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Are Noodles And Pasta Healthy? Here's A Guide To Figuring It Out

Dirty bowl with pasta leftovers with spoon and fork
Dirty bowl with pasta leftovers with spoon and fork

Noodles are an integral part of many of our meals, whether it’s for a comforting bowl of pasta or a zingy Asian dish.

Spaghetti, rice noodles and udon noodles might seem like pretty healthy choices, but many of these common noodles aren’t as good for us as we think -- especially when it comes to the fibre content.

“Fibre is really important to keep your digestive system functioning properly,” accredited practising dietician Caroline Trickey told The Huffington Post Australia.

Many of the noodles we eat aren’t high in fibre and are typically made from refined white flour, so when shopping for noodles, Trickey recommends making the fibre content a priority.

“The first thing I’m always looking for is one with lots of fibre in it,” Trickey said. “So if you’re selecting something like pasta, definitely go for a wholemeal pasta.”

One alarm bell when trying to find a high fibre option is if you can’t see the fibre content in the nutritional information at all.

“Fibre is not something that has to be included on the nutritional information panel, so if it’s low in fibre they won’t bother writing ‘one gram of fibre per 100 grams,’” Trickey said.

“This should alert people to the fact there’s not much fibre in them.”

Trickey also recommends checking the glycemic index of different noodles to see how quickly the carbohydrate in the noodles is broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.

“The glycemic index of noodles varies greatly and a lot of people don’t realise that,” Trickey said.

The glycemic index values range from zero to 100 -- low is 55 or below, moderate is between 55 to 70, and high is 70 or higher.

Noodles with a high GI breakdown more quickly and result in a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.

Spaghetti varieties are relatively low GI -- however, interestingly, the glycemic index of noodles varies depending on how it’s cooked.

“If you cook pasta until it’s al dente, it’s a little bit firmer and that means the glycemic index is a bit lower,” Trickey said. “Whereas if you cook it until it’s really well cooked, the glycemic index increases.”

Here’s a glycemic index breakdown of common noodles.

Rice noodles -- GI of 40 (fresh) and 61 (dried), fibre content of one gram per 100 grams

Rice noodles are made from rice flour and water. The noodles vary in size and thickness and are available fresh, frozen or dried.

Vermicelli -- GI of 35 (for wheat vermicelli) and 58 (rice vermicelli), fibre content of less than one gram per 100 grams

Vermicelli is a thin form of either rice noodles or wheat spaghetti. Wheat vermicelli is used in Italian pasta dishes, while rice vermicelli are often used for Asian soup, salad and stir fry dishes.

Egg noodles -- GI of 57, fibre content of 1.2 grams per 100 grams

Egg noodles are made from regular flour, water and eggs. They vary in thickness, are available fresh or dried and often used in Chinese dishes.

Udon noodles -- GI of 62, fibre content of one gram per 100 grams

Udon is a thick wheat flour noodle used in Japanese cuisine -- primarily in udon soup.

Soba noodles -- GI of 46, fibre content of three grams per 100 grams

Soba is a thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. Although sometimes mixed with wheat flour, 100 percent buckwheat soba is a good option for those with gluten intolerance.

Regular spaghetti -- GI of 45, fibre content of 1.8 grams per 100 grams

Spaghetti is made from milled durum wheat and water.

Wholemeal spaghetti -- GI of 58 (when cooked for 10 minutes), fibre content -- 4.5 grams per 100 grams

Wholemeal spaghetti is made from whole wheat flour and is higher in fibre compared to regular spaghetti.

Spelt spaghetti -- GI of 54, fibre content of 3.9 grams per 100 grams

Spelt spaghetti is made from spelt flour, an ancient wheat grain that is less refined and higher in fibre than regular durum spaghetti.

Brown rice spaghetti -- GI of 92, fibre content of 3.5-4.1 grams per 100 grams

Brown rice spaghetti is made from brown rice and is naturally gluten free.

Gluten free spaghetti -- GI of 76 (rice and corn), fibre content of 1.9 grams per 100 grams

Gluten free spaghetti is made from one or a combination of rice flour, corn flour and potato starch.

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