Is Pasta Good For Health?
Pasta, Italy’s gift to the world, grabs a special place in many countries’ cuisines. But can anything so delicious be good for your health? Let’s find out.
What Is Pasta?
Pasta is a food generally made from the dough of durum wheat flour (a variety of spring wheat) mixed with water or eggs and formed into different shapes.
It is usually cooked in boiled water before eating. Pasta is famous in Italy, the U.S., Asian nations, and many other parts of the world. It is also a national dish in Italy, mostly eaten fried, with sauce, or in soup.
We may divide pasta into two types: fresh and dry. Fresh pasta is made of flour, eggs, and water and has a short shelf life. Flour, water, and salt are the main components of dry pasta, which has a longer shelf life and can be stored to prepare later.
Pasta is available in different varieties. A few examples of commonly eaten pasta include.
Did you know noodles are also a form of pasta? 1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pasta#Gnocchi_and_gnocchetti
Whole Wheat Pasta Vs. Refined Pasta
In refined pasta, the wheat kernel is removed from the bran and germ along with many nutrients. Compared to whole wheat pasta, refined pasta is higher in calories and lower in fiber content, decreasing feelings of fullness after eating.
A study revealed a high intake of carbohydrates, specifically from refined grains, may increase the risk of heart disease. 2https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24008907/ High consumption of refined grain is also associated with higher waist circumference, blood pressure, blood glucose, insulin resistance, and LDL (bad) cholesterol. 3https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19375591/
Whole wheat pasta is high in fiber, selenium, copper, manganese, and phosphorus. Enriched refined pasta, on the other hand, has more B vitamins and iron.
Fiber does not get digested but rests in our digestive tracts, which gives a sense of fullness. Thus, whole wheat pasta may be more efficient in reducing cravings and hunger.
Related Article: What Is Fiber? Health Benefits, Food Sources And Daily Requirements
Pasta Nutrition Facts
Let’s compare the nutritional value of one cup (140g) each of cooked whole wheat spaghetti and cooked enriched refined spaghetti. 4https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5784/2, 5https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5798/2 Pasta is a high-calorie food. Whole wheat spaghetti contains 174 kcal, while enriched refined spaghetti includes 220 kcal.
The protein quantity is modest in pasta. Whole wheat provides 7.5 g, whereas enriched refined pasta gives 8.1 g. There are 37 g of carbohydrates in whole wheat spaghetti and 43 g in enriched refined spaghetti.
What’s fascinating is one cup of whole wheat spaghetti provides 97% of our daily value for manganese and 52% for selenium. 6https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/daily-value-new-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels On the other hand, the same serving of enriched refined spaghetti contributes only 23% and 53% of the daily values, respectively.
How To Cook Pasta
There is a plethora of pasta recipes available! Every country or region celebrates pasta in its own way. Red sauce pasta is one of the most loved pasta worldwide. This is why I will share a quick 30-minute recipe for this delightful pasta for serving two people.
Ingredients For Red Sauce
-2 tsp olive oil
-1 bay leaf /tej patta
-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-½ medium-sized onion, finely chopped
-¼ tsp chili flakes
-½ tsp mixed herbs
-salt to taste
-¼ tsp pepper, crushed
-3 tbsp any cheese, grated
To Boil Pasta
-1 cup penne pasta or any pasta of your choice
-5 cups water or as required to boil
-salt to taste
-Puree the tomatoes
-Boil penne pasta with some salt for 10-12 minutes or till it is soft
-Drain the pasta and keep it aside
-In a pan/kadhai, heat olive oil and sauté the onion, bay leaf, and garlic till the onion is golden brown and the bay leaf and garlic turn aromatic
-Add tomato puree and sauté for 5 minutes
-Add chili flakes, mixed herbs, pepper, and salt, and mix well
-Cover and simmer for 10 minutes
-Add the boiled pasta
-Mix gently, making sure the sauce coats the pasta well
-Serve hot topped with cheese of your choice
Pasta Health Benefits
Pasta has gotten a bad rep lately, which seems unfair. Pasta can be a part of a healthy diet. As mentioned above, a one-cup serving of whole wheat pasta provides 97% of our daily need for manganese. Manganese is a part of an antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). 7https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22072939/
Antioxidants prevent or slow cell damage caused by free radicals, which are highly unstable molecules linked to aging, heart disease, and cancer. 8https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/
In a study including 42 men, researchers found low levels of SOD and a weak total antioxidant profile in the body may play a bigger role in heart disease than an increase in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 9https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16127364/
Enriched pasta is fortified with folic acid, an essential nutrient for pregnant women—one cup of enriched pasta supplies about 26% of the daily recommended value.
Low Sodium And Cholesterol Free
What makes pasta a functional food is its low sodium levels and no cholesterol.
According to the Institute of Medicine, 45- 65% of our daily calories should come from carbohydrates, and it’s best if most of them are complex carbohydrates. 10https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224210/#:~:text=Diet%20Recommendations,-In%20its%202002&text=The%20IOM%20set%20an%20acceptable,%E2%80%9365%25%20of%20total%20calories For instance, if an individual requires 2000 calories daily, he or she should get 900-1300 calories from carbohydrates. That translates to 225-335 g of carbs a day.
Whole wheat pasta is a good source of complex carbohydrates. Combining it with lean protein and vegetables makes it a complete meal that helps meet our dietary goals.
Related Article: Good Carbs Vs. Bad Carbs: Complete List
Conclusion And My Recommendation
Pasta is famous across the globe. However, lately, consumers have been saying ‘pasta la vista’ to this food. Pasta’s popularity has declined due to health and nutrition concerns.
So, Is Eating Pasta Not Good For Our Health Goals?
Well, studies have found that pasta has several health-promoting properties, including antioxidants, low sodium content, no cholesterol, and high folic acid content. Pasta can be a part of a balanced diet if combined with lean protein and veggies.
If you want to add pasta to your daily diet, I recommend eating only small to regular-size portions (one cup is okay) of whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta has its natural nutrients intact and is also a good source of fiber and complex carbohydrates.
You can even eat enriched pasta if it is not heavily processed. I suggest you avoid refined pasta. Most are enriched, but white carbs are not a candidate for a healthy diet. Also, avoid sugary, salty, or high-fat ingredients when cooking pasta-based meals.
What do you think about this article? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!
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About Rohit Kumar
Rohit Kumar is an avid writer who puts a lot of his emotions in words through his articles. Today, he is a certified fitness expert with a vast knowledge on nutrition and has contributed to the pages of Fabulous Body with his articles.