Pasta and spaghetti sauce can be nutritious additions to your diet because the sauce is made with tomatoes. These foods are meat-free, which means they're also cholesterol-free. Add meatballs or other types of meat, however, and the nutrition information changes. Meat contains cholesterol, just like any other animal food, so if you're watching your intake of cholesterol, it's wise to reconsider whether the addition of meat is worth it.
Many people tend to worry about their cholesterol levels, which is smart because limiting your intake of cholesterol is one way to help protect your heart. Some cholesterol, however, is necessary for the proper function of your body. Good cholesterol, also called high-density lipoprotein, can actually help remove bad cholesterol from your body. What matters more, if you're worried about your cholesterol level, is the amount of unhealthy saturated fats you eat because too much saturated fat can raise your cholesterol, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
A cup of cooked spaghetti noodles doesn't contain any cholesterol. That doesn't mean, however, that you're home free when you eat pasta noodles. According to 2010 article published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," a diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as white pasta, can contribute to weight gain, which can negatively affect your cholesterol level. If you opt for whole-wheat spaghetti, the meal doesn't have the same negative effects because it's higher in fiber, a nutrient that can help lower your overall cholesterol levels.
Any type of meat adds cholesterol to your spaghetti. A 100-gram serving of Italian sausage, which is about 3.5 ounces, for example, contains 57 milligrams of cholesterol. More concerning than the actual cholesterol is the amount of saturated fat certain types of meat can add to your pasta meal. A 3.5-ounce portion of Italian sausage contains 9.6 grams of saturated fat. Topping your spaghetti with cheese adds more cholesterol and saturated fat. An ounce of Parmesan cheese, for example, has 25 milligrams of cholesterol and 4.9 grams of saturated fat.
Making the Best Spaghetti for You
Add vegetables to your spaghetti because they are rich in fiber and vitamin C but also because a diet high in veggies can help reduce your overall cholesterol level. Bell peppers, zucchini, shredded broccoli or spinach are a few ideas that pair well with the flavors of spaghetti sauce. If you want a meat sauce, opt for reduced-fat or lean meats such as turkey sausage. Reduce the cholesterol and saturated fat content even more by limiting the amount of cheese you use or by choosing a low-fat version of your favorite cheese.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Spaghetti, Cooked, Enriched, Without Added Salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Sausage, Italian, Pork, Cooked
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out With the Bad, in With the Good
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cholesterol
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Are Refined Carbohydrates Worse Than Saturated Fat?
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cheese, Parmesan, Grated