Whole Grain Pasta May Not Hold Many Real Health Benefits

Whole Grain Pasta May Not Hold Many Real Health Benefits

Whole grains are definitely good for you, there’s no doubt about that. However, you have to consider how much of those whole grains remain intact in your meal, versus those that are heavily processed. With pasta, the answer is few to none, meaning whole grain pasta may not be as good for you as the marketing implies.

Photo by Dottie Mae.

Dr. Darya Pino writes the blog Summer Tomato, and recently she tackled the question of whole grain pasta. There’s no dispute over the benefits of whole grain to your diet in general, but she correctly points out that the amount the grain has been processed plays a major role in the health benefits you get from eating it.

To that end, whole grain rice is definitely better for you than white rice or heavily processed rice, but pasta is a whole different story. Because pasta is processed and made from dough, the health benefits from so-called “whole grain” pasta may actually be very small, if anything.

In essence, if you’re spending more money on whole grain pasta because you think you’re getting serious health benefits, you may be wasting your money when you could focus instead on portion control and how much pasta is on your plate. If you’re that concerned about healthy pasta dishes, she suggests making what you planned, while adding more vegetables to the meal.

Dr. Pino confesses she prefers handmade fresh pasta for the times she eats pasta – which isn’t frequently – but for those of us who love it, she raises a good point. If you like the taste and flavour, that’s one thing, but the health benefits are definitely questionable. After all, part of eating healthier food is to eat food that’s less processed in general, even if it is whole grain.

Should I Buy Whole Grain Pasta? [Summer Tomato]


  • So, tell me if and how this would be any different from wholegrain bread, which I believe is also made from this so-called dough.

    Does wholegrain bread therefore also fall into this category?

    • Because the bread has grains added in and seeds and things whereas it’s impossible to do on a pasta. If it doesn’t have seeds/nuts/whatever then it’s wholemeal.

    • Once whole grains are ground into a flour or meal, a large portion of the nutrients start to oxidize. This can happen in a matter of weeks.

      Presumably when you buy whole grain bread, the grains are ground right before baking, and won’t have much of an opportunity to oxidize on the shelf.

    • I agree, i thought that whole grain meant that the grain was completely unprocessed (eg you can see whole grains in the bread) whereas wholemeal used the whole grain (inc the meal) to produce the _flour_

      eg you could make a white bread with whole grains added, or a wholemeal bread with no whole grains.

      Either way, when i make pasta with wholemeal flour, it is a lot more brown and lumpy than bought pasta.. and i like it

  • Give me a primary source that actually says whole grains are good for you – bet you struggle to find one. There are many secondary sources but few primary. From a nutrient per calorie standpoint whole grains are probably the worst food for you. Throw in the gluten and the spike in insulin after eating them and you’ll want to think twice about pasta at all.

    • You ask for evidence then make dubious claims yourself. Search PubMed, lots of studies showing benefits, mostly correlations but some interventional studies.
      A high amount of nutrients per calorie isn’t the point of eating whole grains, they provide a lot of fibre which is hugely beneficial in the avoidance of bowel conditions including colorectal cancer, at least that’s what the science tells us.
      The degree of insulin spike will depend on how finely the grains are milled, spikes are normal after meals at any rate, what matters is spikes in blood glucose. Also, there is NOTHING wrong with gluten unless you’re a Coeliac disease sufferer or have some other kind of sensitivity, nothing.

  • Wow. I am somewhat shocked at the sheer amount of mis-information in this post. But first off, the post you are referencing is over two years old, and therefore much of the information is out of date considering that the FDA has had to re-draft their definition of what “whole grain” means.

    Secondly, I am unclear about what you mean when you say, “Noodles are made of dough and are therefore processed no matter what.” Noodles are made from flour and water.
    Flour is “processed” as all flour is, in the sense that a wheat kernel is milled (I am guessing this is what you mean by “processed”) into flour. So the distinction of pasta from anything else using flour (i.e. bread, crackers, commercial brand cereal, pancakes, etc.) is moot.

    The true distinction, and the one that you completely overlook, is how the flour is milled The majority of flour sold and used in packaged food items such as pasta, separates the parts of the wheat kernel (endosperm, germ, bran), mills them separately, and then puts them back together (the industry term for this is “reconstituted”) in varying amounts.
    In most cases (because we have been trained to prefer it this way) they don’t add any of the bran back (white flour) or they only add some back. In many cases, they add bran from other sources. Only ingredients listing “100% whole wheat flour”, or “100% whole durum flour” are considered whole grain.
    Furthermore, the pasta company is relying on the company they buy flour from to tell the truth when they say they are milling “whole grain” flour but there is no agency policing these claims. Even the FDA guidelines on whole wheat allow for 10% sifting. Meaning the FDA defines “whole” as 90%. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=137.200

    Whole-grain milling, when done with the goal of retaining all the nutrients naturally occurring in the wheat kernel, keeps ALL parts of wheat kernel together during the milling process. Because of this, many of the beneficial oils (such as vitamin E) and micronutrients are retained. (Much of these nutrients are found in the aleurone
    layer, which is highly sensitive to oxidization and heat and mostly destroyed when the parts of the grain are separated.) For the sake of length, this is a drastically simplified explanation but the important part to understand is that unless otherwise stated, it can generally be assumed that most commercial flour reconstituted and therefore missing some of its naturally occurring nutrients. To compensate for some of this, the grain industry has “enriched” flour, another step in further removing the natural occurring food from the processed food it becomes.

    All that being said, true whole grain wheat flour DOES exist, and can (when grown and milled correctly) taste delicious. We are a very small company out of Oakland, CA that was founded on this belief. We sell 100% whole grain flours as well as 100% whole grain pasta. It is incredibly difficult to make a case for better farming practices, close label reading, and stronger relationships between consumers, farmers, millers and bakers when this type of mis-information is being published (or in your case, re-published) without even fact checking.

  • Sooo…… What you all are saying is that eating whole grain pasta … Is going to get you Fat just like eating the nasty white one!!!

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