Five Alternative Pastas You Need to Know

October 01, 2014

Do you love to eat pasta, but want to branch out for potentially something healthier or different? Here are five alternative "pastas" that you should know about...

What do buckwheat, kelp, spaghetti squash and a root vegetable have in common?  Find out here in your pasta alternative 101. 

Soba. The key ingredient is buckwheat, and despite its name, it is not part of the wheat family, it’s actually a seed. The triangular brown seeds are actually more closely related to rhubarb or sorrel. It has a mild flavor, but roasted or toasted, the flavor intensifies. To make soba, buckwheat is ground into a flour like consistency and substituted for wheat flour. Buckwheat contains various flavonoids that provide powerful antioxidant protection against free radicals in the body. It is also a great source of fiber, manganese, magnesium, zinc and iron.

Quinoa an “ancient grain” (it’s actually a seed) was originally cultivated thousands of years ago in the South American Andes and known as “the gold of the Incas,” and the “mother of all grains.” Quinoa is a very good source of magnesium, iron, and boasts a whole host of other nutrients and bioactive compounds as well as fiber. Today we can find pasta made from quinoa flour – you can expect a higher protein count and it’s gluten free.

Shirataki Noodles are made from a yam or root plant grown in many parts of Asia. At times called the miracle noodle, they are filled with fiber (found to reduce LDL cholesterol in several studies.) and claim to have close to no calories.  How is it made? The yam is dried and then ground into a powder/flour, then made into noodles. Depending on how they process them they come out nearly clear or dark brown. Shirataki noodles are great for those trying to cut back on carbs, gluten, and refined grains.

Kelp Noodles. At only 20 calories a serving, kelp noodles are a low calorie, high nutrient substitute for pasta. Kelp noodles are made from kelp (a brown seaweed), sodium alginate (a salt derived from seaweed), and water. High in iodine, kelp also contains over 70 minerals, trace elements, enzymes, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and 21 amino acids. Kelp noodles can be used right out of the bag. Just rinse under water, pat dry and incorporate with your favorite sauces. They pick up the flavor of what ever they are mixed with. The texture is mildly crunchy but surprisingly like an al dente pasta.  Kelp noodles typically provide 15 percent of your daily calcium needs and 4 percent of your daily iron needs per serving.

Spaghetti Squash. Bake and scrape out the spaghetti-like strands from this squash and top with your favorite sauce. It looks and tastes almost like the real deal! Rich in vitamin A, C, K and the B vitamins as well as fiber, potassium and omega-3s – it’s definitely worth giving spaghetti squash a try.

Of course there are more alternatives than the options listed above, but these are the most common. Give each a try and add some variety to your diet. Enjoy!