Health Benefits of Whole-Grain Pasta

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on July 11, 2023
3 min read

It seems there are more kinds of whole-grain and whole-wheat foods on the market all the time. Whole grain pasta is one of them, and it may be better for you than its refined or enriched counterparts.

Enriched or refined pasta is made from milled grains that have the outer layers of the grains removed. This also removes important nutrients. These include fiber, vitamin B, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E. 

Switching over to whole grain pasta and other wheat products is beneficial to your overall health. It helps in the following ways:

  • Improves your digestive health
  • Helps lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and more
  • Provides vitamins that are essential for your body’s functions

The type of grain is determined by what happens to it during the production process.

Whole, refined, or enriched? Whole grains are ground into flour using all their parts, including bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains are milled with the germ and bran removed. This gives them a fine consistency and prolongs their shelf life. The milling process also removes many of the grains’ nutrients.

Enriched grains have nutrients added back in later during the production process. Not all nutrients are added back in. Some grains may even contain extra nutrients you may not need. But that doesn’t mean that whole grains are the perfect alternative.

Whole grains and other types of grains contain different nutrients. It’s recommended that about half of the grains you eat every day be whole. But when in doubt, choose whole grains. 

Read the label. Be conscious of your foods’ “whole grain” labels. Foods that are labeled as whole-grain may not be a healthy alternative. Foods that are whole-grain may contain additives that make them higher in sugar and calories. 

If you’re a pasta lover, you don’t need to overhaul your diet to make meaningful changes. Switching your enriched flour pasta for a whole grain version can lead you to the following benefits. 

Vitamins and minerals. All grains are great sources of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.  Whole grains provide you with: 

  • Protein
  • Antioxidants
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Vitamin B
  • Folic acid (folate)
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium

These nutrients perform a variety of functions in your body. They support your immune system, relieve inflammation, and promote bone health. They also help you process calories. 

Heart health. Whole grains do a lot to support your heart health. Studies have frequently shown that people who eat an appropriate amount of whole grains every day are at about 20 to 30% lower risk for cardiovascular disease. 

Making whole grains a significant part of your diet can considerably lower your: 

  • Total cholesterol levels
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol
  • Fat in your blood called Triglycerides, 
  • Insulin levels 

‌Diabetes prevention. Whole grains help you maintain insulin levels, which also helps improve your body’s glucose control. Adequate whole grains in your diet lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by around 30%. 

Whole grains still contain the primary parts of the grain. That means they are complex to digest. This creates a slow digestive process and prevents spikes in blood sugar.

Digestive health. What most people associate whole grains with is fiber. The fiber in whole grains that isn’t present in refined or enriched grains is important for:

  • Regulating bowel movements
  • Relieving constipation
  • Decreasing diarrhea
  • Lowering inflammation 

A supported digestive tract and healthy bowel movements can prevent possible complications. Healthy bowel movements put less strain on your small intestine. This prevents conditions like diverticular disease

Weight management. The fiber in whole grains helps you maintain a healthy weight by making you feel full faster. This leads to:

  • Reduced caloric intake
  • Longer lasting fullness
  • Decreased need for insulin 

However, whole grain pasta isn’t the key to weight management on its own. Whole grains must be paired with lower fat and cholesterol intake. All parts of your diet work together to keep you healthy. 

Cancer prevention. Studies have had mixed results, but whole grains have had some success against common causes of cancer. Some studies have shown that people who eat an adequate amount of whole grains are 21% less likely to develop colorectal cancer

High intakes of whole grains have also helped protect against gastrointestinal tract cancers. It’s believed that this is because the variety of vitamins provided by whole grains offers several protections against cancer, including:

  • Prevent oxidative damage
  • Affect hormone levels, which may lower the risk of hormone-related cancers
  • Parts of whole grains may bind to carcinogens