Is Pasta Bad For Cholesterol?

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Pasta and cholesterol levels – what’s the connection?

Pasta doesn’t contain cholesterol, but it is high in carbohydrates. In turn, carbs can affect your cholesterol levels. 

Refined pasta is the most common type of pasta consumed. In this pasta type, fibrous germ, bran, and nutrients are taken away from the wheat kernel during its processing.

Some studies¹ have found that diets high in refined grains and carbohydrates are often associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.

Choosing the right pasta 

Pasta lies at the heart of a great dish. Some pasta types can be high in calories and carbohydrates, potentially influencing cholesterol levels if consumed excessively. Nevertheless, making healthier choices is relatively easy when selecting the best pasta for your dish. 

Whole-grain, wholemeal, or whole-wheat pasta contains more fiber and micronutrients than regular pasta. It is known that whole-grain diets² lower your cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of developing heart disease. 

Choosing pasta with lower levels of carbohydrates and higher fiber is an easy way to make a dish more heart-friendly.  

Furthermore, a few easy changes to your favorite pasta dish can make it low-cholesterol, heart-friendly, and still equally as delicious. 

Low-cholesterol pasta dish ideas 

Amp up the veggies 

In addition to using whole-grain pasta, add a few servings of vegetables to your meal. Vegetables are a great addition to any meal and decrease your risk of high cholesterol. 

Some heart-friendly vegetables to add to your pasta dish include: 

  • Carrots 

  • Eggplant 

  • Spinach  

  • Zucchini 

  • Olives 

  • Onion 

  • Asparagus

Minimize the cheese 

Cheese is a common addition to pasta dishes. While cheese adds great flavor and texture, it also adds a lot of saturated fat to your meal. 

If you want to keep cheese in your dishes, a great alternative is to switch from high-fat, high-calorie mozzarella or cheddar to low-fat cheeses. These include: 

  • Parmesan 

  • Low-fat ricotta 

  • Cottage cheese 

  • Yogurt  

Alternatively, you can find low-fat versions of your favorite type of cheese or just use smaller portions.  

Lean meat is better 

Ground meat, bacon, and highly processed meats are often used in pasta dishes. However, they are high in saturated fats and cholesterol and can increase your blood cholesterol levels. Instead, use lean cuts of meat or choose different proteins. 

Great proteins to add to your pasta dish include: 

  • Chicken 

  • Turkey 

  • Pork tenderloin 

  • Beef tenderloin 

  • Salmon 

  • Tuna 

When deciding which protein to add to your dish, avoid cuts of meat that are fats, or consider trimming the fat or removing the skin before you cook it. 

To reduce the cholesterol content of your dish, you can cook your meat on a grill or surface, allowing excess fat to escape.

You can also wipe off any additional fat after cooking. 

Low-fat chicken and turkey breast are great alternatives to processed meats, as they are high in protein and low in calories. Adding fish to your meal is another great option. Fish are low in saturated fats but high in omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats. 

Add spices for flavor 

Use spices to enhance the flavors in your dish. Your spice rack can contain different cholesterol-free herbs and spices. They will add heart-friendly nutrients and taste to your dishes without extra fat. 

Use these heart-friendly herbs and spices in your next pasta dish: 

  • Turmeric³ 

  • Parsley 

  • Cinnamon⁴ 

  • Oregano⁵ 

  • Garlic⁶ 

Healthy sauces 

Having a tasty sauce with your pasta is a must for many people. However, the sauce you choose can add extra fat and sugar to your meal. 

Making your own sauce at home instead of buying a ready-made sauce at the grocery store is a quick and easy way to manage a dish's sugar and fat content.  

If you opt for a pre-made sauce, look at the product label to see if it contains extra sugar, fat, and salts. Another way to make a dish more heart-healthy is to skip using the sauce. Instead, use a small amount of olive oil to dress your pasta packed with vegetables, which can help soften the vegetables and give extra flavor to the meal.  

The lowdown 

You don't have to give up your favorite pasta dish if you have high cholesterol levels. With some simple adaptations, you can make pasta a heart-healthy choice. Avoid adding high-fat cheese, sauce, and meat to your meal. 

Instead, choose wholemeal pasta with more fiber and fewer carbohydrates, incorporate more vegetables and lean meat into your dish, and opt for a sauce low in sugar and fat.

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