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A Healthier Bowl of Pasta

Whole-grain and higher-fiber pastas are healthier. But how do they taste?
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

It's brown, and it sometimes feels like it's biting you back when you bite into it. It comes in many shapes and types. It can single-handedly boost the fiber and nutrients in any meal that features it. It's whole-grain or high-fiber pasta, and it's coming to a supermarket near you (if it's not there already)!

You know you're onto something when a major brand jumps on the bandwagon, right? Well, not too long ago, Barilla (which is as much fun to say with an Italian accent as it is to eat) came out with a higher-fiber line of pasta, Barilla Plus.

But do these new healthier pastas pass the taste test?

Well, pasta (like most foods) is all about three things: color, flavor, and texture. Most Americans are used to white, tender, pleasantly neutral-tasting pasta. Not everyone is going to eat 100% whole-wheat pasta and love it. But there are options out there.

Barilla Plus is the brand I think is most similar in look and feel to white-flour pasta. This company was definitely thinking outside the pasta box when they formulated this new product. They added a grain and legume flour blend that includes lentils, chickpeas, egg whites, spelt, barley, flaxseed, oat fiber and oats. The egg whites and the legumes boost the protein, the barley and oats boost the soluble fiber, and the flaxseed provides some healthy plant omega-3s.

And how does it taste? This pasta is similar indeed to regular pasta -- even passable to most kids, I suspect.

Comparing the Healthier Pastas

Most of the whole-wheat pastas I found featured whole durum wheat flour, which is the same as saying "whole semolina flour." Apparently, "semolina" is another word for "coarsely ground durum wheat." You'll probably only come across this type of wheat when reading pasta labels. Durum wheat is thought to be the best wheat for pasta-making, thanks to its higher protein and gluten content (gluten is a type of protein in wheat that helps give baked products structure).

I'm not going to lie to you: The 100% whole-wheat pastas may take some getting used to. I actually didn't mind that they were browner and heartier, especially when they were part of a fab recipe that included several other ingredients.

Which healthier pasta is highest in fiber or protein, and which brands boost your plant omega-3s as a bonus? Here's a table to help you compare (fiber, protein and fat are measured in grams).

Pasta (2 ounces dry)

Calories

Fiber

Protein

Fat

Barilla Plus Spaghetti*

210

4 g

10 g

2 g

Westbrae Natural Organic Whole Wheat Lasagna

210

6 g

8 g

1.5 g

365 Organic Whole Wheat Shells (from Whole Foods)

210

5 g

7 g

1 g

Lifestream Organic Whole Grain & Flax Linguini*

208

8 g

9 g

3.5 g

Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Rotelle Pasta

210

5 g

8 g

1.5 g

* Barilla Plus Spaghetti contains 0.2 g plant omega-3s. Lifestream Organic Whole Grain & Flax Linguini contains 0.7 g plant omega-3s.

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