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Best Pastas You Can Eat
Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on August 23, 2022
Written by Danny Bonvissuto
Also called whole-grain pasta, this type of pasta keeps the bran, endosperm, and germ of the grain together. It’s filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This helps you feel full longer and keeps your blood sugar from spiking. It also has a little over 8 grams of protein per cup cooked.
Made of chickpea flour and water, this pasta has the same health benefits as a can of chickpeas. That means fiber, folate, magnesium, and potassium. It also has 15% of your daily value of iron and all nine essential amino acids that make it a complete protein. That’s 12 grams per cup cooked. This gluten-free grain has a slightly beanish flavor and firm texture that doesn’t turn to mush when topped with sauce.
Though their taste and textures differ, legume-based pastas are all gluten-free and high in protein and fiber. It’s also a good source of the iron your body uses to make hemoglobin and some hormones. Varieties include black bean, yellow pea, green lentil, red lentil, yellow lentil, and more.
These are made from buckwheat, which is actually a seed. They’re gluten-free as long as they’re not mixed with wheat to improve texture. Used in both hot and cold Asian dishes, soba noodles are higher in fiber than white pasta.
Made from either white or brown varieties, gluten-free rice noodles have 3.15 grams of protein, 0.352 grams of fat, and 42.2 grams of carbs per cooked cup. That’s very similar numbers to traditional pasta. They also have selenium, an important mineral for thyroid health, and manganese. Their neutral taste makes them a perfect sub for rice in any dish, though they’re most often used in Asian recipes.
As a naturally gluten-free grain (technically a seed), quinoa is packed with protein and fiber. But most quinoa pastas aren’t solely made from quinoa flour: They’re mixed with corn or brown rice flour to help with texture. This lowers the fiber and protein content. One cooked cup of elbow quinoa pasta has 3.66 grams of fiber and 3.58 grams of protein. One cooked cup of spaghetti quinoa pasta has 5.48 grams of fiber and 5.36 grams of protein.
Vegetables cut into ribbons or noodles are a great way to work in extra nutrients, but they might not fill you up or stick with you very long. Mix them with whole wheat pasta for more fiber and protein. Try zucchini pasta, which has about 33% of your daily value of vitamin C in one cup, plus folate and B vitamins. Butternut squash noodles have vitamin A. For cold pasta recipes, try hearts of palm noodles, which have B6, potassium, and vitamin C.
When it comes to macronutrients — calories, carbs, protein, and fat — white pasta is pretty similar to whole wheat and soba noodles. It has a lot less fiber, though, and is sometimes fortified with iron and B vitamins your body might not absorb as well as natural versions. Make whole grains your main source of carbs and enjoy white pasta every now and then.
Make Your Own Noodles
Most pastas are made of a few simple ingredients and dried, not heavily processed or preserved like other foods on grocery store shelves. But if you want more control over the ingredients, you can try making your own noodles. They’ll be fresher, but not necessarily healthier. For example, the nutritional differences between egg and white pasta are very small because that egg is spread out over several servings.
No matter what kind of noodle you use, pasta is just one part of a healthy plate. Make sure you include protein, like chicken or lentils. Plus veggies and fat, like olives or cheese. These add nutrients and help your body slowly absorb the carbs so you don’t feel sleepy afterward.