Cricket Pasta Has Arrived—and 11 Healthier Pastas to Try This Week
We still love our spaghetti and meatballs, but these new pastas made from everything from black bean to crickets (yes, the insect!) are on the shelves and worthy of your dinner plate.
In east Asian cuisine this bean is known for its sweetness and used in pastes for baked goods, candy, bread, and now pasta—a happy development when you consider the role beans can play in weight loss. “Adzuki bean pasta is a fantastic gluten-free, high fiber and high protein pasta that is packed with vitamins and minerals, such as folate,” says Kara Landau, a New York City-based dietitian and founder of the Traveling Dietitian. Folate plays an important role in mental and emotional health and research shows that a deficiency of folate, part of the B complex of vitamins, is linked to cancer. A little hint is to let this pasta (and all pastas) cool before eating it. By doing so, a beneficial nutrient called resistant starch is able to form. “This actually helps regulate our blood sugar levels, keeps us fuller for longer and helps nourish our gut health,” says Landau.
While it’s known for resistant starch, black beans—especially in spaghetti—may not sound appetizing. But give it a chance—the taste will win you over. “Black bean pasta offers an extremely rich source of plant based protein, as well as dietary fiber and iron. In just a two-ounce serve you can obtain over 25 grams of protein, almost 50 percent of your daily dietary fiber requirements, as well as 32 percent of the RDA for iron,” says Landau. If you’re thinking of going vegan, Landau says this is a great option because no heavy meat-based sauce is needed. Landau likes hers as the base in a “naked veggie burrito bowl.” Add salsa, fajita style veggies and guacamole for a satisfying meal. Open a box of Explore Cuisine Black Bean Spaghetti and you’ll be saying delicioso too!
Mung beans are a popular pick in traditional Ayurvedic diets in India. These green legumes are in the same family as peas and now used to create mung bean pasta. It’s easy to see why it’s popular in Ayurvedic diets. According to Landau, each two-ounce serving contains a whooping 22 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber. That combo will keep you full for hours. (Here are more good reasons to eat fiber). Landau says serving mung bean pasta with a light tomato-based sauce or veggies is great option if you’re trying to fill up while keeping your total caloric intake down. Try this satisfying Explore Cuisine edamame and black bean fettuccine, and you’ll also reap the benefits of heart-healthy omega-3 found in this pasta and other foods.
If you’re looking to add more protein to your diet, maybe you should look in your backyard tonight. Crickets (and other insects) have long been part of people’s diets in Asia, South America, and Africa. According to Bugsolutely pasta, crickets use 1,000 times less water and food than cows. Cricket pasta has a bit of a nutty flavor and actually tastes similar to whole-wheat pasta. “Cricket flour offers an extremely sustainable source of protein; as a result, it helps you reduce the need to add a protein-heavy pasta sauce to your final dish,” says Landau. Pastas that come from plant sources don’t typically offer vitamin B12 like cricket pasta does. B12 is essential for energy and focus but is poorly absorbed as the body ages. Bugsolutely Cricket Pasta boosts 12 grams of protein and more than five miligrams of omega-3 fats per serving.
Buckwheat (soba noodles)
Soba is a Japanese noodle that tastes great hot or cold. “Buckwheat noodles are a great regular pasta alternative for those seeking a gluten-free option, and they have a similar calorie and carbohydrate content to regular pasta,” says Landau. “Cooking an Asian style buckwheat noodle dish topped with pan seared broccoli, red onion, and salmon would be a great balanced meal.” Try Eden Foods 100% Buckwheat Soba noodles for a refreshing cold pasta this summer.
You can call them garbanzo beans, but chickpeas just sounds cuter. Chickpeas are a favorite addition to salads and when roasted a savory snack—you can even use the liquid in canned chickpeas, called aquafaba, as an egg substitute! So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this versatile bean is now in pasta form. “Chickpea pasta offers a great mix of protein, dietary fiber, and slow release carbohydrates,” says Landau. “This can be a great option for those looking to refuel after an intense exercise session, or for those about to set out on a long day out and needing a good source of sustained energy.” If you need to watch your carbs, it’s not a suitable option Landau says, but it can definitely be incorporated into a well-balanced diet. Banza has a tempting line of chickpea pasta, including a favorite comfort food—macaroni and cheese!
Like the chickpea, quinoa has proven to be a versatile ingredient in many foods—it’s found in snack chips, baking mixes, bread, and even candy. “Although quinoa past is promoted as a higher protein option, it is actually not that dense a source of protein compared to many of the alternative options mentioned in this list,” notes Landau. Quinoa pasta has a nutty flavor and is a good alternative to regular pasta—but Landau suggests watching the portion size. “Consume it as you would regular pasta, with a lean protein based sauce, and a side salad to boost up your total fiber intake and make a well-balanced meal.” Try traditional Ancient Harvest quinoa or a red quinoa: Both varieties tastes the same but red quinoa seems to hold its shape better and makes a beautiful presentation.
Food allergies can wreak havoc on your health, not to mention available food options. Inspired by her son’s multiple food allergies, Cybele Pascal set out to make nutritious and yummy allergy-friendly food that her son could eat. Cybele’s Free to Eat Pasta is made with veggies like kale, beets, pumpkin, spinach, broccoli, butternut squash, lentils, and tomatoes. Each veggie pasta variety boosts an abundance of nutrients as well as 23 to 25 grams of protein per serving. When looking for any veggie pasta, Landau recommends reading the label to see where the nutritional “boosts” are derived from. “Be mindful of the actual difference in nutritional value you obtain from pastas that are ‘boosted’ versus those that are made from the same base ingredients like legumes, for example. Often the amount of extra ingredients is quite low and doesn’t reflect that dense a nutrient boost.”
If you’re watching your calories, you’re going to want to stock your pantry with these varieties of Weight Watchers Skinny Pasta. “Made from the konjac root vegetable, they are predominantly water and prebiotic dietary fiber,” says Landau. Including prebiotics in your diet is good for keeping stress in check and cultivating good gut health. “They offer little to no calories for a full portion, and can be used to boost satiety due to the high fiber content,” says Landau. Weight Watchers Skinny Pasta includes varieties such as spaghetti, fettuccine, pasta rice, and even lasagna. Each serving is just ten calories and contains five grams of fiber.
If you’re searching for a pasta alternative that’s a bit easier to digest, spelt pasta may be for you. However, this isn’t a good option for those that need to completely avoid gluten. “Offering slightly higher levels of fiber and protein, among other minerals, compared with regular wheat pasta, spelt pasta can be used in its place,” says Landau. “I wouldn’t use spelt pasta if your goal is to reduce your total carbohydrate load, or to boost up your protein coming from your pasta, as in comparison to many of the other legume-based pastas offered. Spelt does not match up in these categories.” Try easier-on-your-tummy Yoder’s Country Market spelt pasta.
Lentil pasta is plant-based and full of protein, about 20 grams per serving and around seven grams of fiber. “It’s sturdy, can hold up to delicious sauces, and is really a healthy meal in one,” says Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, NYC-based private practice dietitian and creator of CitNutritionally.com. “It’s also an excellent source of iron, a nutrient that many women fall short of consuming in adequate amounts. If you’re feeling sluggish and rundown, you could have an iron deficiency. Try Ancient Harvest Green Lentil Penne for Amer’s go-to lentil pasta recipe. She serves it with veggies, marinara sauce, and sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. “It really doesn’t warrant much more than that to create a well-rounded dinner plate,” says Amer.
Sensitive to gluten but crave pasta? Brown rice is a gluten-free alternative but not very filling according to Amer. “It is significantly lower in protein and fiber than bean and lentil-based pastas, but does still contain about four grams and two grams per serving, respectively,” says Amer. Since it’s a whole grain, it does contain some healthy fats and B vitamins. “One of my favorite ways to pair brown rice pasta is with my lentil Bolognese for added protein, fiber and iron, but lower in saturated fat.” Lundberg has an organic brown rice spaghetti that should fit the bill.