Year after year, time and time again, researchers and nutritionists have called refined carbohydrates out on their tendency to increase our risks of obesity, diabetes, heart stroke, so on and so forth.1 2 3 This has left pasta-lovers from around the world in a nutritional quandary as they stare glumly at the various whole grain options their supermarket has to offer.
No doubt, it is hard to break up with refined carbs, because we think their healthier counterparts will taste like cardboard. Opting for healthy noodles is also an option, but then again, they could be too chewy and dense and that would never do.
But take heart, for unknown to you, there are plenty of pasta options that promise to not ruin the flavors and textures of your meal while being good for your health at the same time! Here’s the list you need for your next supermarket visit.
1. Whole Wheat Pasta
The most basic and traditional alternative to refined pasta, whole-wheat pasta is a fantastic option for those of us who are looking to up our fiber and protein intake. Unlike in the case of pasta made of refined carbs, the flour used to make whole grain pasta is not stripped of all its essential nutrients during the milling process. This kind of flour is also linked to a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even some forms of cancer.4
However, keep in mind that a lot of products may say that they’re made of whole wheat but still contain refined grains. Therefore, check the ingredients’ list carefully and make sure what you’re buying is 100 percent whole wheat. Another word of caution; this kind of pasta is not gluten-free, hence is totally off-limits for people who have a gluten sensitivity or a celiac disease.
2. Quinoa Pasta
Quinoa is technically a seed that can be ground into flour which can then be used to make breads and pastas. For this reason, most people consider it as a grain. Quinoa pasta is loaded with protein, more than you can find in pasta made of any other kind of flour. This type of pasta is also extremely rich in essential minerals like iron and magnesium. This gluten-free variety of pasta also brings down your blood sugar levels and helps keep your insulin and triglyceride levels stable, which makes this a great choice for those with celiac disease or gluten allergies.5
However, once again, plenty of food manufacturers have used the quinoa hype to capitalize on, shamelessly labeling their boxes as quinoa pasta when in reality, the contents are really made of rice or corn and just a hint of quinoa. So keep your eye out for the ingredients’ list at the back of the packaging. It should have just one food – and that is quinoa.
3. Spelt Pasta
Spelt is an “ancient grain.” This means its consumption dates back to thousands of years when the milling process wasn’t mechanized or complex enough to leave out the nutritional components of this grain. Because this process has remained intact, the grains are just as healthy as they used to be.
Pasta that’s made of spelt is high in fiber and protein, and completely free of wheat. However, being a relatively close cousin to wheat, it does contain gluten in moderate amounts. While this makes it a no-no for people with strict gluten allergies and celiac disease, it can still be a good option for those with low to moderate gluten intolerances.
When buying spelt pasta, you want to make sure the packaging specifically says “whole grain spelt” for there are some sneaky brands that sell refined in place of spelt.
4. Sprout-Grained Pasta
All sprouted-grained pastas are made of germinated grains that have split open and sprouted a tiny green shoot. This type of pasta packs in a powerful punch of B vitamins, fiber, and protein and a measly amount of carbohydrates as compared to the non-sprouted varieties. Consumption of this type of pasta almost never causes insulin spikes. Instead, it increases the levels of your satiety hormones, thus keeping you full and satisfied for longer. For this reason, it makes a good option for pasta lovers battling obesity and diabetes.6
5. Brown Rice Pasta
This type of pasta may not be more nutritious than the other kinds of alternative pastas available, but it is ideal for pasta lovers with severely restricted diets or food allergies. This gluten-less variety of pasta is also free of fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols – molecules that can be harmful to a person with irritable bowel syndrome.
|↑1||Sartorius, B., K. Sartorius, C. Aldous, T. E. Madiba, C. Stefan, and T. Noakes. “Carbohydrate intake, obesity, metabolic syndrome and cancer risk? A two-part systematic review and meta-analysis protocol to estimate attributability.” BMJ open 6, no. 1 (2016): e009301.|
|↑2||Yu, Danxia, Xiao-Ou Shu, Honglan Li, Yong-Bing Xiang, Gong Yang, Yu-Tang Gao, Wei Zheng, and Xianglan Zhang. “Dietary carbohydrates, refined grains, glycemic load, and risk of coronary heart disease in Chinese adults.” American journal of epidemiology 178, no. 10 (2013): 1542-1549.|
|↑3||Hu, Frank B. “Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat?.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 91, no. 6 (2010): 1541-1542.|
|↑4||Aune, Dagfinn, NaNa Keum, Edward Giovannucci, Lars T. Fadnes, Paolo Boffetta, Darren C. Greenwood, Serena Tonstad, Lars J. Vatten, Elio Riboli, and Teresa Norat. “Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.” bmj 353 (2016): i2716.|
|↑5||Graf, Brittany L., Patricio Rojas‐Silva, Leonel E. Rojo, Jose Delatorre‐Herrera, Manuel E. Baldeón, and Ilya Raskin. “Innovations in health value and functional food development of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.).” Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety 14, no. 4 (2015): 431-445.|
|↑6||Mofidi, Anita, Zachary M. Ferraro, Katherine A. Stewart, Hilary MF Tulk, Lindsay E. Robinson, Alison M. Duncan, and Terry E. Graham. “The acute impact of ingestion of sourdough and whole-grain breads on blood glucose, insulin, and incretins in overweight and obese men.” Journal of nutrition and metabolism 2012 (2012).|