Thursday, March 5, 2015

NNM Day 2 :: Pasta and Whole Grains!


We're going to look at white pasta vs. whole meal pasta.

What is white pasta?
White pasta is an easier way of saying "refined pasta." Anything labeled as "refined" should set off your "a lot has been done to this / it must be pretty far from it's natural state" radar. The bran layer has been removed from the grain and this is what provides the texture and ultra long shelf life. I'm a little unclear as to whether or not removing the bran layer (and the germ) are intentional or just byproducts are the refining process. I would assume it is intentional, as (it is a popular opinion that)
white/refined pasta has a more pleasing texture.

What is whole grain?
That's easy! Whole grains are exactly what they sound like = grains that are in their natural state. They're ground and then used in many different applications,

Why should I care that the bran and germ are missing from white pasta?
A whole grain contains 3 'layers' :: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. As you can see from the lovely infographic from LivingHealthyWay, white grains are stripped bare and retain only the endosperm which only has protein and carbohydrates. Poor endosperm! Whole grains have their integrity and body intact. In addition to the carb and protein value of the endosperm, you get Vitamin B and fibery-goodness of the bran as well as antioxidants and healthy fats of the germ!

Anything else I should know?
Yes there is!
(1) The US government requires that all refined flour be enriched with Vitamin B and a handful of minerals to make up for the nutrient-stripping refining process. In my opinion, it seems dumb to take out the good stuff and then just add it back in. Why wouldn't you just leave it alone and keep the good stuff?
(2) Not all products labeled as whole grain are actually 100% whole grain. Many are a combination of refined grains and whole grains. Ensure you're getting 100& whole grain by reading the labels!

Ok Katie, wrap it up...
In conclusion, it is my opinion that it makes almost no sense to buy white pasta. White pasta may be more prevalent on shelves and a little cheaper, but is highly processed. With whole grain pasta, you may be paying a teeny bit more and the texture is a little different... but they offer a nutrient balance that nature has concocted for us. Keep in mind that all this info translates to other grain products like bread products and crackers!

An important takeaway here is that you don't need to give up pasta! I'm not saying that it should be an everyday food, but making a smarter shopping choice can have a positive long-term impact on your health. Pasta is still pasta, but if you're going to keep it on you "indulgent foods" list, why not make sure that you're getting all the "good stuff" (vitamins and minerals) in there with it?! NO-BRAINER!

(Sources in addition to previous knowledge: Whole Grains CouncilSF GateLiving Healthy Way)

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