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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Are Smart Taste pastas as good for you as whole wheat pasta?

"Smart Taste" pastas taste better and have a lighter texture, more like white pastas, than the 100% [whole wheat] pastas. Is there any drawback to Smart Taste pastas? Thanks!

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Pasta with bolognese sauce

The challenge that I have with products like these is the ingredients. The Smart Taste pastas increase the fiber by using modified wheat starch. These are the ingredients listed on the package:

Semolina (Wheat), Durum Flour (Wheat), Modified Wheat Starch, Calcium Phosphate, Niacin, Iron (Ferrous Sulfate), Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid

That modified wheat starch is a chemically treated wheat. Such modified food starches are used as thickening agents in everything from ice creams to dressings to gravies. Some products are also used in pharmaceuticals and for wall paper paste.

I prefer to use ingredients that are as natural as possible. Choosing products that have as few processed ingredients as possible is key to moving toward a healthier life. In my opinion this applies to pasta just as much as it does with any other food. It can be difficult today to select foods with fewer such processed ingredients, but it is worth trying. For instance, here is the ingredient list from the Ronzoni whole wheat pasta:

Durum whole wheat flour & semolina blend, whole flaxseed meal, wheat fiber, thiamin mononitrate, niacin, riboflavin, iron (ferrous sulfate), folic acid.

A lot of people don't care for the flavor of whole wheat pasta. Quinoa pastas are a little bit more expensive, but they have the same flavor and texture as traditional white pastas with an amount of fiber similar to whole wheat pastas. Here's the ingredient list from one of my favorite pastas made by Ancient Harvest:

Non-gmo organic corn flour, organic quinoa flour

That's it. Simple ingredients make the best food, and a good rule of thumb is that if you read an ingredient list and there are items you don't recognize, you should think about choosing another product.

Thanks for a great question!

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet