Whole-grain pasta is considered to be the healthy choice over regular pasta, although both categories bring a relatively large amount of calories. Whole-grain flour contains, besides starch (that is a complex carbohydrate), dietary fibers, proteins, trace minerals (magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper), vitamins (B class vitamins and E vitamin) and antioxidants. Complex carbohydrates are important; they represent our body’s major fuel, they don’t lead to sudden increase of blood glucose levels and they don’t stimulate insulin synthesis, they help us control our appetite and hunger, and help the lipid’s metabolism.
On the market, there are available various types of pasta, some made of wheat, rice or corn flour, others colored, because they have vegetables in their composition (spinach, tomatoes, carrots, herbs, spices). Pay attention to those that contain eggs (these bring more calories)! It is good to know that rice and bean noodles have no flour, and are gluten and cholesterol free. Corn pasta is gluten-free too.
Whole-grain pasta have a glycemic index of around 40, regular pasta around 55, soybean pasta around 22. You should always boil them until they are “al dente”, that way the GI will remain lower. Another option is to eat them cold; that also keeps a lower GI (the process is known as retrogradation). Overcooked pasta will have a high GI, because the starch tends to over gelatinize, so it will be easier to assimilate and that will lead to an increased blood glucose level, increased insulin synthesis and, through a feedback mechanism, we are hungry again.
If you wish to eat regular pasta then choose those that are made from durum wheat (these have more proteins and dietary fibers compared to those made from soft wheat). Be cautious and read the product’s label; not all dark colored pasta are made of whole-grain flour, some may have food dyes.
The amount of pasta that is recommended for a meal is around 3-4 soup spoons alongside with meat and vegetables. You can consume a larger quantity of pasta, but in that case it will be the only type of food eaten at that precise meal. Don’t eat them with bread, rice, corn, bakery products, crackers, cereals, pretzels, potatoes, because you’re just adding more carbohydrates. For a better taste, these can be boiled in salt water, but if sodium is a matter of concern, lemon juice may be added instead. Vegetables, spices, herbs sauces (pesto, salsa, marinara) or fresh tomato slices can be added over pasta.