Pasta has gotten a bad rap over the years for being unhealthy, which is why carb lovers everywhere rejoiced when brands started marketing whole wheat options. Whole grains are healthy, they reasoned, so that kind of pasta must be the answer to their eating-well dilemma.

But while the latter may be more nutrient-dense, the former sure does taste better.

So, do you really have to sacrifice flavor for health benefits? We tapped sports dietitian Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. to find out.

The Claim:

Whole wheat pasta is healthier than white pasta, because it’s packed with nutrients such as complex carbs, protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, and zinc. On the other hand, white pasta is made of refined carbs, meaning it has been stripped of many nutrients during its processing.

The Evidence:

Here’s how they stack up, nutrition-wise: One serving (2 ounces) of whole wheat pasta contains 180 calories, 39 grams of carbs, 8 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and minerals such as magnesium, iron, and zinc. One serving (2 ounces) of white pasta contains 200 calories, 42 grams of carbs, 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, some iron, but no magnesium, iron, or zinc.

So what does that mean, really? Refined grains have been shown to spike your blood sugar and insulin levels because they’re digested much more quickly than complex carbs. They’re also not as filling as complex carbs, so you may be more likely to overeat, which can lead to obesity and its associated diseases.

Complex carbs are your body’s main source of fuel on a ride—if you don’t get enough, there’s a good chance you’ll bonk. Protein helps build and repair your muscles, while fiber helps stabilize your blood sugar and keep your digestive system working the way it should. As for the minerals, magnesium maintains a healthy blood pressure and keeps your bones strong, iron gives you energy, and zinc helps boost your immune system and aids in healing any cuts or bruises you might have gotten on the road.

The Verdict:

While whole wheat pasta does have a bunch of legitimate health benefits, Rizzo says, there’s no point in forcing yourself to eat something you don’t like—and let’s be real, whole wheat pasta just doesn’t taste as good as white pasta does.

“If you want to eat white pasta, go for it, but pay attention to serving size,” she said in a phone call with Bicycling. “Most people probably should have two servings .”

As for the glycemic index argument? While it is true that refined grains like white pasta are considered higher on that scale, it actually might not mean as much as you think, Rizzo says.

“The glycemic index was first established as a way to help people with diabetes make food choices that are suited to their condition,” she explains. “Since need more carbs in their diet, having foods that are higher on the glycemic index isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Plus, the glycemic index of specific foods doesn’t take into account the real-world way people eat foods: in combination, not in isolation. You’re not eating a plain bowl of pasta and calling it a day—you’re probably topping it with sauce and eating a side or two with it.

The way you build a meal affects how quickly it will lead to a spike and fall in your blood sugar.

“Pairing a starchy carb with a protein, fat, and some fiber will actually regulate your blood sugar, meaning that you won’t experience an energy spike followed by a crash,” she says.

So if you think white pasta tastes a whole lot better, don’t worry: There are definitely ways you can incorporate it into a healthy diet. Don’t go overboard and serve up a heaping bowl every day, and also make sure you’re paying attention to what the rest of your meal is.
“You should balance it with protein, fat, and vegetables, rather than eating something like fettuccine alfredo that’s basically just butter and cream,” she says. Serve your pasta with some chicken, and load vegetables like zucchini on top, for instance.

Another important note: Whole wheat pasta may actually be a problematic choice if you’re carb-loading before a race. In that case, its extra fiber content might end up upsetting your stomach and causing GI distress, Rizzo says.

The bottom line? Follow the rule of moderation, and eat whichever type of pasta you damn well please.

“I personally think you shouldn’t totally avoid certain foods,” Rizzo says. “If you love pasta, you may not love other versions of it, and that’s okay.”

Danielle Zickl Associate Health & Fitness Editor Danielle specializes in interpreting and reporting the latest health research and also writes and edits in-depth service pieces about fitness, training, and nutrition.

Is Whole-Wheat Pasta Actually Healthier?

Choosing pasta is no longer just about the size and shape. Whether it’s fettuccini, rotini or good ol’ macaroni, white vs. wheat is the latest supermarket quandary (right along with paper vs. plastic). So is choosing whole worth it?

Nothing But the Wheat—Why It Matters

The main difference between white and whole wheat pasta lies in the processing. Whole wheat contains three parts of the grain—the bran (the grain’s outer layer), the germ (the sprouting section of the seed), and the endosperm (the large starchy center). But during the refining process, the heat is on—forcing the nutrient-rich bran and germ out of the grain, leaving just the endosperm behind. While the stripped-down white stuff boasts a longer shelf life, not to mention a cheaper price tag, it’s considered nutritionally weaker (even though the endosperm packs a fair share of protein, carbohydrates, iron, and B vitamins).New hypotheses for the health-protective mechanisms of whole-grain cereals: what is beyond fibre? Fardet, A. INRA, UMR 1019 Nutrition Humaine, Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France. Nutrition Research Reviews. 2010 Jun;23(1):65-134. Epub 2010 Jun 22.The botanical integrity of wheat products influences the gastric distention and satiety in healthy subjects. Hlebowicz, J., Lindstedt, S., Björgell, O., et al. Department of Medicine, University of Lund, Malmö University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden. Nutrition Journal. 2008 Apr 27;7:12.

Of course, the same rules apply when choosing in the bread aisle. Opting for whole wheat ensures the most nutritional benefits, including the bran and the germ’s vitamin E, major B vitamins, antioxidants, appetite-squashing fiber, protein, and healthy fats. But how often do we need the whole (wheat) enchilada? Several studies have shown that eating at least three servings of whole grains (a ½ cup of cooked whole wheat pasta counts as one serving) per day can reduce the risk of chronic health conditions like cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and digestive issues.Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis. Mellen, P.B, Walsh, T.F, Herrington, D.M. Department of Internal Medicine, Section of General Medicine, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, NC. Nutrition Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease. 2008 May;18(4):283-90. Epub 2007 Apr 20.Dietary fiber and whole-grain consumption in relation to colorectal cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Schatzkin, A., Mouw, T., Park, Y., et al. Division of Cancer Epidemiology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, MDAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007 May;85(5):1353-60.Whole-grain consumption is associated with a reduced risk of noncardiovascular, noncancer death attributed to inflammatory diseases in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Jacobs, D.R Jr., Andersen, L.F., Blomhoff, R. Department of Nutrition, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007 Jun;85(6):1606-14.(Though, of course, these benefits can only be reaped by those without an allergy or intolerance to wheat.)

Pasta La Vista Baby—The Answer/Debate

Although some nutrients, including iron and B vitamins, are often added back into white pasta to create an “enriched” product, these still can’t compete with the natural benefits of unrefined whole grains. Still, whole wheat pasta may take some time to catch on, so don’t expect to find the option on most restaurant menus (and forget about the more traditional Italian establishments).

Luckily most supermarkets stock a few whole wheat pasta options— just be sure to take a closer look at those nutrition labels. True whole wheat pasta will list 100 percent durum whole wheat flour as the first ingredient. And check the front of package for “100 percent whole wheat,” or the orange “Whole Grain” stamp.

Getting used to the taste and texture of whole wheat pasta may take a little time, thanks to its strong, nuttier flavor and more grainy consistency. But following the suggested cooking will ensure the noodles don’t get too gummy and start sticking together (no one wants a ball of pasta instead of a bowl of pasta). With the right sauce or topping, adding whole wheat pasta is an easy way to enjoy a healthy meal and sneak those whole grains onto the menu. Mangiamo!

Originally posted on October 10, 2011. Updated September 2012.

SOME PASTA BASICS…

Gluten-free, whole grain, tri-colored, zucchini, whole wheat, quinoa… There are a plethora of noodles out there but which one is the right one for you? What sounds healthy AND what actually is healthy?

Let’s explore the trendy ones, traditional ones, veggie ones and everything in between so that you can choose the best one for you and your family.

For the purposes of comparison, a 2oz portion of traditional white, dried pasta (spaghetti) will become a reference base:

  • Calories: 200
  • Carbohydrate: 41g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Allergens: wheat/gluten
  • Health/nutrient benefits? Fortified with iron and b vitamins
  • Pros? Most kids and adults enjoy this type of pasta.
  • Cons? Refined grain product- low in fiber and nutrients

One of the reasons traditional pasta is demonized is because it is often served in large portions, contributing to excessive carbohydrate at the meal. Because it is lacking in fiber compared to beans, starchy vegetables and whole grains, it can raise serum glucose (blood sugar) faster. When we think about appropriate portions, the Plate Method is the best visual for anyone to follow, including adults, teens and kids:

  • 50% colorful veggies and/or fruit
  • 25% high quality protein (animal or plant-based)
  • 25% complex carbohydrate

Remember that blood glucose is influenced by everything you eat at the meal, including fiber, protein and fat. That means that if you eat pasta with grilled chicken and vegetables, the protein and fiber slow the rise of blood sugar in comparison to eating a bowl of buttered noodles. Even the order you eat the different foods may affect how your blood glucose reacts (as discussed here).

So, what is the healthiest type of pasta to eat? No pasta fear mongering here! This article will give you the facts and creative ideas you need to make the best decisions for you and your family.

What does a 2oz portion of pasta look like?

A 2oz portion of spaghetti pasta is about 1 cup cooked. However it differs from ¾ cup to 1 ½ cups (cooked) depending on the shape and size. For example, 2oz of penne pasta is 1 ¼ cup cooked. Because most of us aren’t going to weigh out pasta before cooking, aim to keep cooked portions to about 1 cup. Barilla has a fantastic chart you can use to view portions for your prefered type of pasta. However, brands may differ slightly.

OODLES OF NOODLES

Gluten-Free Pasta

This is pasta that is entirely free of wheat, barley, rye, gluten and traces of gluten. Because GF pasta can be made with a variety of flours and starches, the nutrition value varies significantly among brands. One important point is that the gluten-free stamp does not indicate a superior product. It may or may not be made with whole grains. It may or may not be made with organic products.

For example, the Barilla Gluten Free Spaghetti noodles has the same calories as traditional pasta, less fiber (1 gram) and less protein (4 grams). Made with corn and rice flours, the nutritional value is actually inferior to regular pasta.

One thing that IS common among gluten free pastas is the price tag tends to be higher than for traditional pastas. Some gluten free store brands may offer a better value. If you or a family member requires a gluten free diet, pastas made from beans are an exceptional, nutrient rich option to consider. These are rich in iron and full of protein and fiber (see more about these pastas below).

However, if you have celiac disease, make sure you always look for the certified gluten free stamp on any pasta.

100% Whole Grain & Whole Wheat Pasta

When a pasta is identified as 100% whole grain or whole wheat, it confirms there are no refined grains included in this pasta. Most often these pastas are made with 100% whole grain durum wheat flour. Be careful because whole grain ‘blends’ may include some refined flours- always read the ingredient list. If a package says ‘wheat pasta’ it is traditional white pasta UNLESS the ingredients list only whole durum wheat. Remember white flour is wheat flour so the word ‘whole’ differentiates whole from refined.

Nutritionally, these 100% whole grain pastas have slightly lower calories (180) per 2oz portion. Many have an extra 1-2 grams of protein per serving but what makes these pastas even better is they naturally have more fiber (5-7 grams) and are rich in a variety of minerals (like manganese & zinc) as well as b vitamins. Most brands create a variety of shapes and sizes that are 100% whole grain making it easy to replace everything from spaghetti, mac’n’cheese and pasta-based soups with the whole grain version.

Zoodles Or Spiralized Veggie Noodles

The spiralized noodle craze has taken off! Zucchini, butternut squash, cucumber, carrots- the variations are vast! This is probably the single best way to lighten up a meal without reducing portions. While these vegetables won’t provide the protein boost you can get from some 100% whole grain and bean-based pastas, they are rich in nutrients, flavorful and all provide some fiber.

One medium zucchini provides 33 calories, 2 grams protein, 2 grams fiber and over 50% of your daily needs for vitamin C. About 1 cup of butternut squash will provide 63 calories, 1 gram protein, 3 grams fiber, 300% vitamin A and 50% vitamin C. Considering that many pasta meals don’t include enough veggies to follow the Plate Method, this is one easy and tasty way to do just that!

Most vegetables can be spiralized in less than 1 minute. Then just toss into a non-stick pan with 1 tsp of olive oil for 3-5 minutes to soften on medium-high heat. Learn a few more cooking techniques here. This is my favorite spiralizer to use at home.

Don’t be deceived, many “veggie pastas” with colorful noodles don’t have the same nutritional value as the actual vegetable itself. AND, most of these pastas are also made with refined wheat flour, keeping the fiber low (2 grams). The calories and protein remain similar to traditional pasta. While these pastas do contain some form of vegetable puree or a dehydrated version of the vegetable, the best way to get the most nutrition is eating the actual vegetable itself.

If you or your family are skeptical about trying spiralized zucchini, carrot, butternut squash (or other veggie) noodles, try a half and half approach. Include some spiralized vegetable noodles with your prefered pasta noodle in your pasta bowl.

Spaghetti Squash

No need to spiralize this vegetable- it grows with ‘spaghetti strands’ already attached!

This brightly colored gourd can be found year round in your local produce department. With only 30 calories per cup, spaghetti squash can help fill you up, especially on those hungry days! Learning exactly how to prep and cook it makes this an easy go-to meal topped with some marinara and parmesan. Cooking spaghetti squash is pretty fool-proof and it doesn’t get mushy if you overcook it. Find the best time saving cooking technique here.

Egg Noodles

Like their name describes, these are noodles made with eggs. While the egg contributes an extra gram of protein (8g), it also contributes 1-2 grams extra fat and 10-20 additional calories. Nutritionally, these are pretty similar to traditional pasta noodles in terms of vitamins, mineral, carbohydrates and fiber. Unless stated otherwise, these noodles are made with refined wheat flour.

One brand, No Yolks, produces noodles made with dried egg whites, keeping the calories and fat similar to traditional pasta. Some lasagna noodles, like these, have eggs in them, but others are egg free. Read ingredient lists, especially for those with an egg allergy.

Shirataki Noodles aka “Miracle Noodles”

Popular in some ‘low carb’ circles, these noodles make quite an impression, but it’s up to you to determine if it’s positive or negative. Made from the native Asian konjac plant, these noodles contain indigestible carbs (fiber) mixed with water and calcium hydroxide (an additive that holds the noodles together). Some brands include tofu (soybeans) as well. Depending on the ingredients, these noodles boast 0-10 calories per serving. That’s right- ZERO.

However, they come in a fishy smelling liquid that turns many off before they even try them. The package instructions usually recommend rinsing them for several minutes in a colander under running water to remove any unappealing flavor or scent and some brands recommend blanching for a few minutes in boiling water. The time to prepare these isn’t any longer than traditional or most any other type of pasta noodles.

One thing to remember is that calories are not bad- they are energy, energy your body needs. If you are not consuming calories through noodles, it’s important to have other nourishing foods at the meal to supply your body with energy. If your body is signaling true hunger, giving it virtually zero calories will fill your stomach for a short time but then you be hungry…again…soon.

Curious about these noodles? You can find them in the refrigerated section of your grocery store where you find the tofu (sometimes in the produce department or ‘natural foods’ area).

Quinoa Pasta

Over the last decade quinoa has made quite an impression, going from a food that no one could pronounce to a staple item in most of our pantries. We know that quinoa is a seed that mimics the texture of a grain, but it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies don’t produce on their own, boosting its overall protein a bit (6 grams protein per ¼ cup dry).

Interestingly, this higher protein seed, when formed into pasta doesn’t boast the same nutritional value you might think. Often, quinoa pasta is blended with either brown rice, amaranth or corn flour. With 4-5 grams protein, 2 grams fiber and about 200 calories, it’s nutrition profile falls short when compared to whole grain or bean pasta.

Quinoa is gluten free (it’s a seed, not a grain) so a quinoa pasta blend may be a good option for those needing to avoid gluten or wheat. Don’t forget to look for the certified gluten free stamp if you have Celiac.

Black Bean, Lentil, Chickpea, Mung Bean, Edamame and Adzuki Bean Pasta

Beans have an exceptional nutrition profile boasting protein, fiber, iron, antioxidants, and a variety of minerals. These legumes are often overlooked on the dinner plate, but try out some bean based pasta and they might become a new favorite!

This edamame and mung bean pasta boasts 22 grams protein and 11 grams fiber per 2oz serving… all for about 200 calories! Most of these bean pastas will have 13-20+ grams protein per serving and an average of 10-15 grams of fiber. However, make sure to read the nutrition label. A few, like these Red Lentil Sedanini noodles only have 3 grams of fiber. Even so, they are still a great addition to your meal with 15% iron and 13 grams protein.

Bean pastas will vary in flavor and texture. Read the cooking instructions carefully and set your timer a few minutes short to test for doneness. Many of these noodles will get gummy if they get too soft so think ‘al dente’ when cooking with them. It was fun to play up “black noodles” (black bean pasta) and “red noodles” (red lentil pasta) with my daughter since we eat with our eyes. Most heavy sauces like marinara or alfredo can cover the bean flavor, but know that it probably won’t taste like traditional pasta.

Soba (Buckwheat) Noodles

Traditionally made from buckwheat flour, these Japanese noodles are often used in hot and cold dishes including soups and stir fries. Buckwheat adds a nutty flavor and grayish brown color but these noodles are otherwise, reminiscent of traditional spaghetti noodles.

Many common soba noodle brands you may find on the grocery store shelves will contain wheat flour (refined) AND buckwheat flour. The combination of these 2 (or more) flours determines the nutrition profile, which means it will vary from brand to brand. However, this brand made of 100% whole buckwheat flour has 6 grams protein and 3 grams fiber per 2oz serving along with a nice boost of the mineral manganese.

Because buckwheat is not wheat at all and does not contain gluten, these noodles may be a good option for those with Celiac or a wheat allergy/intolerance. Make sure to read the ingredients on the nutrition label and never assume gluten free status unless it is stamped with the symbol.

Brown Rice Noodles

Brown rice is a whole grain that is naturally gluten free. Similar to buckwheat, it is rich in manganese. An important part of healthy diet includes variety- this ensures consumption of a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Brown rice and brown rice pasta can be included as a part of a balanced meal.

Just because the label claims ‘brown rice’ does not mean it is 100% whole grain. Turn over the package and check out the ingredients. Sometimes white (refined) rice or other refined grains are included as well. Those brands that are 100% whole grain brown rice usually have 4-5 grams protein, 2-4 grams fiber and 200 calories per 2oz serving.

Sprouted Grain Pasta

Whole grains may pack a higher nutrient punch when they have been allowed to sprout (germinate). Research suggests that this process may make certain nutrients like amino acids (protein building blocks), folate and B vitamins as well as vitamin C more bioavailable. Essentially, your body might be able to absorb and use these nutrients better when sprouting has taken place. Therefore, sprouted grain pasta might be worth trying!

This common brand of sprouted grain spaghetti has 9 grams protein and 7 grams of fiber for 210 calories. Sprouted grain pasta may include several different types of whole grains including wheat, barley and millet along with some legumes like lentils and soybeans. Check labels for gluten free, but if it contains wheat, barley or rye, it is not.

BOTTOM LINE

There are dozens of types of noodle options in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Remember that ‘gluten free,’ ‘organic’ and other packaging claims does not automatically mean that the product is nutrient dense. The healthiest type of pasta to eat at your dinner table is the one that packs the most nutrients AND your family will actually eat. Packaged whole grain, sprouted grain and bean pastas are usually the highest in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Always read the ingredient list and glance at the nutrition facts to make sure that you are buying what you think you are buying.

If you have tried a brand before that you or your family didn’t prefer, try another brand as texture and flavor often varies. Mixing pastas containing higher nutritional value with traditional pasta is 1 way to help your family to adapt their taste buds to different products. And if you want a fun way to get more veggies into your noodle bowl or casserole, buy a spiralizer. These low calorie, nutrient dense ‘noodles’ will keep you creating fun, veggie packed meals in a matter of minutes. But regardless of which noodles you choose, keep the Plate Method in mind for balanced, satisfying meals that are yummy too!

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First, I would like to point out that these two versions of pasta are not mutually exclusive—it is very possible to purchase whole wheat pasta made with spinach! Whole wheat spinach bow ties, lasagna, spaghetti, and many other forms of pasta are available in many natural foods markets.

If I were forced to choose between refined wheat flour pasta that included spinach powder and 100% whole wheat pasta that did not include spinach powder, I would definitely choose the 100% whole wheat pasta since it is of higher nutritional value. The spinach pasta is likely to have a relatively small amount of freeze-dried spinach added to it, which makes it much different nutritionally than a common serving of spinach.

While there is nothing wrong with the addition of freeze-dried spinach to pasta, this feature of the pasta is not nearly as important as the quality of its wheat flour. One hundred percent whole wheat flours contain significantly higher amounts of more than a dozen nutrients when compared with refined wheat flours. The nutritional advantages of a whole grain product far outweigh the advantages of any added freeze-dried component. (Grains are no different than any other food in this respect. When in doubt, always head first for foods that are whole, fresh, unprocessed, and organically grown.) I would still remind you, however, that you could have the best of both worlds by choosing a 100% whole wheat pasta that also contains freeze-dried spinach.

Whether you’re braving the polar vortex, battling a winter cold, or deep into a post-breakup Netflix binge, there’s one food that’s guaranteed to make you feel a whole lot warmer and fuzzier: noodles. Clearly, the ultimate comfort dish is good for our emotional health, as anyone who’s inhaled a steamy bowl of ramen on a sub-zero day can attest. But is it just as beneficial from a nutritional perspective?

With fingers firmly crossed, I checked in with dietician Brooke Alpert, RD, to find out. Lucky for all of us, she had good news. “Noodles and pasta can be a healthy choice, depending on what they are made out of,” the dietician told me. (Phew!) Here are the healthy noodles she loves the most:

1. Kelp noodles

Kelp noodles received top marks from Alpert, as they’re rich in key minerals. “Kelp noodles have calcium and magnesium and, unlike traditional white flour pasta, will not cause a huge spike in your blood sugar,” she explains. This gluten-free seaweed noodle (made from the powdered flesh of kelp) is often served raw, but it’s just as delish as a base for pad Thai and pho.

2. Shirataki noodles

Alpert’s also a fan of high-fiber, gluten-free shirataki noodles—another A+ option for homemade pad Thai—which are made from yam flour. (Tituss Burgess is another shirataki lover, although his go-to option is made with tofu and yam.)

3. Mung bean pasta

If you’re more into Italian-style noodles, Alpert recommends trying mung bean pasta, AKA glass noodles. “They have a similar texture to traditional white flour pasta, but are high in plant-based protein, iron, and zinc,” she says. (They’re also safe for those who can’t eat gluten.) This is an especially great choice when you’re feeling sick, as zinc can help boost the immune system.

What about other kinds of noodles, like ramen, udon, or Italian-style pasta?

Alas, wheat-based noodles may be delicious, but probably aren’t the best pick if you’re looking for a nutrient-dense dish, says Alpert. “Noodles made from refined white flour offer the least nutritional value compared to other varieties,” she explains. “They are high in calories, low in fiber, and do not have the additional nutrients that other alternatives offer.”

Rice noodles are a similar story, although they are gluten-free, whereas the others aren’t. Soba noodles, made from buckwheat, are slightly better—they offer more protein and fiber than their white flour counterparts, and they can be gluten-free (although they’re sometimes made with wheat flour, so check the package.)

Anything else I should know about making my noodle bowl a little bit healthier?

First, try not to go too crazy with your serving size, says Alpert. (A tough ask, I know.) “A portion size of your fist—which also includes any additional veggies or protein you add—is a good portion size for pasta,” she says. “If you are cooking at home, consider what the pasta looks like raw versus cooked. You need far less raw pasta than you might think!”

Also, consider the fact that what’s on your noodles is just as important as what’s in them. Alpert recommends making noodle soups with bone broth, as you’ll be getting all the skin-boosting benefits of collagen. If you’re opting for a stir-fry or pasta dish, she suggests loading it up with lean protein and veggies to make it a more complete meal. (Make sure you’re using healthy cooking oils, while you’re at it.)

That said, every so often a super-salty noodle dish from your local take-out spot is exactly what you need to feel nourished on a soul level. So if that’s the case, I personally say slurp away. Everything in moderation, right?

Chicken soup is a legit salve for when you’re sick—science says so. And if veggie noodles are more your speed, try this recipe for turmeric zoodles with cilantro tahini. (*Drool*)

While all pasta can be healthy, some noodles are more nutritious than others — and trendy chickpea pasta is legitimately an excellent choice. Popular brands like Banza and Barilla can vary ever so slightly in ingredients, taste, and nutrition, but on the whole these products are a smart and filling meal no matter which one you’re making.

Here’s all the info you need to know before you pick up a box for dinner tonight:

Banza Chickpea Pasta (Pack of 6) amazon.com

Is chickpea pasta actually good for you?

Yes! Chickpeas themselves are plant-based powerhouses chock-full of both protein and fiber — up to 8 grams of each per ½ cup serving. Plus, they’re a sustainable food source along with other pulses like beans, peas, and lentils.

Chickpea pasta also deserves all of the public recognition it can get. Compared to traditional wheat-based pasta, a traditional 2-ounce serving size has slightly less calories, double the fiber, and up to double the protein, depending on the brand. Also, many versions are naturally gluten-free.

It may have some cost-saving benefits, too, since you won’t need to buy an extra protein (like beef or chicken) to get dinner on the table. While traditional pasta also provides plant-based protein and fiber, chickpea pastas also have greater amounts of iron and potassium — two key minerals crucial for circulation.

Is chickpea pasta low carb?

A serving of chickpea pasta has between 30-35 grams total carbs, which is up to 40% less than traditional versions. One cup of cooked wheat-based pasta serving has about 35-45 grams of carbs. The difference depends on the type of pasta and the specific flour blend.

Chickpea Pasta Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 2 ounces Barilla Chickpea Rotini

  • Calories: 190
  • Total Carbs: 34g
  • Total Fiber: 8g
  • Protein: 11g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5g
  • Iron: 15% DV
  • Potassium: 15% DV

Regular Pasta Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 2 ounces Barilla Regular Rotini

  • Calories: 200
  • Total Carbs: 42g
  • Total Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Iron: 10% DV
  • Potassium: 2% DV

Is chickpea pasta good for weight loss?

Chickpea pasta is both tasty and filling, which makes it great for weight management and weight loss. With regular pasta, our tendency is to wolf it down since it’s not so filled with fiber or protein on its own, but chickpea pasta has more of both.

I’d still urge you to go slow on the legume linguine, though. If you’re not used to the fiber-filled flour, the higher amounts can cause bloating and discomfort if there’s not enough water to help ’em along. You’ll want to drink a little extra H2O that day and during your chickpea-fueled meal just in case.

Is chickpea pasta good for diabetics?

KarpenkovDenisGetty Images

Yes, compared to traditional pasta, it’s a lower-glycemic choice for anyone looking to get better at managing blood sugar. The glycemic index refers to how the product will affect your blood sugar on its own. The combo of protein and fiber found in these little legumes helps slow down digestion, and therefore provides a more stable rise in blood sugar post-meal.

That said, if you’re dousing your pasta bowl in sweetened sauce or dumping “glazed” (code for sugary!) shrimp or chicken on top, you may experience a greater spike after eating.

What’s the healthiest pasta?

CALLING ALL PASTA LOVERS

Pastas made with just legumes are your go-to choice. Look for just “chickpea flour” or “chickpeas” on the ingredients list, like Barilla’s latest version, or opt for ones that use another flour made from peas or beans to add more fiber and protein.

For example, Banza’s version with pea protein isolate has 14 grams of protein per serving compared to Barilla’s 11 grams per serving. Some chickpea pastas also use other lentil flour and/or brown rice flour for texture or flavor purposes, like Pow! Pasta Chickpea Elbows and Explore Cuisine Chickpea Fusilli.

When it comes to all-in-one frozen meals with chickpea pasta, aim for under 500mg of sodium per serving. And by serving, what I mean is the amount you intend on actually eating. Being realistic with yourself is the best way to know where and how to begin a pasta project. If you really need to cut back on sodium, then you’re better off using a dry pasta without added flavors.

The Best Chickpea Pasta You Can Buy

Chickpea Pasta Variety Pack (6 Pack) Banza amazon.com $16.49 Organic Chickpea Fusilli (6 Pack) Explore Cuisine amazon.com $26.99 Organic Chickpea Penne Pasta (6 Pack) Tolerant amazon.com $23.94 Chickpea Rotini (10 Pack) Barilla amazon.com $24.80

How to Make Chickpea Pasta

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These quick cooking tips will maximize nutritional quality, boost flavor, and make chickpea pasta a money-saving meal you can prep and make in minutes.

1. Cook for 6 minutes.

Al dente pasta gets digested more slowly for sustained energy, but the chickpea kind may have a shorter cooking time than what you’re used to. You can follow the directions on the box or bag, but in my opinion, chickpea pastas taste best after boiling for six minutes.

2. Season with herbs, spices, and olive oil.

To maximize taste without sacrificing on nutrition, flavor with extra virgin olive oil, herbs, spices, and sea salt. You don’t need to add protein from seafood or meat, but you can use some if you’re opting for a bigger meal. Vegetarians, sprinkle on a combo of cheeses like part-skim ricotta and shaved parmesan to avoid overloading on total calories or sodium.

3. When in doubt, add more vegetables.

This will make your pasta dish a touch lighter so you won’t feel super stuffed after you eat — especially if you’re also adding meat or seafood.

My pro tip: Double up on the veggie serving you’d normally have, and cut the pasta in half or by a third. You’ll keep the flavor, add extra fiber, and generally max out on nutritional quality without ever noticing the difference.

To get your veggies in, keep frozen, fresh, and canned versions of your favorites on-hand to add to any meal, any time. Sauté sides and add ’em to your plate, stir them into sauce, or mix chickpea pasta with with zoodles to bulk up the finished product.

Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Good Housekeeping Institute Director, Nutrition Lab A registered dietitian with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, Jaclyn “Jackie” London handles all of Good Housekeeping’s nutrition-related content, testing, and evaluation.

I tried pasta made from chickpeas that has half the carbs of regular wheat noodles — and this stuff is the real deal

Banza Instagram

  • Banza noodles are pasta noodles made from chickpeas.
  • They taste like the real deal but have 25g of protein, 13g of fiber, and 40% fewer net carbs than traditional pasta.
  • I try to eat healthy when possible but am not committed enough to sacrifice taste. Banza noodles are so good, though, that they’re all I buy. I prefer them to whole wheat noodles.
  • In four years, they’ve become Whole Food’s best-selling pasta and Target’s second best-selling pasta.
  • You can find Banza at most stores: Walmart, Target, Thrive Market and Amazon for $3 per box.

Have you ever heard someone pose the question, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” and heard the quippy reply, “For pasta not to have any calories?”

Well, it doesn’t have zero calories yet, but healthy pasta alternatives have made the traditional indulgence much better for you. However, some of those healthy alternatives are undeniably better than others, and the general consensus is that Banza is the best.

Made out of chickpeas, Banza noodles have 25 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber, and 40% fewer net carbs than traditional pasta. And they taste like the real deal.

It sounds too good to be true, but Banza noodles let you eat something that feels undeniably indulgent — like a warm bowl of rigatoni — that is actually healthy.

Due to a general allegiance to meals that are somewhat “healthy-ish” but don’t require more than 15 minutes of prep time, I’ve been a whole wheat pasta-eater at least two to three nights a week for the past year. When a colleague mentioned Banza and how much she loved it, I bought a box fully expecting to be disappointed the same inevitable way that kids who stay up to catch their parents as Santa Claus are.

As Banza’s co-founder Brian Rudolph understands, “There’s something special about pasta — people love it on an emotional level” — and that opens the door for shoppers to either enthusiastically embrace an outsider such as Banza, or vehemently shun it.

But even though I’m not gluten-free, vegan, or anything close to a healthy-eating zealot willing to put up with soggy noodles, I can honestly say Banza is the only pasta I buy now. It’s nearly indistinguishable to traditional options, but you can eat almost twice as much for the same net carbs.

This seems to follow from how the founders conceptualize who the Banza pasta eater actually is. While it can appeal to a wide range of dietary needs — from those with gluten allergies to vegans seeking plant-based protein to diabetics looking for low glycemic options — it’s also fundamentally just a great option for “anyone who loves food and seeks a healthier lifestyle.” Banza is a solution for folks who are tired of eating healthy at the expense of foods they love — which even includes Mac & Cheese.

You can use them in all of the traditional dishes you love to eat without compromising on taste. Banza

It’s probably not going to replace wheat noodles for you completely if you’re a hardcore pasta-lover, but it is nearly indistinguishable with a sauce on top.

Banza noodles don’t taste “healthy” to me; I actually far prefer them, based on taste alone, to whole wheat noodles.

In terms of cons, you can definitely overcook them (I usually aim for a minute under the recommended amount), and it’s a bit more expensive (a box is ~ $3), but the protein, fiber, and low-cal aspect justifies those inconveniences for me.

If you don’t trust my palette, it seems many more people are growing wise to the fact that Banza actually makes good on its near-mythical claims. Since launching in stores in 2014, Banza has been picked up by big-time national grocers like Whole Foods and Target, and since then became the #1 best-selling pasta at Whole Foods and the #2 pasta overall in Targets nationwide. The company is also featured in a partnership between Jet.com and CircleUp (an investment platform for small businesses) spotlighting startups poised for big future breakthroughs.

Banza noodles come in virtually every shape you could want. Amazon

In other words, Banza has managed to do two things I didn’t have much faith in: make a healthy alternative to pasta that tastes good, and then also convince paying customers of that feat.

Rudolph readily admits, though, that it has not always been easy.

The company unwittingly began in his kitchen a year after graduating college as a personal project to make his favorite food healthier to eat, and he teamed up with his brother Scott after his homemade chickpea noodles got such enthusiastic fanfare from friends. But the two quickly learned that scaling Brian’s recipe from small-batch kitchen runs to large-scale production wasn’t easy — “I was 23 and had no experience in food.”

The process involved countless nights at the manufacturing facility before Banza got to the place it is now. And, perhaps because the founders are outsiders, that process of betterment and adaptation has never really left Banza. AsRudolph told Business Insider, “To this day, we’re laser-focused on taking customer feedback, and continually improving our product.”

I prefer Banza noodles to whole wheat noodles by a wide margin. Banza

Banza, short for garbanzo (another name for chickpea), has experienced pretty incredible success for a healthy food alternative to something as emotionally involved as pasta, but the Rudolphs say there’s a long way to go, and hint at future revolution to go-to meals.

“Our mission is to make nutritious food more accessible — by taking the foods people already love, and making them better. Our goal has always been to change pasta the way Chobani changed yogurt, and we have a long way to go for half of all pasta to be made from beans. Longer term, beyond pasta, we want to continue to reinvent other staple foods that people love to make them more nutritious.”

But even if they can’t make chocolate chip cookies that erase wrinkles, Banza has already made a delicious pasta with 2x the protein, 3x the fiber, and nearly half the carbs of traditional noodles. They’ve done their bit for the common good.

Whether you’re a vegan on a mission or the average person who loves food but wouldn’t mind a healthier lifestyle, Banza noodles should, in my opinion, absolutely be the next thing you try.

The Best Low-Carb Pasta That Actually Tastes Good

Let’s be clear: Carbs aren’t the enemy. Whole grains like oats, barley, and rye are packed with critical nutrients, from digestion-friendly fiber to zinc, iron, magnesium, and folate. Plus, carbs provide energy, and give our brains, red blood cells, and central nervous systems the fuel they need to function.

But not all carbs are created equal. According to Leah Silberman, RDN, nutritionist and founder of Tovita Nutrition, refined carbohydrates (which lack the bran and germ portions of the grain kernel) are totally void of fiber: “They’ve been processed so they are stripped of any nutritional value,” says Silberman. “You’re getting the carbs, but no nutrition.”

Of course, a cookie here and some toast there won’t kill you, but if you opt for refined grains (think white pasta) often, it may be worth swapping in sneaky alternatives that taste great and offer health benefits too. The good news? Innovative brands are making it easier than ever to eat noodles and keep simple carbs to a minimum by using better-for-you ingredients in place of wheat. From lentil spaghetti to mushroom noodles, these new low-carb pastas are higher in protein and a whole lot healthier than your classic penne.

When it comes to picking a low-carb pasta, Silberman says to mind the ingredient list. “I look at the ingredients first,” she tells Health. “Ideally there are only one to two ingredients in the pasta, like chickpeas or green lentil flour.”

Silberman also considers the nutrition facts. “Unlike regular pasta, these pastas can provide a lot of fiber, so I personally like to see at least six grams of fiber per serving when I choose an alternative pasta,” she says.

Below, eight low-carb pastas that provide more protein and fiber than your average bowties.

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Story highlights

  • Banza chickpea pasta is a healthy alternative to regular wheat pasta
  • This product is certified vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and low on the glycemic index

If you’ve been depriving yourself of wheat pasta or have blacklisted it from your diet for whatever reason — we’re here to tell you, Banza chickpea pasta may be the solution.

Our team was first introduced to Banza pasta a few months ago. Among those who tried it, the response was unanimous that it tasted good and was satisfying.

The major difference from old-fashioned pasta was that the texture was a little chewier, simply because these noodles are made from chickpeas and not from wheat. Since I’ve tried these noodles several times (and am a fan), I’ve found that this difference in texture can be improved by simply cooking your noodles a bit longer. After a few extra minutes, they will become soft and achieve a texture that’s quite near your normal noodle.

Since it’s healthy, Banza pasta makes a great staple to keep in your pantry. If you look at the nutrition label, you’ll see these noodles are packed full of protein and fiber. They are are certified vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and low on the glycemic index.

To give you an idea of what others think about Banza pasta: On Amazon, this product is a No. 1 best-selling brand with over 700 Amazon users rating these an average 4.3 out of 5 stars. One user was quoted saying that this pasta is “Tasty as hell for those missing pasta.” And we couldn’t agree more.

The perfect pairing to pesto, marinara or your sauce of choice, Banza noodles come in many different shapes and variations. So far, the brand has pasta available in the form of penne, rotini, shells, elbows, cavatappi, wheels, spaghetti, ziti, and rigatoni. Additionally, there also several variety packs ($25 pack of six; amazon.com) and mac and cheese ($22.54; amazon.com) for the kids.

In fact, Banza will soon be launching two all-new mac and cheese flavors. We tried both the Cacio e Pepe shells and Shells and White Cheddar flavors and they were amazingly delicious (and gourmet enough for adults). Pre-order yours now from Amazon.

Note: the prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.

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A post shared by Catherine Anthony, RD (@dinner.made.simple) on May 20, 2018 at 1:04pm PDT

You’ve seen them on the shelves — there are so many different kinds of pasta now! From quinoa pasta to lentil pasta to edamame pasta, the question is, are they really better than regular pasta? Registered dietitian Catherine Dilts, known as catskitchenblog on Instagram, says yes! She posted these comparison photos to show why you might want to skip the regular pasta and go for chickpea pasta instead.

Just look at those numbers! For a three-quarter cup serving of chickpea pasta (like the brand Banza), it offers 25 grams of protein and a whopping 13 grams of fiber. It is more calories than regular pasta shells, 340 compared to 200, but you’ll feel way more satiated after a bowl of chickpea pasta!

We know the burning question on your mind — how does it taste?! We tried it and think it tastes delicious! The taste is similar to regular pasta, and the cooked texture is that of a perfectly al dente pasta. It makes an excellent vehicle for whatever sauce or toppings your heart desires (Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale Cashew & Basil Pesto, please!).

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Chickpea pasta may also cost more, but it offers 50 percent of your daily iron. This pasta is also vegan, low on the glycemic index, and gluten-free, so it’s a great option if you can’t tolerate regular noodles made from wheat or are trying to cut back on gluten. We also didn’t get that overstuffed, bloated feeling we feel often after eating a big bowl of regular pasta. It’s a great swap if you’re a pasta-lover!

Is whole wheat pasta better than regular pasta?

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