Your average pasta is primarily carbohydrates and is made from refined grains. However, you can buy whole-grain pasta, too. Whether or not pasta is fattening depends on what type of grain it's made of and the type of sauce or foods it's being consumed with.
Pasta doesn't have to make you fat. Keep your meal healthy by opting for whole-grain pasta served with low-fat sauce. If you're eating creamy or refined pasta dishes, they should be consumed in moderation.
Refined vs. Whole-Grain Pasta
There isn't much fat in pasta, but pasta can be fattening. Pasta is primarily considered to be fattening because it's so rich in carbohydrates.
According to the USDA, regular pasta's calories equal 196 calories per cup (124 grams). There are also 1.2 grams of fat in pasta, along with 7.2 grams of protein and 38.3 grams of carbohydrates. Regular pasta is refined, which means that there are only 2.2 grams of dietary fiber in every cup of pasta.
In comparison, whole grain pasta's calories are 174 per cup (117 grams). There are also 2 grams of fat in whole-grain pasta, as well as 7 grams of protein and 35.2 grams of carbohydrates. Whole grain pasta has more dietary fiber, with 4.6 grams of fiber in every cup.
Both refined and whole grain pasta have a variety of essential nutrients. Regular pasta is typically enriched, like other refined products. It is consequently likely to have more B-complex vitamins than whole-grain pasta. However, whole-grain pasta has more magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.
Dietary Fiber and Fat Intake
Although a few grams of fiber may not seem very important, most people don't get enough of this nutrient. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, most Americans consume around 15 grams of dietary fiber each day instead of the 25 to 30 grams they should be ingesting.
Because most people don't consume enough fiber, every extra gram counts. This means that whole-grain products, like whole-grain pasta, are always healthier than refined grain products.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, dietary fiber consumption can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and diverticular diseases. The Food and Drug Administration also says dietary fiber can promote healthy blood sugar levels and regular bowel movements.
Dietary fiber also helps promotes satiety and supports digestion, changing the way fat and cholesterol are absorbed into your bloodstream. All of these factors can influence weight gain.
Ultimately, this means that fiber-rich, whole-grain pasta is less likely to be fattening compared to refined pasta. It also means that eating whole-grain pasta can help mediate the cholesterol and fat absorption of any fatty sauces you're consuming alongside your pasta.
If you want to consume the lowest fat pasta possible, prepare whole-grain pasta with vegetable-based sauces. Vegetable sauces like tomato sauce, pesto and other similar sauces are likely to be the healthiest choices for your diet.
You should avoid sauces rich in saturated fat, like alfredo sauce, garlic butter sauce and other white, creamy sauces. Saturated fat can do more than contribute to weight gain. According to the American Heart Association, it can also elevate your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which puts you at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.