like strands which are either eaten raw or light sauteed. This vegetable spaghetti is then tossed with pasta sauce the same way you would with normal pasta. Veggie pasta is undoubtedly healthier than actual pasta because the vegetables used contain more nutrients and antioxidants than wheat pasta. Zucchini especially is very low in calories because it’s mostly water. However, the drawback to veggie pasta is that while it looks like actual spaghetti, it tastes nothing like it. The new taste might take some getting used to, but you might even start liking it better than the real thing once you do. Veggie pasta will also require you to invest in a spiralizer which can be expensive. However, it’s a one-time investment which will actually save you money in the long run.
Bean Flour Pasta
Bean flour pasta uses flour made from chickpeas, black beans or lentils in the place of refined wheat. This bean flour is either mixed with a thickening agent like xanthan or with just plain water to make a pasta-like dough. Bean flour pasta is very versatile and is found in almost every pasta variation: spaghetti, farfalle, you name it. Bean flour pasta has a lot more fiber than refined wheat pasta, which gives it a lower glycemic index. The fiber in bean flour pasta also means you’ll need to eat a lot less in order to feel full. Because beans are naturally very high in protein, pasta made from bean flour has almost 4 times the amount of protein as regular pasta. If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, bean flour pasta is a perfect alternative because it’s gluten-free. However, while it’s more nutritious than regular pasta, bean flour pasta doesn’t differ much in terms of calories. If you’re on a strict calorie-restriction diet, bean flour pasta might be too high-calorie for you.
Vegetable Flavored Pasta
Unlike veggie pasta which are actual vegetables used in the place of pasta, veggie flavored pasta is pureed vegetables mixed with regular pasta dough. Popular veggie flavored pastas are spinach and tomato, which are very distinctive looking because of their bright colors. Eating veggie flavored pasta might make you feel like you’re getting all the nutrients of the vegetable, but don’t be fooled. Usually too little of the vegetable is added in the pasta dough to actually make any difference to its nutritional profile. Since the vegetable in the pasta is dehydrated and stored for a long time, even what little nutrition is in it might get lost. If you like eating colorful pasta, then veggie flavored pastas are good enough. However, if you want actual nutrition, they’re really not worth it.
Should You Give Up Real Pasta?
Pasta has been around for ages, the obesity epidemic has not. In fact, Italy which naturally consumes the most pasta has much lower obesity rates than America. Clearly, pasta in itself is not a huge factor in weight gain. However, the way you eat your pasta does make a big difference. If you love a creamy Alfredo sauce, you’re going to be packing on the calories and putting your heart health in jeopardy. Try to stay away from cheese-based pasta sauces and opt for lighter variations of pasta instead. A traditional red sauce pasta is low in calories and high in antioxidants. Aglio olio is also very healthy because it contains heart-friendly monounsaturated fats as opposed to the saturated fats found in cheese sauces.