Nutrition Articles

7 Whole-Grain Pastas You've Never Tried

Expand Your Palate with New-to-You Noodles

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Pasta is such a versatile food, it’s no wonder it’s so popular. A survey conducted by the National Pasta Association found that 77% of Americans eat pasta at least once per week. Used as a side dish or main entree, eaten hot or cold, topped with a variety of different items, pasta is a great source of energy (carbohydrates) that helps power your mind through a tough day at work or school and your body though a challenging workout at the gym. You might have already made the switch to 100% whole-wheat pasta, but that's not the only variety of whole-grain pasta. Did you know that a wide variety of other whole-grain noodles are readily available in grocery stores these days?

Flours from other whole grains, such as brown rice, kamut, quinoa, buckwheat, corn and spelt, can all be used to make high-fiber, heart-healthy pastas, which each has its own flavor and nutritional profile. Being precise in cooking whole-grain pastas is important, as the texture can change greatly if you accidentally undercook or overcook them. This is especially true when cooking gluten-free pastas, as they tend to fall apart a bit more because they lack the sturdy protein, gluten, which helps bind pasta.

Here's an introduction to some of the most common whole-grain pastas you can find at the supermarket.

Buckwheat pasta
Buckwheat is technically a grass, not a grain. It’s gluten-free, so is wonderful for people with celiac disease. Buckwheat seeds are ground into a dark flour, which is used to make this pasta, also called "soba noodles." The noodles are a dark brown-gray color and have a nutty flavor. Some companies add wheat flour to ground buckwheat when making pasta, so be sure to check the label if you’re trying to avoid gluten. They're often used in Asian cooking.

Whole-wheat couscous
Couscous is a tiny, circular pasta from North Africa and the Middle East. It's becoming increasingly popular in America but is most often made with refined wheat flour. However, you can find whole-wheat couscous. Couscous is generally steamed or boiled in water and can be topped with stews, eaten plain, or flavored with various herbs and spices. It’s commonly stocked in the grains section of larger grocery stores.

Brown rice pasta
Made from ground whole brown rice, brown rice pasta is lighter in color than many whole-wheat varieties and mild in flavor. It is touted as having a smooth texture that is firm and is generally found in the gluten-free section of grocery stores or  health food stores. It has to be cooked slightly longer than wheat pastas but can be used just as you would any other pasta in hot dishes, salads, soups, casseroles or other dishes.

Kamut pasta
Kamut is a type of whole wheat. It contains gluten but is usually tolerated by those allergic to the common, crossbred versions of wheat. It has a richer, almost buttery flavor and can be found in many shapes, such as penne, spaghetti and fusilli.

Quinoa pasta
Quinoa is the seed of a grass-like plant found in the Andes Mountains of South America. It is not technically a grain, but it is often referred to as a whole grain because it is nutritionally similar. It resembles couscous in size and shape but is ground into flour to make gluten-free pasta (often made with a blend of quinoa and corn flours). It’s superior to traditional white flour pasta in amounts of protein, iron and phosphorous and is considered a complete protein, which is important to vegetarians.

Spelt pasta
Spelt is a close relative of wheat but yields noodles with a deeper flavor. It combines well with olives, feta cheese and tomatoes for a Mediterranean-inspired dish. This niacin-rich ancient grain can help with heart health by lowering total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Corn pasta
Pasta made from stone ground corn is yet another whole grain, gluten-free option when it comes to choosing noodles. It can range from white to yellow in color, depending on the type of corn used. This type of pasta can be a bit mushy, so it’s best to avoid using it in soups. Try combining it with spinach, peppers, or sun-dried tomatoes.


Use the table below to help you decide which types of whole-grain noodles will be best for you and your nutritional goals. Each brand and variety will have a different flavor, so you might want to experiment with a range of new-to-you whole grains.

Each of these values represents a single 2 oz serving of dry pasta (about 1 cup cooked). The fat content in all varieties is less than 1 gram per serving!

Type of Pasta Calories Carbs Fiber Protein *Gluten-Free?
Whole wheat 200 41 g 6 g 7 g No
Quinoa 205 46 g 4 g 4 g Yes
Buckwheat 200 43 g 3 g 6 g Yes
Spelt 190 41 g 4 g 8 g No
Brown rice 210 43 g 2 g 4 g Yes
Kamut 210 40 g 6 g 10 g No
Corn 203 45 g 6 g 4 g Yes

*Please note that foods that are naturally gluten-free can be contaminated during the manufacturing process. Always read labels and look for certified gluten-free products if gluten intolerance is an issue for you.

Sources
www.ilovepasta.org
www.whfoods.com

This article has been reviewed for accuracy and approved by licensed and registered dietitian, Becky Hand.

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Member Comments

  • The problem is getting stores to carry healthy stuff. Walmart is a joke, Kroger helps a bit; however, I live in Hardin county, TN. If it's loaded with sugar, grease. and/or carbs without fiber it may sell. This is one of the areas in the USA which has not only one of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes it takes the cake #1 baby. It's disgraceful Everything here is battered, and fried even the greens are cooked with a pound of bacon. Even with all the evidence people are not willing to change, stores will only carry what will sell as determined by their parent company (whom I can't get an answer to) Even the Chinese restaurants here (actually pig out buffets more so than restaurant) do not have bean sprouts on the menu in any food or dish.
  • I will try the whole wheat pasta but not so sure about the othersM
  • I am sorry but these sound absolutely awful. Not being gluten free, I will stick with plain old pasta.
  • BILLTHOMSON
    Learned a lot about pastas
  • I do purchase the whole wheat pasta for myself when shopping. I still have not seen any of the other types of pasta in our store, but I am always looking to see if they start carrying any of the other types listed
  • Im going to be on the look out for these
  • So many "pastas" - who knew? Good article to read before hitting the grocery store in a little while.
  • I love brown rice pasta but you have to be careful when you cook it or it will become mushy and sticky. Make sure you have enough water. I used to be able to cook regular wheat pasta in a few cups and it always turned out okay. You need more water for the rice pasta to move around. You also have to stir it more so it doesn't stick together. Finally, if you rinse it after cooking that removes some of the excess starch that makes it sticky. I don't eat much pasta anymore as the wheat stuff nearly killed me. My blood sugar would go up so high I got very sick. The rice pasta doesn't seem to be a problem but I do carefully measure my portions and don't have it more than once a week. But I'm grateful that once in a while I can still have it.
  • I'd love some info about vegetable pastas.
  • Just a warning about the Dreamfields pasta someone mentioned below: http://www.dietdo
    ctor.com/the-
    dreamfields-p
    asta-fraud
  • Great article. Going to try some of these.
  • I have had the brown rice and spelt pasta and they were both pretty good. Actually, it is all about the sauce. The right sauce could make cardboard taste good :)
  • I am on Asa Andrews anti-inflammation diet due to lymph issues. I do not eat any wheat, but, am not totally gluten free. Some gluten foods do not cause inflammation and I can have them. I prefer rice pasta and use the brand Pasta Joy. My husband, who is a very picky eater, is slowly switching to some of the foods on my diet, and he like the Pasta Joy and The New Hope Brand of Gluten free Chia Seed Pancake and waffle mix. Thanks Spark for a article that helps with ideas for those of us that will not eat wheat
  • TFAY511847
    I found this articule to have very good content. However, I was disappointed by the **misleading** SparkPeople "Subject Title" on my email (Whole-Grain Pastas That Aren't Wheat) which drew me in to reading it. Although the article & it's author are VERY informative, due to the subject title on the received SparkPeople email, I was expecting a focus on specific WHEAT FREE options ALONE. Yet, giving the benefit of the doubt, I suppose an uneducated person might, initially, think that spelt, kamut & couscous aren't actually wheat.
  • JESUSAN
    Very helpful article. However, the botanist in me would like to let people know that corn, wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, and oats are all grasses. Buckwheat is NOT a grass. Buckwheat also has a pretty strong flavor that many might not like.

About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.