Speaker and writer Niki Bezzant takes a closer look at whether pulse pasta is healthier and gluten free
Q Are pulse-based pastas gluten free? Do you recommend them over wholemeal pasta when extra protein is not an issue?
A It’s so interesting to see the range of ‘pulse pasta’ showing up on our shelves. There are various types; they can be made from lentils, chickpeas or different kinds of beans. Pulses (aka legumes) are healthy foods we’re probably not eating enough of, so getting them in the form of pasta is a useful way to get a serving of pulses into our week.
Pulse pastas are gluten free, generally speaking, because they use pulse flour instead of wheat flour. It always pays to check labels; if it’s gluten free this will usually be prominently noted on the front of the package.
As you allude to here, pulse pastas have quite a lot more protein than regular pasta. A red lentil pasta, for example, has 23g of protein per 100g, compared to 12g in regular pasta. That’s a good boost of plant-based protein, especially useful in a meat-free meal. More protein means we’re likely to feel more satiated (full) when we eat these and that may help us keep our portion sizes within a healthy range.
There’s another big advantage to pulse pastas: fibre. Because they’re made from fibre-rich legumes, they have twice the fibre or more of regular pastas. They also have more fibre than most wholemeal pastas I looked at. These do vary a bit (and so do the pulse pastas), so it pays to compare the ‘per 100g’ column on the packs. Since most of us probably aren’t eating enough fibre, using pulse pasta is a really easy way to get more of this health-booster into our diet.
There’s one note of caution for some people. If you suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) proceed with caution with pulse pastas. Try a small serving to check your tolerance. Small amounts are likely to be better. According to the Monash University FODMAP foods database, a serving of 1 cup of cooked chickpea pasta should be okay for IBS sufferers, but 1¼ cups could be problematic. That’s because pulses contain FODMAPs which can aggravate IBS symptoms in some sufferers. It’s worth trying these though; it’d be a shame to miss out on these nutrient-dense and interesting alternatives to a pantry favourite.
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