Is pasta healthy or unhealthy?

woman eating bowl of pasta

by Bryony Firth-bernard |

It’s one of the most popular carbohydrates in households which is used to make many midweek meals, but is pasta actually healthy? These days we know you shouldn’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as you should be able to eat a little bit of everything within moderation. But does pasta have a good nutritional value?

We take a closer look…

What is pasta?

Pasta originates from Italy and can come in many different shapes, sizes and you can buy it fresh or dried. It’s made from durum wheat and depending on where the pasta comes from, will depend on the shape of the pasta.

different types of pasta

Fresh pasta and dried pasta are made slightly differently. Fresh pasta is made by kneading eggs, water and either plain flour or ‘00’ flour (a fine flour). It’s then rolled and cut into its desired shape and cooked. Whereas dried pasta is made from mixing semolina and water, before being made into a paste. It’s then put into moulds (to create the desired pasta shape) and dried out until the pasta goes hard, giving it a longer shelf life than fresh pasta.

Pasta can also comes in funky colours too. These pastas have had vegetable powders added to them, such as spinach, tomato or beetroot to give it the desired affect.

Is pasta healthy?

Refined white pasta is usually the most popular in households. It’s a refined carbohydrate which has been stripped of its nutrients and fibre, and is made up of short chains of molecules which your body converts to glucose, creating a spike in your blood sugar and giving you short bursts of energy. This ‘spike’ in blood sugar causes lots of insulin to be made to allow the glucose to enter your body’s cells, so you can get that boost in energy in the first place. However, if you’re eating lots of things which causes regular spikes in your blood sugar levels throughout the day, your body may start producing too much insulin, which is a problem because insulin is key for helping your body convert food into energy. This can end up leading to insulin resistance, where your body no longer recognises it and can contribute to type 2 diabetes.

woman eating spaghetti

Wholewheat pasta however is rich in fibre, lower in calories and is a ‘complex carb’. It’s made up of long chains of molecules which take longer to digest, helping you feel fuller for longer. Fibre is also great for helping maintain your blood sugar levels, a healthy gut and lowers cholesterol.

Unlike dried pasta, which is made with durum wheat and water, fresh pasta is made with eggs and flour, which makes it higher in calories than both types and usually with a higher fat content.

What’s the verdict?

Pasta isn’t ‘unhealthy’, however too much of anything can quickly reverse this. With its high fibre content and slightly lower calories, wholewheat pasta seems to have the best nutritional value out of the pasta varieties. It very much depends on what your goal is too, for example if you’re trying to lose weight you may wish to switch from your white pasta to wholewheat, but the most important thing when it comes to losing weight is not what you’re eating, but making sure that you’re eating in a calorie deficit. Pasta isn’t a ‘bad food’ because it’s a carb either, remember carbs give our body energy. The most important thing is making sure that you don't consume more than your body needs.

Looking for some healthy pasta recipes? Check out this yummy tuna pasta bake and veggie lasagne.

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