Nutrition of Spaghetti Squash vs. Pasta

If you are searching for a healthy and low-carbohydrate pasta alternative, try substituting spaghetti squash in your favorite pasta recipe. This squash gets its name from the long spaghetti-like strands that form when you scrape its cooked flesh with a fork. Both wheat pasta and spaghetti squash offer nutritional benefits. Understanding their nutritional profiles can help you choose which option best suits your dietary needs.

A plate of spaghetti squash (Image: razmarinka/iStock/Getty Images)

Calories

Spaghetti squash is significantly lower in calories than traditional pasta. A 1-cup serving of cooked spaghetti squash has 42 calories, while 1 cup of cooked pasta has 221 calories. If you are following a low-calorie diet, consider substituting spaghetti squash for pasta. Doing so can save you 180 calories per cup.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your body's main source of expendable energy. They are absorbed into your body as glucose, and are then converted into energy that fuels bodily and metabolic functions.

One cup of cooked pasta contains 42 grams of carbohydrates, making it a high-energy, yet high-carbohydrate option. Spaghetti squash contains 10 grams of carbohydrates per cup. If you are diabetic or following a low-carbohydrate diet, choosing spaghetti squash over pasta can significantly reduce your carbohydrate intake.

Nutrients

One cup of cooked pasta contains 8 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber. Protein is a necessary macronutrient that helps support muscle strength, while fiber supports your digestive system.

Spaghetti squash has a high water content. One cup of cooked squash contains 143 grams of water. Foods high in water can increase your daily water intake. They also typically are lower in calories than foods with little or no water content. Spaghetti squash is also a good source of fiber, with 2.2 grams in a 1-cup serving. Spaghetti squash also contains beta carotene, which can help improve eye and skin health, maintain a strong immune system and can help prevent infection.

Preparation

Both pasta and spaghetti squash are quick and simple to prepare. Pasta requires only a pot of water, the pasta of your choice and a strainer. Put pasta in boiling water and cook eight to 12 minutes or until it is chewy yet firm, then drain.

To make spaghetti squash, halve a squash lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds, and then bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, run a fork through the flesh to create spaghetti strands.

Top your pasta or spaghetti squash with marinara, pesto or olive oil. Add cooked vegetables, meat or cheese to your dish to increase its nutrition.

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