Pasta, in any shape or size, is a fav among the growing boys in our house. It accompanies many meals and is sometimes the main course. Pasta is made from all different types of grains-some better for you then others. If you were wondering how to choose the healthiest pasta-here is the low down:
White pasta is made from refined white flour. The refining process removes both the bran-fiber rich outer layer- and the germ-the nutrient rich inner part- from the grain. Only the endosperm-middle part- remains. This leaves little nutritional value after processing. Many refined grain products are enriched, meaning some of the nutrients such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and iron, are added back. However, enrichment doesn’t restore fiber and other nutrients that are lost during the milling process.
Bottom Line: Not the best choice.
Whole Wheat Pasta
Whole wheat pasta is made from whole wheat flour. It is called “whole” since is has remained whole throughout the processing and has not had the bran and germ removed. Whole grains provide a good source of fiber and contain many more nutrients then refined grains.
Whole grains can help with the following:
- Reducing constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
- Lowering cholesterol levels and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reducing the risk of cancer
- Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Increasing absorption of nutrients, because they take longer to digest
Bottom Line: Good choice if you do not have a gluten allergy or Celiac’s Disease.
Rice pasta is made from rice flour. It is a good alternative for someone with Celiac’s Disease or a gluten allergy. The pasta is a bit stickier than whole wheat or white pasta and should be rinsed after cooking and before eating. Try to find rice pasta that is made with brown rice to reap the full benefits of another whole grain.
Bottom Line: Good choice
HOW TO BUY WHOLE GRAIN PASTA
If pasta is brown it doesn’t necessarily mean that the pasta is a whole grain. It could contain another ingredient giving it a brown tint. Check out the ingredient list to be sure it contains whole grains. The ingredient list must include the word WHOLE. Don’t be fooled by the wording “unbleached wheat flour”, “wheat flour” or “stoned wheat”. These are not whole grains. Also a product might claim “made with whole wheat” or “made with whole grains”. You will have to look on the ingredient list to see how far down the whole grain is placed on the listing. The ingredients are listed by weight-the first ingredient is the heaviest-indicating that there is a lot of this in the product. If the whole grain is way down the ingredient list there isn’t much of it in the product.
So there you have the basic pasta choices in a nutshell. Why not give whole wheat or rice pasta a try? The nutritional benefits are many. The tan color of the pasta can turn some folks off if they are not used to it. Try adding a sauce to disguise the color. Whole grain pasta can be substituted for white pasta in any recipe.
Simple Recipes to Try
For more info on whole grains v. refined grains check out the Mayo Clinic’s article. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/whole-grains/NU00204