Is pasta healthy?
Is pasta healthy? Many people have pasta on the menu several times a week. After all, it is fast and versatile, and everyone likes it – the ideal meal, therefore. But is it also a responsible choice? What is actually in pasta, and how good is it for you? Or is pasta a fatter, as is sometimes said? In short, is pasta healthy? We put the pros and cons side by side in today’s blog!
What is pasta?
We can answer our main question – is pasta healthy? – don’t answer without first knowing what’s actually in pasta. When exactly is something pasta?
Pasta originally consists of wheat flour and water. Egg can also be added. The wheat that is used is durum, a hard wheat variety that grows particularly well in Southern European countries. The advantage of this cereal is that you get a firm pasta. It also contains gluten, so people with celiac disease cannot eat ‘normal’ pasta.
There are also variations on the traditional pasta types. There is pasta with a color. For example, tomato or spinach has been added.
Nowadays pasta types are also made from other carbohydrate sources. For example, you can buy lentil paste in some supermarkets, which is made from dried and ground lentils.
Whichever pasta you choose, almost all of them mainly provide carbohydrates. On average, 100 grams of pasta contains about 25 grams of carbohydrates.
In addition, there are also some proteins in pasta. That’s because grains also provide a small amount of protein. By the way, it strongly depends on whether egg has been added to the pasta! ‘Normal’ dried pasta contains about 5 grams of protein per 100 grams, but for pasta ‘all’ uovo ‘it is about 10 grams.
Finally, pasta also contains fiber. However, the amount thereof can vary widely! Because this has major consequences for the question of whether pasta is healthy, we need to pay some extra attention to this.
Fiber in pasta
How much fiber pasta contains depends on the flour used. If ‘standard’ white flour is chosen for the dough, the pasta contains little fiber: about 1.5 grams per 100 grams of pasta.
However, that situation changes when the pasta contains whole wheat flour. With wholemeal flour, the husks and bran from the grain are also ground, so that the final amount of fiber is a lot higher. You can see that in the nutritional values of the pasta! Whole wheat pasta can contain no less than 4.5 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
Why is that so important? Because that fiber makes the difference between fast and slow carbohydrates. White pasta is full of fast carbohydrates – or sugars – that lead to rapid spikes in your blood sugar. This makes it less saturated, ensures after dinner dips and keeps you eating.
Whole wheat pasta, on the other hand, slows down the absorption of those carbohydrates thanks to the fiber. The peak thus does not materialize. That makes the pasta an excellent supplier of the nutrients it contains! Think of various B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus.
Is pasta sauce healthy?
If you choose whole grain pasta, you will soon be on the right track. Is it guaranteed to go well right away? Unfortunately, that is disappointing! Pasta can also turn out very unhealthy on another point: the sauce.
In the Netherlands we often eat our pasta with heavy, full sauces. They are full of, for example:
- Full-fat cheese
- Red meat
- Sugar (if you use ready-to-eat sauce)
Then you can still eat whole grain… It will not make your meal healthy! If you want to eat pasta healthily, you will not only have to pay attention to the pasta itself, but also what you eat with it.
Opt for a somewhat lighter sauce, for example based on tomato without cream. Or eat your pasta with (homemade) pesto for healthy fats and herbs. Of course, don’t forget to include enough vegetables in your pasta dish! With that you add a lot of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Healthy pasta recipes
Is your standard pasta a dish with a lot of cream and cheese? Then this might sound like a big switch. Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy pasta recipes to get new inspiration from!
Many classic pasta recipes are easy to make healthy. For example:
- This spaghetti with a sauce of lentils and tomatoes is like a leaner vegetarian version of the regular Bolognese
- Spaghetti carbonara, with the fatty bacon replaced by crispy chicken strips
Also tasty: use a different vegetable than tomato for the sauce!
- In this recipe, for example, you eat your pasta with roasted pepper sauce and pumpkin
- Or opt for this pasta with kale sauce and nuts
Furthermore, you can always choose to just mix a lot of vegetables through the pasta. In a tasty pasta salad, for example, or a pasta pesto with grilled vegetables. A few examples:
- Pasta salad with chicken strips and avocado
- Pasta with beans and pesto
- Green pasta salad
- Spicy pasta salad with tuna and bell pepper
Do you really want to approach it completely differently? Then use chickpea paste, made from ground chickpeas! You can use it to make the following healthy pasta recipes, for example:
- Mexican chickpea pasta with minced meat
- Chickpea pasta with beans and goat cheese
- Chickpea pasta with tomato sauce and roasted zucchini
Is pasta healthy?
To summarize: is pasta healthy? Yes, it can be! You should only pay attention to the following points:
- Don’t buy white pasta, but whole grain pasta (or chickpea or lentil pasta)
- Don’t use heavy sauces full of saturated fats
- Add vegetables to your pasta meal
Can you check those three off? Then pasta is healthy enough to regularly put on the menu and you can continue to enjoy with peace of mind!