As a nutritionist, time and time again when I tell people that I love pasta dishes and eat pasta regularly they are confused because they’ve always been taught that pasta is bad and leads to weight gain. Of course, not all pasta is created equal though.
Typically, most pasta is bad for weight loss because most pasta is made from refined grains which means most of the fiber is stripped away. Fiber is key for weight loss and weight management! The carbohydrates in refined pasta digest quickly resulting in a spike in blood sugar leaving us feeling hungry again soon which can lead to overeating and weight
gain. Refined carbs are considered “empty calories” because they are adding to our total calorie intake but not providing the nourishment, we need to feel full and feel our best.
Refined wheat pasta or white pasta is the worst for those trying to lose weight. This is the white processed pasta that is most readily available at grocery stores and restaurants. This type of pasta is made from refined grains which, as discussed above, is stripped of fiber and considered “empty” calories leading us to consume more and gain weight.
The pasta I recommend that can totally play a part in a well-balanced whole food plant-based diet is 100% whole wheat pasta. When shopping for pasta, look for the pasta that says “whole” in front of wheat on the ingredient list to ensure it is made from whole grains. Whole grain pasta, as opposed to refined grain pasta, is naturally loaded with fiber (around 3 times as much as refined) which improves gut health, helps to maintain steady blood sugar, and keeps you fuller for longer. Aside from whole wheat pasta, brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, buckwheat pasta and farro pasta are a few other whole grain options with abundant fiber benefits. These pastas aren’t always as easy to find at the grocery store though. There are pastas made from legumes like black beans, red lentils, and chickpeas that also are unlikely to cause weight gain because they are full of fiber and protein and nourish the body rather than leaving you hungry in an hour.
There are so many tasty recipes that include pasta. Luckily by making the swap to a whole grain or legume-based pasta, you can still enjoy these dishes while providing the body with the nourishment it requires. Below is a super simple Chipotle Mac & Cheeze recipe that takes only 20 minutes to make. Enjoy!
Written by: Emily Gregory Plant-Based Nutrition Coach and NASM CPT CES Personal Trainer