Fork with spaghetti and smoked sauce

Can Pasta be Part of a Healthy Diet (even if you want to lose weight)?

By Trudi Purdy, wlr team

Key takeaways

This article will answer the following questions:

  • Is pasta healthy to eat and good for weight loss?
  • What are the different types of pasta?
  • What is the best pasta for a healthy diet?

Carbohydrates have long been cited as the enemy in the dieting war. But a new study suggests that this villainous label may not be deserved when it comes to pasta.

In fact, during the study, people lost weight eating pasta.

But wait, is it actually good to eat when you’re trying to be healthy of lose weight?

Well, let’s take a look . . .

Is Pasta Healthy?

One diet that experts around the world agree is something special is the Mediterranean diet.

Research over the 20 years has found eating the Mediterranean way is good for weight loss and heart health. New research even suggests that it’s good for healthy aging.

There are various versions of the Mediterranean diet but the main premise is that starchy foods like bread and pasta, fresh fruit and veg, good healthy oils, unprocessed foods, rice, beans and nuts feature heavily. Red meat and full-fat dairy are eaten in small amounts. WLR have long since been fans of this diet. Take a look at our 7 day eating plan.

If this diet is considered to be special by the experts, and has pasta in it, pasta must be healthy?

Unlike most ‘refined’ carbs, pasta has a low Glycaemic Index. It causes smaller increases in blood sugar levels than other carbs cause, helping to keep you satisfied and fuller for longer.

This is because for a carb, it is quite high in protein. Around 15% for white pasta and 16-17% for whole wheat, depending on which type of pasta you have.

Another reason that pasta is good as part of a healthy diet is the sauces that we tend to eat with it (if homemade and not the creamy sauces) tend to be high in veg – tomatoes, onions etc. – and have a lower ratio of red meat and full-fat dairy.

That said, even good old spaghetti bolognaise can be healthy and part of a weight loss plan with our recipe for skinny spaghetti bolognaise.

So, the answer to ‘is pasta healthy’ is yes. But is pasta good for losing weight?

Pasta – Good or Bad for a Weight Loss Diet?

In a recent study, researchers from St Michael’s hospital took evidence from 30 randomised controlled trials, involving 2,500 people who ate pasta instead of other carbs as part of a low-GI diet.

On average, the people in the trials ate 3.3 portions of pasta a week instead of other carbs. (One portion equals approx ½ cup of cooked pasta.)

Compared to those on a higher-GI diet, they:

  • Lost over 1lb more
  • Had a greater reduction in body mass index

Lead author, Dr John Sievenpiper said,

‘The study found that pasta didn’t contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat.’

He went on to say,

‘In weighing the evidence, we can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern.’

However, the study authors stress that these results are, so far, only shown when pasta is consumed as part of a low glycaemic index diet and that more work is needed to determine if the lack of weight gain will extend to pasta as part of other healthy diets.

So, pasta’s not bad for weight loss, it may even help.

Health Benefits of Different Types of Pasta

Whole grain, whole wheat or brown pasta has a higher fibre content than the white versions so, if possible stick to those.

The higher fibre along with a higher protein count helps keep hunger at bay and keep you feeling full.

White Fusili per 60g serving

Calories 210
Protein 7.4
Carbohydrate 43.2
Fat 0.9
Fibre 1.3


Whole Wheat Fusili per 60g serving

Calories 193
Protein 7.8
Carbohydrate 37.4
Fat 1.4
Fibre 5.4

What is the Correct Portion Size for Pasta?

This depends on which pasta and how many calories you are allowing for the meal.

50-75g Fusili or Penne for example is suitable for a small portion

75-100g of Fusili or Penne is suitable for a large portion

Our brilliant gadget, the Portion Pot, can help you measure out the right amount of Fusili or Penne without weighing it.

For spaghetti, it is worth investing in a spaghetti measuring ring to make sure you are getting the right amount. We would recommend around 75g for a small portion.

There are various types and shapes of pasta available in the supermarkets. White, whole wheat and fresh egg pasta. A quick squizz round your favourite supermarket at the pasta and rice aisle and the fresh section will give you an idea as to what you can get - check the back of the packets for calorie and nutritional information. I had a look at my supermarket and there is less choice if you go for whole wheat or fresh egg pasta but I prefer the whole wheat versions when I have it. If you can't find your favourite pasta as a whole wheat version, it might be worth trying your local health food shop, although it may be a bit more expensive.

Types of white pasta available in the UK

  • Spaghetti
  • Fusili
  • Macaroni
  • Penne
  • Farfalle
  • Conchiglie
  • Fettucine
  • Spirali
  • Tagliatelle
  • Rigatoni

Types of whole grain pasta available in the UK

  • Penne
  • Fusili
  • Spaghetti
  • Linguine
  • Tagliatelle

Types of fresh egg pasta available in the UK

  • Tagliatelle
  • Fusili
  • Spaghetti
  • Linguine
  • Fettucine
  • Penne
  • Papperdelle

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More information

Read the study in full

NHS Information regarding pasta and a healthy diet

Lose a Stone for Christmas Challenge

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