What is healthier than spaghetti?

Spaghetti is a type of pasta that is a staple food for many people around the world. It’s made from durum wheat and comes in long, thin strands. Spaghetti is often served with tomato or meat-based sauces and can be topped with cheese, vegetables, or herbs.

While spaghetti can be delicious, it’s not necessarily the healthiest option when it comes to pasta. There are many pasta alternatives that offer more nutrients and health benefits. This article will explore some of the healthier pasta options to choose instead of regular spaghetti.

What Are the Downsides of Eating Regular Spaghetti?

There are a few potential downsides of eating regular spaghetti, especially in large quantities:

– It’s made from refined grains – Refined grains like durum wheat have had the bran and germ removed during processing. This strips away beneficial nutrients like fiber, iron, and B vitamins.

– It can spike blood sugar – Spaghetti has a high glycemic index, meaning it causes rapid spikes in blood sugar when eaten. This can be problematic for people with diabetes or prediabetes.

– It’s low in nutrients – Regular spaghetti contains minimal vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats. It’s mostly just carbohydrates from refined flour.

– It may contain additives – Some brands add extra ingredients like guar gum or xanthan gum to improve the texture. These additives are controversial and possibly harmful.

– It’s easy to overeat – Spaghetti is typically served in large portions and the noodles are easy to overconsume since they lack fiber and protein to help you feel full.

So while an occasional serving of spaghetti won’t harm your health, regularly choosing more nutrient-dense pasta options can provide more benefits.

What Makes Other Types of Pasta Healthier?

There are a few key factors that make certain pasta varieties healthier than regular wheat spaghetti:

Whole Grains

Pasta made from whole grains that contain all parts of the grain kernel offer more fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein compared to refined grains. Options include whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat or chickpea pasta.

Alternative Flours

Pasta made from legume flours, like lentils, black beans or edamame, provides a healthy dose of plant-based protein and fiber. Other nutrient-rich flours include chickpea, green pea and ancient grains like amaranth, millet or teff.

Added Protein

Some pasta varieties have extra protein from eggs, legumes, or seeds. This boosts the nutrition and keeps you feeling fuller longer. Good choices are egg noodles, edamame spaghetti or pasta with hemp or chia seeds.

Lower Carb Content

Zucchini noodles and other vegetable pastas are lower in carbohydrates and calories than traditional wheat pasta. They add nutrients from vegetables and make a lighter meal.

No Unhealthy Additives

Many whole grain or vegetable pastas avoid unhealthy additives like guar gum or xanthan gum. Look for short ingredient lists and recognize all the ingredients.

14 Healthier Pasta Alternatives to Spaghetti

Here are 14 of the top healthier pasta options to try instead of regular spaghetti:

1. Whole Wheat Pasta

Whole wheat pasta is made from the entire wheat kernel. It provides 6 grams of fiber per 2 ounce uncooked serving, while refined wheat pasta has only 2 grams. Whole wheat pasta has a lower glycemic index so it won’t spike blood sugar as high. It also contains more magnesium, potassium, zinc and B vitamins than refined pasta.

2. Brown Rice Pasta

Brown rice pasta is gluten-free and rich in nutrients. Just 1/2 cup cooked provides 1.5 grams of fiber and over 10% of the RDI for manganese and selenium. Beware that brown rice pasta can be stickier and chewier than wheat pasta. Look for brands that contain added protein or fiber for a nutritional boost.

3. Quinoa Pasta

Pasta made from quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. It has a low glycemic index of 53 and provides 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup cooked. Quinoa pasta has a pleasant, light texture.

4. Chickpea Pasta

Also called garbanzo bean pasta, chickpea pasta is higher in both protein and fiber than wheat pasta. It contains about 4-8 grams of protein and 6-13 grams of fiber per serving. Chickpeas give it a delicious earthy, nutty flavor.

5. Lentil Pasta

Lentil pasta is packed with an impressive 16 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup serving. It has approximately half the net carbs of traditional pasta. Lentil pasta can have a strong flavor, so look for brands that blend lentils with other flours.

6. Black Bean Pasta

Black bean pasta is a gluten-free alternative made from fermented black bean flour. It contains about 25 grams of protein and 25 grams of fiber per 3.5 ounces uncooked. The rich bean flavor is delicious in Mexican dishes. Rinsing it can reduce any strong bean taste.

7. Edamame Pasta

Edamame is simply fresh green soybeans. Edamame pasta made from ground edamame contains an impressive 17 grams of plant-based protein per serving. It also has 9 grams of filling fiber. Edamame pasta has a pleasant, mild flavor.

8. Buckwheat Pasta

Despite its name, buckwheat is gluten-free and not related to wheat. Buckwheat pasta has a distinct, earthy flavor and provides more antioxidants like rutin than wheat pasta. A 1/2 cup serving has almost 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

9. Chickpea Elbow Pasta

Chickpea pasta comes in fun shapes like elbows, spirals and bow ties. A 1/2 cup serving of chickpea elbows boasts 12.5 grams of filling fiber and 7.5 grams of vegetarian protein. The texture is softer than wheat pasta.

10. Red Lentil Penne Pasta

Red lentil penne is packed with an incredible 21 grams of plant-based protein and 20 grams of fiber per 3.5 ounce uncooked serving. It looks and tastes similar to whole wheat pasta, just made from red lentil flour instead.

11. Ancient Grain Pasta

Ancient grain pastas like kamut, einkorn, amaranth or teff contain more protein, fiber and micronutrients than modern wheat. Try mixing different ancient grain flours for added nutrition and texture.

12. Zucchini Noodles

Zucchini noodles, also called zoodles, are an easy way to lighten up your favorite pasta dishes. They contain just 20 calories per cup with 2 grams of fiber. Zucchini noodles lack gluten and have a refreshing flavor.

13. Sweet Potato Noodles

Sweet potato noodles add bright color to your plate along with an impressive 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein per cup. They have a slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with savory sauces. Other veggie noodles include carrots or beets.

14. Cauliflower Gnocchi

Cauliflower gnocchi offers a gluten-free pasta fix, providing just 1 gram of net carbs and 5 grams of fiber per serving. Made from riced cauliflower and egg, it looks and feels like traditional gnocchi with a veggie twist.

Tips for Preparing Healthy Pasta

To maximize the nutrition of any pasta dish, keep these preparation tips in mind:

– Read labels carefully to verify health claims, looking for organic, whole grain, high protein, etc.

– Check the ingredient list to make sure you recognize all the ingredients. Avoid anything with processed additives.

– Opt for nutrient-dense pasta sauces like homemade tomato sauce packed with veggies or pesto made with healthy oils and herbs. Avoid heavy cream or cheese-based sauces.

– Load up on extra vegetables by sautéing veggies like broccoli, spinach, carrots, peppers or mushrooms and mixing them into your pasta.

– Add lean protein such as chicken, salmon, shrimp, beans or tofu to make your meal more satisfying.

– Make it a complete meal by adding a side salad and piece of whole grain bread.

– Watch your portion sizes, as it’s easy to overeat high calorie pasta dishes. Stick to 1 cup cooked pasta and 1/2 cup sauce per serving.

Healthy Pasta Recipes

Here are some nutritious pasta recipes to add variety to your weekly meal plan:

Chickpea Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

– 8 ounces chickpea pasta
– 1 pound mixed vegetables like zucchini, red peppers, carrots, halved cherry tomatoes
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
– Salt and pepper to taste
– Fresh basil, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss vegetables in olive oil and spread in single layer on baking sheet. Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
2. Roast 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Drain pasta and mix with roasted vegetables and chopped basil. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Shrimp Avocado Pesto Zoodles

– 3 medium zucchini, spiralized into noodles
– 12 ounces cooked shrimp
– 1 avocado, diced
– 1/4 cup pesto
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– Juice from 1 lemon
– Salt and pepper to taste

1. In large bowl, toss zucchini noodles with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Divide zoodles between bowls and top with shrimp, avocado, pesto and lemon juice.

Turkey Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash

– 1 small spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
– 1 pound ground turkey
– 1 onion, diced
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 carrot, peeled and grated
– 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
– 2 tablespoons tomato paste
– 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
– Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook spaghetti squash halves face down in skillet with 1/2 inch salted water for 15 minutes until tender.
2. In large skillet, brown ground turkey. Add onion, garlic, carrots and cook 5 minutes.
3. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes.
4. Scrape out spaghetti squash strands with a fork. Top with bolognese sauce.

Lentil Bolognese with Veggie Noodles

– 1 cup dry green lentils, rinsed
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 carrots, peeled and grated
– 2 celery stalks, diced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
– 2 tablespoons tomato paste
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1/2 cup vegetable broth
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 8 ounces veggie noodles (zucchini, sweet potato, beets etc.)

1. In a medium pot, bring lentils and 3 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes until tender. Drain any excess water.
2. In a large skillet, sauté onion, carrots, celery and garlic 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, salt, pepper and veggie broth.
3. Stir in cooked lentils and simmer 15-20 minutes until thickened.
4. Serve lentil bolognese sauce over veggie noodles of choice.

Benefits of Switching to Healthier Pasta

Making a swap from basic spaghetti to more nutrient-dense pasta options provides many benefits:

– More protein – Alternative pastas can provide 15-25 grams of plant-based protein per serving to help you feel full and satisfied.

– More fiber – Fiber counts upwards of 5-20 grams promote healthy digestion and gut bacteria.

– Lower glycemic index – Pastas made from lentils, chickpeas, quinoa and whole grains have a gentler impact on blood sugar levels.

– Weight loss – The extra protein and fiber can aid weight loss and management. Studies show higher protein diets promote fat loss.

– Lower cholesterol – Replacing refined grains with fiber-rich whole grains, beans and veggies may help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

– Increased vitamins and minerals – Nutrient-rich alternative flours provide more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium and B vitamins compared to plain white pasta.

– Gluten-free options – Pastas made from lentils, beans, quinoa, buckwheat and vegetables are naturally gluten-free.

– Variety – Alternating between different healthier pastas like black bean, edamame and chickpea adds more flavors, colors and textures to meals.

Potential Drawbacks of Alternative Pastas

While healthier pasta options have lots of nutrition perks, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider as well:

– Higher price point – Specialty pastas made from alternative flours usually cost more than basic semolina flour pastas.

– Texture – The texture can vary greatly between pasta alternatives. Some people don’t like the soft, mushy texture of bean or lentil pastas.

– Cooking differences – Alternative pastas may cook faster or differently than wheat pasta, requiring adjusted cooking times.

– Strong flavors – Ingredients like beans and lentils add earthy flavors that some people dislike. Opt for blended pasta flours to help tone down the flavors.

– Limited availability – The pasta alternatives may not be carried at all grocery stores or restaurants. You may only find them at health food stores or need to order online.

– Digestive issues – Due to containing FODMAPs and gut-irritating fibers, bean and lentil pastas can cause gas or bloating issues in sensitive individuals.

– Nutrient deficiencies – Overly relying on alternative grain pastas may lead to deficiencies in nutrients abundant in wheat like B vitamins and selenium.

So while healthier pastas have lots of nutrition advantages, they may not suit everyone’s taste, budget or digestive system. Enjoy them in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

The Bottom Line

While an occasional serving of traditional spaghetti won’t harm your health, there are many healthier and more nutritious pasta alternatives to add to your meals.

Trying options like chickpea spirals, black bean rotini, edamame fettuccine or zucchini noodles can add a variety of flavors, colors, and nutrition to your diet. Just watch your portion sizes.

Look for pastas made from whole grains, legumes, lentils, vegetables and alternative flours to boost protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals compared to plain white pasta. Pair these nutrition-packed pastas with plenty of vegetables and lean protein for satisfying, waistline-friendly meals.

With a little creativity and experimentation in the kitchen, you can upgrade classic pasta favorites into much healthier, vibrant dishes the whole family will love. Your body will thank you for the added nutrition.

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