Is Pasta Bad for Your Health?

Pasta is not bad for you diet or your health.
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Question: I'm happy with my weight, so I think I'm consuming the correct number of calories each day, but I'd like to eat healthier foods. My low-carb and Paleo diet friends tell me that pasta 

Answer: Eating pasta isn't bad for your health. It's not low in calories, though, so you may need to watch your portion sizes if you're on a weight-loss diet. Pasta is made from grain, so it's energy-dense -- a one-cup serving of spaghetti has 220 calories, mostly from complex carbohydrates.

Pasta belongs to the grain food group, and according to the Unites States Department of Agriculture's; about one-quarter of any meal should contain grains such as pasta, rice, cornmeal or oatmeal. 

But What About All Those Carbs?

Pasta isn't bad just because it's high in carbs. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy, especially if you're an active person. A balanced diet should have about half your calories coming from carbohydrates.

If you're following a strict low-carb diet, it's tough to fit much pasta into your meal plans. But it's perfect for a balanced diet and fits comfortably into a low-fat diet (as long as you keep the sauces and other toppings light).

And Doesn't Pasta Have Gluten?

Regular pasta is made from wheat, so yes, it has gluten. That's a problem for people with celiac disease, wheat allergies or intolerances, but for the rest of us, there's no need to follow a gluten-free diet.

Some fad diets are based partly on avoiding gluten, but they're not based on credible scientific research.

Gluten-free pasta made from corn or rice is still high in carbohydrates and has about the same number of calories as wheat pasta. It's also considered part of the grain group and aren't any better or worse for you than regular pasta.

Make Healthier Pasta Meals

A serving of pasta itself is relatively innocent, but it can be turned evil by what's served on and around it. Linguine with topped with fresh vegetables in a light sauce is healthful, but I can't say the same for most canned and boxed pasta meals that are high in sodium and fat. Most brands of macaroni and cheese are high in fat, sodium, and calories too.

The Healthiest Pasta Is Whole Wheat Pasta

Most pasta is made from refined grains that have had the husks removed, which gives it a lighter flavor and texture, but reduces the fiber content. Whole wheat pasta has more fiber than regular pasta. It also has a stronger flavor and different texture -- some people like it right away while others need to eat whole grain pasta a few times before acquiring a taste for it. I think it helps to use robust sauces with lots of flavor (but stick with tomato based sauces, because creamy and cheesy sauces are higher in calories).


The United States Department of Agriculture. "National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference." Accessed February 17, 2016.

The United States Department of Agriculture. "What Foods Are in the Grain Group?" Accessed February 17, 2016.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010." Accessed February 17, 2016.

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