Whole-Wheat Pasta versus Inulin-Infused White Pasta: Is One Better for Me?

Should you buy whole wheat pasta or inulin-infused white pasta?

(HealthCastle.com)  I’ve been buying inulin-infused white pasta (the SmartTM pasta) for years now.   I remember the day I compared the nutrition facts on the boxes and thought, wow, these products are practically identical!   Both Catelli’s SmartTM pasta and whole grain pastas contain the same amount of calories, fibre (8 grams!), protein and carbohydrate per 3/4 cup dry serving.  As well, they’ve both been enriched with iron and B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. (Note that 3/4 cup of dry pasta yields about 1 ½  cups of cooked pasta).

Recently I had a friend over for dinner who asked me why I feed my family inulin-infused white noodles instead of the good old brown whole wheat ones.  Her kids don’t like the whole wheat pasta she serves but they loved the ones I made.  Outside of taste and the nutrition facts label, I had to confess, I needed to learn more about the inulin-infused white noodles I was serving. 

The question
Which is a healthier choice:  Whole wheat pasta or inulin infused-white pasta (SmartTM pasta)?  The nutrition facts on the box are identical.

The answer short and simple

When it comes to overall health; whole wheat pasta products win over inulin infused white pasta products.  Not the answer I was hoping for!

What is inulin?

  • is a carbohydrate found naturally in foods like chicory, artichokes, onions and garlic. 
  • is a prebiotic helping good bacteria grow and multiply in the colon (large intestine).  
  • is considered a soluble fibre, like that found in oats, barley, psyllium, oranges, dried beans and lentils.  Soluble fibres are known to help lower blood cholesterol levels and control blood glucose (sugar) levels.  Unfortunately for inulin however, the evidence for heart disease prevention and blood sugar control is limited.  Scientists just don’t agree that isolated fibres like inulin have the same benefits as intact fibres in whole grain foods.  More research needs to be done in this area.

The Inside scoop: Whole Wheat Pasta versus Inulin-Infused White Pasta

Whole wheat

  • Whole wheat pasta products that are made from 100 % whole grain wheat have not been stripped of bran and germ. That means they have significantly more fibre, vitamins, minerals and protective phytochemicals then enriched wheat products.  There is strong evidence that a diet rich in whole grains lowers the risk for Cardiovascular Disease by lowering cholesterol.  Whole grains are a soluble fibre.

Inulin

  • Inulin-infused white pasta is made from semolina, a refined white wheat product.  Refining wheat removes 2 parts: 1) the outer bran layer where nearly all the fibre is and 2) the inner germ layer that is rich in nutrients, healthy fats and antioxidants.   All that’s left is the starch component.  

Inulin isolated from the chicory root and oat hull fibre has been added as an ingredient to white pasta to boost fibre content.   Aside from fiber supplements, inulin is also being added to other food products, such as yogurt and bread, to boost fiber content.  Inulin is tasteless, colorless, odorless, and texture-less, making it extremely easy to incorporate into foods and beverages.

The Verdict?

Because it is a whole grain, whole grain whole wheat pasta is better for you.  If you aren’t a fan of whole wheat pasta, Inulin infused white pasta is more nutritious than regular white pasta, as it has four times more fibre per serving and offers the potential health benefits of inulin.  I propose, since inulin infused white pasta is a better choice than generic white pasta, and has a great taste, enjoy it in combination with whole wheat pasta varieties.  Now we do!

Super Basic Cheese Noodles (4 – 6 portions)

Ingredients

  • 375 g (3 cups) Noodles (1/2 whole wheat and ½ inulin infused) – elbow macaroni, rotini, penne etc
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (old cheddar, asiago, parmeson, monterey jack cheese ... I like to add whatever I have in the house)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour (ww or white)
  • Pinch of paprika and salt

Directions

  1. Boil noodles as written on the package.  Drain well, return to pot, and set aside. 
  2. In a medium pot, melt butter over medium / high heat until bubbling.  Add flour and mix.  About 2 minutes.  Once bubbling again whisk in the milk, heat to boiling stirring often until thickens.  Add cheeses and stir until smooth.

Add

         3.  Add noodles to pot and toss to coat and heat.

Serve immediately. 

Variations

  • saute garlic in butter
  • saute jalepeno in butter
  • add mustards to cheese

 

Written by Calgary Dietitian, Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Director and Dietitian with HealthCastle Calgary, and Calgary Dietitian, Heidi Piovoso BSc, RD, Associate Dietitian, HealthCastle Calgary

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