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There is nothing easier than pouring some pasta into a pot, waiting ten minutes for it to cook, and then choosing one of a million ways to finish it. Perhaps this is also why pasta is such a popular side dish. However, there is one drawback. Classic wheat pasta is not as nutritionally rich as some other types. What to use instead of the basic wheat type and at the same time be able to enjoy all pasta recipes? Today’s article will tell you all about it.
What is pasta, and what is the difference between regular wheat and whole wheat pasta?
When shopping, most people reach for the classic white pasta. The main reasons are probably the taste everyone is used to and the lower price. However, it is a shame, because ordinary pasta provides you with a relatively small amount of nutrients. It is made from white wheat flour which lost its most nutritious parts – bran and germ during the processing. Only the endosperm (the inner part of the grain) is ground, which is made up mainly of carbohydrates (proteins, fibre and other nutrients are also present, but in much smaller quantities). Classic white wheat pasta will give you energy, but it will deprive you of fibre, vitamins and other bioactive substances that the grain originally contained. In addition, they also contain gluten, and people on a gluten-free diet are therefore strictly prohibited from eating wheat pasta and must choose other alternatives. 
You can buy pasta made with eggs or eggless version. The one containing eggs has a higher fat content.
Average energy and nutrient content of classic wheat eggless pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
|358 kcal||71.5 g||13 g||1.5 g||3.2 g|
What are the alternatives to classic wheat pasta?
If you don’t want pasta in your diet to be only a source of energy and carbohydrates, but you also expect some fibre, vitamins and other micronutrients, you should enrich your diet with other types of pasta. There are many options, some of which are even suitable for those on a gluten-free diet.
1. Whole grain pasta
This pasta is made from whole grain flour, which is produced by grinding the whole grain. It naturally contains both bran and germ, which are not present in white flour.
- Thanks to the bran, the whole grain flour retains, for example, the original content of fibre, iron, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin E and many other bioactive substances, such as carotenoids.
- Thanks to germ, it has a higher fat content (in the form of healthy unsaturated fatty acids), B vitamins, selenium, etc. [23,24]
The fibre content in whole grain pasta is on average 2-3 times higher than in classic white flour pasta. 100 g of raw whole grain pasta contains about 9 g of fibre, while 100 g of white wheat pasta has only about 3.2 g. By the way, the recommended daily intake of fibre is 25 g. 
Whole grain pasta is thus more nutritious and, thanks to the higher fibre content, more filling. It can help to make your diet more interesting and to lose weight.
Average energy and nutrient content of whole wheat pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
On the market, you can find whole grain pasta from several types of grains:
However, all the above-mentioned whole grain types of pasta are made from flour containing gluten. Coeliacs and people who eliminate gluten for other reasons have to choose from other alternatives.
2. Gluten-free alternatives
Someone who has to follow a gluten-free diet for health reasons cannot eat any of the pasta mentioned above. However, that doesn’t mean that they cannot enjoy delicious baked pasta or pasta with sauce. Instead of gluten-containing pasta they just have to go for gluten-free alternatives.
Of course, with the help of the following alternatives, even those who do not follow a strict gluten-free diet, but suffer from problems with gluten digestion, can diversify their diet. Even people who just simply want to diversify their diet will appreciate the selection. New types of pasta can spice up your diet as they differ in taste and texture.
1. Buckwheat pasta
Buckwheat belongs to the so-called pseudograins. It is a good source of B vitamins, zinc, copper, magnesium and iron. 
Buckwheat and buckwheat pasta contain a high proportion of fibre, part of which is resistant starch. Resistant starch “feeds” intestinal bacteria and the result is the formation of short-chain fatty acids, which subsequently nourish the cells of the intestinal mucosa and thus support digestion and overall health.
The content of bioflavonoid rutin is also typical for buckwheat. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and thus supports the health and flexibility of blood vessels. [2,16]
Buckwheat pasta can also be enjoyed as a dessert. They taste very good, for example, in combination with quark, apple, nuts and cinnamon.
Average content of energy and nutrients in buckwheat pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
|354 kcal||78.7 g||6.9 g||0.3 g||4.5 g|
2. Corn pasta
Compared to other types of gluten-free pasta, this one is most similar to classic wheat pasta. It has a similar consistency and a pleasant taste. Corn is rich in potassium, vitamin C and B vitamins. It also contains beta-carotene and lutein, which have antioxidant effects and are important, for example, for eye health. Corn pasta is also a good source of fibre with 11g per 100g. [1,12,17]
Average energy and nutrient content of corn pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
3. Rice pasta
Rice pasta is the basis of many Asian dishes and thanks to its neutral taste, it is easily combined with other foods. In addition, it is not difficult to prepare. Often you just need to soak it in boiling water for a few minutes and the side dish is ready.
White rice is poor in fibre, minerals and vitamins. It even has a lower amount of fibre than white wheat flour. During the processing of rice, the husks of the rice grain are removed. This leaves only the middle part of the grain, which is mainly rich in complex carbohydrates. Rice pasta has the same low amounts of other nutrients as rice itself. [12,13]
However, its advantage is easy digestibility. Rice is one of the few foods you can eat even with digestive problems. The same goes for rice pasta.
Average energy and nutrient content of rice pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
|364 kcal||83.2 g||3.4 g||0.6 g||1.6 g|
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3. Legume pasta
Nutritional recommendations in most countries agree that you should consume at least two servings of legumes per week (one serving is roughly the size of your fist). At first glance, this seems like a simple task, but in fact, many people have trouble following this recommendation. The problem is that people often don’t know how to properly prepare legumes, season them and make sure they don’t cause gas.
The problem with digestion can be solved by repeated soaking of legumes before cooking. In this way, the substances that cause bloating are leached from the legume. The water in which the substances were leached must be poured out. A legume that naturally bloats less is, for example, red lentils.
The lack of imagination to come up with recipes can be easily solved. Just google for a while and you will have enough recipes to last you a couple of months. However, if you simply don’t like legumes or you are stubbornly convinced that you cannot tolerate them in your meals, you have the option of reaching for legumes in the form of pasta. This will solve all the mentioned shortcomings, so anyone who wants to include more legumes in their diet can enjoy them.
1. Legumes are rich in protein
Legumes, unlike grains, are considered a protein food. However, you must take into account that proteins from plant sources are not complete, because they do not contain all essential amino acids (EAK) in sufficient quantities. Protein chains are made up of amino acids, while essential amino acids are those that the body cannot create by itself and must receive them through food.
However, all you need to do is to supplement legumes with grains, which will give you a better spectrum of amino acids. By further adding meat, cheese or, for example, a plant-based alternative to meat, you create a protein-packed meal.
If you are interested in tips on plant-based protein sources, read the article What Are the Best Sources of Plant-Based Protein and Why Include Them in Your Diet?
2. They are one of the best sources of fibre
Legumes have more fibre than vegetables, fruits or whole grains. 100 g of raw peas contains around 13 g of fibre. Legume pasta retains this high fibre content – 100 g of raw pea pasta has approximately 14 g of fibre. For comparison, 100 g of carrots has 3 g of fibre.
Legumes and legume pasta can significantly help increase the amount of fibre in your diet.
Fibre is essential for the proper function of the digestive tract. Not only does it help smooth bowel movement, but as we mentioned, it also serves as food for the beneficial bacteria in the intestines. 
The consumption of legumes is associated with better cholesterol values, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar values in type 2 diabetes mellitus and many other health benefits. All of the above is related to the high fibre content. In addition, this nutrient has the ability to satiate you more and thus help maintain or reduce body weight. 
What legume pasta can you pick from?
1. Chickpea pasta
Chickpeas, also called Garbanzo beans, are an excellent source of folic acid (100 g of raw chickpeas contains 370% of its recommended daily intake). This nutrient has an irreplaceable place in the growth of tissues, in the development of the nervous system or in the formation of DNA. Chickpeas are also rich in copper, manganese, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and unsaturated fatty acids. Compared to other legumes, it also has a very favourable content of essential amino acids. 
It also contains a high amount of choline, which is necessary for the correct transmission of information between the brain and muscles. It also plays a role in fat metabolism. [4,14,15]
Chickpeas and chickpea pasta have a positive effect on the composition of the gut microbiota due to their high content of soluble fibre (a large part is raffinose). This type of fibre, “feeds” the already mentioned intestinal bacteria. These subsequently affect the immune system, the health of the digestive tract, etc. 
Average content of energy and nutrients in chickpea pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
|333 kcal||54 g||21.8 g||4.7 g||13.8 g|
2. Lentil pasta
Most lentil pasta is made from red lentils. It is characteristic by a low content of gas-causing substances. Lentils contain the most iron of all legumes – up to two to three times more than others. This information can be essential for vegetarians, vegans and all people who have a problem with sufficient daily iron intake. However, the absorbability of iron from plant sources (they contain so-called non-heme iron) is not as good as from animal sources (they contain so-called heme iron). You can support the absorbability by combining plant sources of iron with, for example, foods containing vitamin C or with animal sources of iron (meat, fish, eggs). [6,19]
By combining lentil pasta with vegetables containing vitamin C, the absorption of iron will increase. Prepare it, for example, with bell peppers, which have the most of this vitamin, or be inspired by our pasta with tomato sauce recipe.
Lentils are also a great source of folic acid, thiamin (vitamin B1), copper, manganese and other vitamins and minerals.
Compared to other legumes, it has the highest content of polyphenols. These bioactive substances have antioxidant effects, are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and generally have a positive effect on our health. [9,18]
Average content of energy and nutrients in lentil pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
|344 kcal||58 g||24 g||1.3 g||3.8 g|
3. Pea pasta
Peas are a very good source of thiamine (vitamin B1) and other B vitamins. 100 g of raw peas contain up to 70% of the recommended daily intake of thiamine. This vitamin is a necessary part of a number of enzymes involved in energy conversion in cells. Peas and pea pasta are also rich in manganese, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. 
Pea pasta, which, like other legume pasta, is rich in protein, can serve as a good basis for a meatless meal. Combine them with vegetables and yogurt or prepare a purely vegetable version with tofu or other meat substitute. Alternatively, you can get inspired by our recipe for pea pasta with pea sauce.
The average content of energy and nutrients in pea pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
|336 kcal||59 g||24 g||0.8 g||14 g|
4. Protein pasta
On the market, you can also find many types of pasta, the basis of which is grain or legume enriched with protein. By combining grains, legume and legume protein, you can create a side dish with a higher amount of protein (12 g of protein in a 60 g serving) and an improved ratio of all essential amino acids. If you choose legume pasta enriched with legume protein, you can easily consume up to 20 g of protein in one serving (60 g of raw pasta). But it is important to read the labels, because the amount of added protein can vary in each product.
Get inspired by these nutritious recipes and supplement your diet with legumes and protein:
Average energy and nutrient content of protein pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
|366 kcal||48.7 g||33.8 g||3.1 g||5.2 g|
4. Konjac pasta (Noodles)
This pasta can be a great choice for weight loss. Why? When you look at the composition and nutrition label of Konjac pasta, you will probably be surprised by its extremely low energy value (7 kcal/100 g) and zero carbohydrate content. However, this is not a miracle made out of thin air, but food made of water and glucomannan, which is the fibre contained in the konjac root. Konjac comes from Asia and is mainly made up of the mentioned glucomannan.
Glucomannan is a soluble fibre that absorbs water and thus saturates effectively, slows the absorption of nutrients into the blood and also serves as food for intestinal bacteria. The ability of glucomannan to bind water is also used in the production of pasta itself, since more than 90% of its content is made up of water. 
It is good to include konjac pasta in your diet if you want to reduce your energy intake and lose weight. The pasta doesn’t contain carbohydrates, has negligible energy value and is highly satiating thanks to its fibre content.
Prepare it, for example, with Bolognese sauce and see its benefits for yourself!
Average energy and nutrient content of konjac pasta (100 g of raw pasta):
|7 kcal||2.6 g|
How to cook pasta?
Pasta is tempting because of its simple and quick preparation. Just boil the water and cook them for as long as it says on the package. However, each type of pasta needs a different time to cook, so be sure to read the packaging carefully. However, in most cases the pasta is going to be done within 10 minutes. Drain the cooked pasta and rinse it under running water so that it doesn’t stick together and a basis for a nutritious meal is ready.
How many calories and nutrients do different types of pasta have?
|White wheat||358 kcal||71.5 g||13 g||1.5 g||3.2 g|
|Whole grain wheat||356 kcal||64 g||14 g||2.9 g||9 g|
|Rye||324 kcal||68.7 g||14 g||2.7 g||8 g|
|Buckwheat||354 kcal||78.7 g||6.9 g||0.3 g||4.5 g|
|Corn||361 kcal||71.6 g||7.8 g||2.2 g||11.6 g|
|Rice||364 kcal||83.2 kg||3.4 kg||0.6 g||1.6 g|
|Chickpeas||333 kcal||54 g||21.8 g||4.7 g||13.8 g|
|Peas||336 kcal||59 g||24 g||0.8 g||14 g|
|Red lentil pasta||344 kcal||58 g||24 g||1.3 g||3.8 g|
|Konjac||7 kcal||2.6 g|
What should you remember?
Classic white pasta is a popular tasty side dish, but it is poor in nutrients. It is definitely not necessary to avoid this pleasure and eliminate it from your diet. However, you will do better for your health if you replace it with more nutritious alternatives. Whole grain pasta will provide you with a higher content of fibre and micronutrients.
You can increase the content of fibre, micronutrients and proteins by using legume pasta. If you need a gluten-free alternative or just want to diversify your diet, you can choose from many gluten-free options. All pasta types we talked about, along with low-calorie ones made from konjac, are suitable for a weight loss
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