Trying to fit more whole grains in your diet? Trying to go gluten-free? Trying to reduce carbs or calories? Think pasta is out of the question? While the traditional semolina pasta may not be the best option, there are a variety of pastas currently available to meet many different dietary needs.
Semolina flour is made from ground durum wheat, a variety that contains more protein than common wheat. Its high gluten content is what helps the pasta remain firm after cooking. The bran, or outer husk, of the grain is removed during processing, making it a refined grain.
While it is a good source of protein (7g per serving) its fiber content is low at only 2g per serving.
Also made from durum wheat, however the bran is not removed so it contains more than double the fiber (5g per serving) compared to the traditional variety. This fiber will cause whole wheat pasta to be digested more slowly, helping keep blood glucose under control.
Review: This is a better choice than regular pasta for individuals with diabetes or those wanting better control of their blood glucose levels; however, portions should be kept small as it is high in total carbohydrates.
Pro Tip: When shopping for this variety, make sure to read the ingredients list. The first ingredient should contain the word “whole”, such as “whole durum wheat flour.” Some products may say “multi-grain” or “made with whole grains” but the first ingredient listed is durum wheat flour - because the word “whole” is missing, this ingredient is not a whole grain. At the end of the ingredient list, you may see added vitamins and minerals - iron and B vitamins (niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid). When a grain is refined, these nutrients are stripped away so they have to be added back after processing. A whole grain variety will not show added vitamins and minerals in the ingredients list as they were never removed.
These pastas are often made from brown rice flour but there are also quinoa, corn, and buckwheat varieties. A whole grain brown rice or quinoa pasta will have a similar carbohydrate and fiber content to the whole wheat pasta but with a little less protein (5g vs 7g per serving). Some gluten-free pastas are a blend of a few grains, including some refined grains, which can result in a lower fiber content (1-2g per serving). Buckwheat noodles are high in fiber (6g per serving) and protein (7g per serving), as well as a good source of iron.
Review: These pastas are a good choice for those following a gluten-free diet as well as those following a low FODMAP diet. When cooking, it is important to follow the directions on the back of the box.
Pro Tip: Cook times will vary depending on the type of gluten free grain used. If gluten-free pasta is overcooked it will fall apart.
These are made from a variety of different legumes like red and green lentils, chickpeas, and black beans. Compared to a traditional semolina pasta, they are slightly lower in carbohydrate (32g vs 42g per serving) and higher in fiber; the actual fiber content varies depending on the legume, with red lentil pasta being the lowest at 6g per serving and black bean being the highest at 15g per serving. Given that the daily fiber recommendation is 25g for women and 38g for men, a serving of black bean pasta can provide half of the recommended amount. Legume pastas are much higher in protein with one serving providing 14g. They also contain iron, folate, and potassium.
Review: These are a good choice for vegan diets as they are a good plant-based source of iron. Their fiber content makes them a great addition to gluten-free diets, as these diets can be low in fiber. Due to their high protein and fiber content, they will be digested more slowly, helping keep blood glucose levels under control.
These “noodles” are made from spiralized vegetables like zucchini or butternut squash, or spaghetti squash. They are all naturally gluten-free making them a good option for an individual with celiac disease or those following a gluten-free diet. These are also great low-carb options for someone with diabetes, as well as being paleo-friendly. Spaghetti squash is a good option for the low FODMAP diet.
Review: All three of these are much lower in protein than the other pastas so it would be good to add a protein source to create a more balanced meal.