Some health considerations when picking the pasta for your next meal

Dr. Martine Scannavino
Dr. Martine Scannavino

(MEDSTAR) - Despite low carb diets, pasta remains a family favorite. In fact, pasta sales went up when the economy started to stumble. Your pasta picks are plentiful, but are they healthy?

Mama mia! Walk down the pasta aisle at your favorite grocery store and your options seem endless.

"There's whole grain, fortified grain, multigrain, white pastas, Italian imported pastas, so really the choices keep growing exponentially," said Martine Scannavino, Department of Nutrition Chair at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA.

So if you're shopping, should your pasta pick be healthy whole grain?

"If your diet's a little weak in the whole grains, it's a great place now, since the quality of these pasta have improved to add a whole grain through pasta," Scannavino said. "But if you're already consuming a lot of whole grains, a whole grain cereal in the morning and you only eat whole grain breads or brown rice and you want to have a white pasta for dinner, 'cause you prefer that, then there's no reason not to."

How it feels in your mouth matters too.

"The whole grain is going to have a little bit more of a grainy texture," said Scannavino. "Although a lot of these pasta manufacturers have gotten, gotten it down pretty good, where they're able to incorporate these whole grains, have them be a good source of whole grain and they've smoothed out the texture, the whole grain taste, which tends to be a little more on the nutty side, is what takes people a little more time to get used to."

Beyond the taste, there's the issue of cost. Store brands are usually cheapest.

"So why choose one over the other? Perhaps you are looking for the whole grain, and that might be a little more expensive and they are a little more than the 89 cent ones. Although their prices are coming down," Scannavino said.

Scannavino makes hers from scratch, and is happy to share the pasta, and her pasta picks with friends.

Fortified pastas are starting to make their way onto store shelves, including those with Omega 3's, Flaxseed and more. Dr. Scannavino says in many cases, you'd have to eat an enormous amount of the fortified pasta to come close to the daily dietary recommendations. For more fun facts about pasta, log onto the National Pasta Association website at  

Fast facts:

  • Chinese ate pasta as long ago as 5,000 B.C.
  • Americans eat about 15½ pounds of pasta per person annually.
  • When paired with the right toppings, pasta can be part of a healthy, nutritious meal.
  • Whole-grain pasta contains three times the amount of fiber as regular pasta.

For general information on pasta and diet:

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