How to Choose the Healthiest Noodle

The beloved comfort food may be healthier than you thought.

Tips for choosing healthy pasta and noodles

Pasta and noodles are carb-y, it's true, but they're also a valuable source of long-lasting energy (that even goes for white pasta). The key lies in portion control. Whether you're serving spaghetti or soba, one cup of cooked noodles is ideal. A reasonable helping keeps cals in check and leaves plenty of room for two important — and satisfying — additions: veggies and a little lean protein.

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1 Whole Wheat Pasta (Best Pick)

The unrefined grains in these noodles deliver B vitamins, iron, and nearly triple the fiber of traditional pasta — all for about 150 to 175 cals per cup. That fiber is the stuff that keeps you fuller longer, sweeps food through your GI tract, and may be associated with lower rates of colon cancer. And though earlier whole wheat pastas lacked yum, it's a deliciously different scene now, thanks to better pasta-making technology and more brands to choose from. You're bound to find one you'll like. What about multigrain pastas? As the name implies, they can contain a blend of different grains — including refined ones. The only way to be sure you're getting all whole wheat is to scan the ingredients panel: Any wheat listed should be described as "whole."

Tiny Recipe: Make a salad and pasta in one! Toss whole wheat penne with baby arugula, grated zucchini, grape tomatoes, shallots, and a vinaigrette. Top with Parmesan, toasted almonds, and basil.

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2 Quinoa Pasta

The supergrain pasta has a nice bite. For maximum protein, skip blends with corn flour and go for those with black beans or lentils. They can pack in 12-plus grams of protein along with an impressive 7 grams of fiber for 190 cals.

Tip: It's the perfect pasta when you need a gluten-free mac and cheese.

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3 Soba Noodles

Nutty buckwheat — no relation to regular wheat — is the star of this Japanese staple, which has 3 grams of fiber and upwards of 6 grams of protein per 200-calorie cup. Look for 100 percent buckwheat to get the most whole-grain goodness.

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4 Brown Rice Noodles

This mellow, gluten-free pasta contains a respectable 4 grams of GI-friendly fiber and another 4 grams of protein per 200-calorie cup.

Tip: Drizzle the noodles with sesame or olive oil after draining to keep them from getting sticky.

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5 Shirataki Noodles

It's true: These gelatinous refrigerator-aisle noodles have no wheat or gluten, next to no carbs, and typically max out at 20 cals per cup. This is mainly thanks to their plant base (an Asian tuber), which is sometimes blended with tofu.

Tip: Swap these into Asian-style cold noodle dishes.

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6 Regular Pasta

The refined carbs here can elevate blood sugar if eaten alone. Solution? Call in fiber and healthy fats: Picture a cup of pasta (about 170 cals) with sautéed tomatoes and shrimp. And cook pasta until just al dente — it will have a lower glycemic index than soft-cooked noodles.

This story originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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