Is Pasta a Healthy or Unhealthy dinner entree ?
Should we…or shouldn’t we …choose pasta for dinner?
Since most of us are trying to keep our weight in bounds, we need to know whether pasta selections
are compatible with healthy eating, or not.
Well, the answer to that question depends upon several different factors .
First, what type of grain was used to make the pasta ?
Second, what sauce is planned to be served with the pasta?
Third, what other toppings are applied to the sauce-covered pasta ?
Fourth, what portion size of the completed entree will be used ?
The type of grain which makes up the pasta is very important because most pasta noodles are produced
from refined durum wheat flour. And this type of flour has been stripped of much of the valuable nutrients
the wheat contained, as part of the milling process. So what all was lost from milling the wheat grains
to make this flour ?…Answer… Soluble and insoluble fibers, B vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids !
The fiber can provide satiety to help one feel “full”, and it also influences the species of bacteria within the
intestine to assist in propagation of “healthy ” and beneficial bacterial populations instead of ” unhealthy “,
inflammation-provoking bacterial species.
The B- vitamins and minerals are needed catalysts for energy-releasing cellular metabolic processes, and the
essential fatty acids assist in mobilization of deep belly fat.
So… selecting a whole grain pasta in place of refined durum wheat flour pasta makes a huge
difference in the overall nutritional analysis.
1 cup of whole grain pasta contains 4.1 grams of soluble fiber, and 2.2 grams of insoluble fiber, for
a total of 6.3 grams of fiber. Compare these figures with a 1 cup serving of refined durum wheat ( white )
penne pasta which supplies a mere 2 grams total fiber content .
Many scientific studies have demonstrated that people who consume more high fiber type foods from whole
grains have a 37% lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a pre-diabetic condition. High fiber foods
also help cut ” bad ” cholesterol levels and triglycerides, which can help to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Now we will review the nutritional attributes of various pasta sauces.
Tomato-based sauces are very healthy, since they are low fat, and contain meaningful amounts of the cancer-
preventive phytonutrient , lycopene. They also contain substantial concentrations of the vitamin A precursor,beta carotene.
Pesto sauces , made by combining pureed fresh basil leaves, extra-virgin olive oil, and parmesan cheese
are also full of beneficial antioxidants and protein.
But cream-based pasta sauces, such as Alfredo sauce, can be very high in calories due to the fat content.
And…since cream and some cheeses commonly used in Alfredo sauce are also full of cholesterol andother
saturated fats, they are potentially damaging to arteries …as well as one’s waistline.
Pasta entree toppings can be very healthy …such as in the case of the very high protein, low fat grated
parmesan cheese used on tomato-based sauces, and also the pine nuts applied to the basil pesto sauce
in the classic ” pasta with pesto sauce” entree.
But toppings of grated, full -fat dairy cheeses can contain a huge amount of fat and calories.
So …read those nutritional blocks on the packaging to find out the details about the ingredients in your
Lastly, with regard to the matter of portion sizes…. an appropriate portion of a pasta entree should
resemble the volume of a person’s hand , when clenched into a fist. Remember, the pasta item is
not the whole meal, but just part of a healthy meal. Starting your Italian dinner with a dinner plate
covered with raw green leafy salad , laced with a tablespoon of vinaigrette dressing, will allow
you to feel satisfied with a smaller portion of the pasta entree…thereby cutting your fat intake
and calorie consumptionSo we don’t need to shun pasta dishes….we simply need to adjust the
ingredients to create a healthier meal option.