Is Whole-Wheat Pasta Good For You?
This article will explore the health benefits of whole wheat pasta. The concept of whole-wheat and whole-grain pasta is nothing new, but how much do you actually know about it? What makes for a healthier pasta? What are the differences between traditional semolina pasta and whole-wheat pasta? Is there such thing as a totally healthy pasta? And why should you make the switch?
With so many misleading claims out there and so many pasta products to choose from, how do you know which is the best whole-wheat pasta? The food experts at DeLallo sought the help of Edie Horstman, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach (INHC) and Nutrition Consultant (CNC), to bring you the facts and to help you make an informed decision about your favorite pantry staple.
What is Whole-Wheat Pasta?
How Pasta is Made
All pasta is made by milling the grains from harvested durum wheat. Once grains are milled and sifted into flour, they are introduced to water and kneaded to create a dough. From there, pasta is extruded with dies to make their famous shapes. Once the noodles are formed, they are dried. The resulting product is the pasta you see in boxes and bags on grocery store shelves.
Semolina vs. Whole-Wheat
When traditional refined pasta is made, the milling process strips each grain kernel of bran and germ, leaving only the soft endosperm. This gives the flour a finer texture and lighter color, but it also reduces the nutritional content of the pasta. The ground endosperm is called semolina flour, hence semolina pasta.
Whole-wheat pasta, on the other hand, uses the entire grain kernel (bran, germ and endosperm) in its milling process. This method creates flour that retains all the of the nutrients and fiber of the entire grain. The bran and germ also give whole-wheat pasta its signature nutty flavor and slightly courser texture.
What’s the difference between “whole-wheat” and “whole grain”?
Simply put, wheat is a grain, and so when the phrase “whole grain” is used, it means that the product is comprised wholly of grain. This phrase, however, doesn’t specify which grain. Given this clarification, all whole-wheat products are whole grain, but not all whole-grain products are whole wheat. Still confused? Let’s go a little deeper...
The phrase “whole-wheat pasta” describes pasta that is made using the entire wheat kernel. On the other hand, the phrase “whole-grain pasta” describes pasta made using any and sometimes multiple grains: wheat, but also barley, corn, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, rice, rye, etc. Some brands add more than just wheat to their pasta as fillers.
Health Benefits of Whole-Wheat Pasta
Is whole-wheat pasta healthier than traditional semolina pasta?
Yes. Regular, or traditional semolina pasta, is made with refined flour. This flour has been stripped of heart-healthy fiber and nutrients. Whole-wheat pasta is made with the whole grain kernel, retaining what makes it most healthy and desirable.
What are the specific health benefits of whole-wheat/whole-grain?
Whole-wheat pasta as with all whole-grain products are known for their health-promoting properties, such as improved heart health, blood sugar control and weight management. All of these are characteristic of a good high-fiber diet.
Opting for whole-wheat pasta means that you and your family are receiving the most nutritional benefits:
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin E
- Healthy fats
So when you choose DeLallo Whole-Wheat Pasta, a 100% whole-wheat product, you get the benefits of whole grains in every bowl.
Can whole-wheat pasta help with weight loss?
Depending on your health goals, whole-wheat pasta can help you lose weight. Whole-wheat pasta (and other whole grains) take longer to digest than pasta made from refined flour. Because of this, it raises blood sugar more slowly, which prevents excess fat storage, especially around your midsection.
If you follow Weight Watchers, one cup of whole-wheat pasta is four points, while one cup of regular pasta is five points. And although it isn’t low in carbohydrates, whole-wheat pasta is lower in calories and higher in satiety-boosting fiber than refined pasta. Check out @SkinnyTaste’s Weight Watchers whole-wheat recipes for inspiration.
Is whole-wheat pasta gluten-free?
No, whole-wheat pasta is made from wheat and wheat contains gluten. You should not eat whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta if you have a gluten intolerance or allergy.
Is whole-wheat pasta vegan?
Yes, 100% whole-wheat and whole-grain pastas are vegan, because they are made from a plant-based ingredient: durum wheat.
Is whole-wheat pasta the best choice for diabetics?
While you always want to consult your healthcare practitioner first, whole-wheat pasta is diabetic-friendly. Whole-wheat pasta tends to have lower Glycemic Index (GI scores) than its refined semolina counterpart. This is helpful for diabetics who still want to eat pasta!
Whole-wheat pasta, compared to traditional refined pasta, reduces the impact on blood sugar because of its protein and fiber content. In addition, think about adding protein, healthy fats and fiber to the dish. This results in a lower ratio of pasta and a higher ratio of blood-sugar-balancing ingredients. Serving sizes vary for everyone, but approximately one cup of cooked pasta is a good place to start.
Pasta as Part of a Healthy Diet
You can absolutely eat pasta as part of a healthy diet—particularly pasta that is made from high-quality, well-sourced ingredients. Eating pasta in moderation, as well as adding protein, healthy fats (like olive oil, olives, seeds, walnuts, etc.), and fiber (spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, etc.) is a well-balanced approach. There is no reason to deprive yourself of a comforting, delicious bowl of noodles. Pasta lovers, rejoice!
How To Choose A Whole-Wheat Pasta
How to Shop for Whole-Wheat Pasta
When shopping for whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta, be sure to read the labels carefully–more specifically the nutrition panels and ingredient lists. If you are looking to add whole grains to your diet, check products to be sure they contain 100% whole wheat or whole grains and nothing else.
Don’t be fooled by brands that boast “whole grain” status without reading the ingredient list. If these products list other ingredients, like refined flours and additives, they are not 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain.
The DeLallo Difference
At DeLallo, we believe in remaining true to our Italian food philosophy—just a few, simple, authentic ingredients make the best meals. That’s why our Whole-Wheat Pasta is made with only one ingredient: 100% Italian Organic Whole Durum Wheat.
To avoid the gritty texture of some brands, our whole-wheat flour is milled finer to give the resulting pasta a texture more similar to semolina pasta, but still boasting the added health benefits of whole grains.
Like all of our pasta, our whole-wheat variety is dried slowly at low temperatures, to preserve the pasta’s color, texture, and flavor. This slow process ensures our pasta cooks to a perfect al dente every time.
In addition, DeLallo Whole-Wheat Pasta can make the following claims:
- Certified organic.
- Made with 100% Italian-grown wheat.
- Extruded with bronze dies for a rougher sauce-capturing surface.
As experts in Italian foods for over 70 years, DeLallo’s quality is unrivaled.