Pasta vs Gluten Free Pasta (What’s The Difference?)


Pasta is a staple food in many family homes. It’s easy to make larger meals out of it and the process of rehydrating the pasta is extremely easy. It’s also a great resource to be able to make leftovers for meals throughout the week.

Pasta comes in both glutinous starches and in gluten-free variations that include different grain or grain-free options. Each has different nutritional benefits or tastes and some might be preferred over the other for a variety of reasons including food sensitivities, allergies, or taste.

Penne pasta in tomato sauce with chicken and tomatoes on a wooden background.
Penne pasta in tomato sauce with chicken and tomatoes on a wooden background.

Picking apart each one to decide if gluten-free is the way, or if sticking with regular pasta is healthier is definitely a task, and going through the benefits and downsides of the different types of pasta.

Nutritional Benefits of Regular Pasta

Pasta with gluten tends to have more minerals as well as higher fibers. For the most part, these benefits aren’t really all that amazing, just things that help the body to function on a better wavelength than with a different diet. Pasta with higher gluten tends to be able to provide more energy when it is consumed. 

Homemade meatballs in tomato sauce on a bed of spaghetti noodles served in modern white bowl on table.
Homemade meatballs in tomato sauce on a bed of spaghetti noodles served in modern white bowl on table.

Pasta is also a food that, with a high volume of fibers, helps the body to feel full. Now, this can sometimes be conditional, given that the starches and fibers, as well as calories of certain pasta, are slightly different. Whole-wheat pasta is seen to be healthier than enriched or refined pasta, as it takes away one of the elements that sometimes strips nutrition from any food.

The gluten-filled pasta has a better chance of helping a body feel full, as the starches and fibers are more prevalent. They have their downsides, which will be explored later on. Pasta is generally cheaper to buy the regular pasta as well. It’s easier to mass manufacture, so the companies don’t generally charge as much as they do for gluten-free pasta.

Regular pasta, as a great source of carbohydrates, is a great food to help athletes. The athletes that specifically benefit from this kind of addition to their regular diet are endurance athletes, running, biking, and marathon runners, since carbohydrates help generate energy and a balanced diet will help with that already. Pasta helps to increase glycogen and helps benefit the athletes with a better, more reliable source of energy.

Nutritional Benefits of Gluten-Free Pasta

Depending on the type of grain or grain substitute that is used to generate and create the pasta, there are several different benefits of eating gluten-free pasta specifically. Some gluten-free pasta has even more amino acids and proteins that the body needs in order to maintain the health of things like the bones, muscles, and even skin! These can include quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. Despite what it sounds like, buckwheat doesn’t have gluten in it and is related to rhubarb.

Traditional Chinese Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles with minced meat and greens in a plate on the table.
Traditional Chinese Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles with minced meat and greens in a plate on the table.

Eating gluten-free is a really easy way to lose weight as it doesn’t have the same nutritional values as gluten food does and the carbs and calories are significantly lower. Having pasta that is gluten-free enables that same protein and filling type effect that regular pasta has. It’s partly a chemical reaction that the food releases as it is broken down and that in turn helps the brain to understand that it has consumed enough food and feels full enough to function on what has been given.

Additionally, those with sensitivities and allergies to gluten such as those individuals with celiac, have an easier time when they have options for meals. This gives them a great way to make meals, especially if it’s a family-wide allergy or sensitivity. And the pasta will fill them up more than a lot of other gluten-free foods will. It makes meal prep so much easier and then there are so many options for which kinds of pasta that the picky eaters even get the chance to be picky.

Surprisingly, gluten-free pasta is a great source of protein. They are sometimes made from beans and other plant-based sources that are naturally high protein sources. This is especially helpful as a protein source for vegetarians. Sometimes it can be a struggle to find a protein source as a vegetarian and protein is a necessary part of a balanced diet. These pasta and the raw ingredients of the pasta will be a great resource for these people to balance out their eating.

Downsides of Regular Pasta

Regular pasta has a few downsides, most of them have to do with how the grains that make up the pasta are refined and enriched. Most people do not like the taste of whole wheat pasta, and that, in turn, has them missing out on the benefits of that particular grain of pasta, as the enriched and refined pasta is not the healthiest of pasta.

Pasta carbonara with ham and cheese.
Pasta carbonara with ham and cheese.

A lot of the nutrients are stripped out of the regular pasta to give it more of a whiteish dough color. These nutrients are integral to helping the body, as everything someone would put into their body should help cultivate it and seek to promote better health for the body, not actively cause it harm. A lot of the time, those with food sensitivities will have specific issues with these types of pasta and not catch that before it has done harm and they have to move to other options.

Additionally, pasta contains a great number of carbs which, when consumed in large quantities, can be harmful to the human body. The fun part of this is the brain chemicals that want to feel full, and those carbs and other proteins help with that, so that pushes people to keep eating the pasta even when the carbs aren’t the healthiest thing for them as they eat it, especially if they’re trying to keep to a certain diet or weight plan.

Normal pasta can be higher on the glycemic scale, which means that it’s not as safe for a diabetic person to ingest in high quantities. Carbohydrates can add up fast and in a body that doesn’t process them as well, it can make it especially hard to monitor and track without feeling discouraged. Being aware of portion sizes will help with that concern and make it a bit less of a downside and another way to help work on mitigating the effects of diabetes.

Downsides of Gluten-Free Pasta

The downsides of gluten-free pasta are, unfortunately, quite numerous and more inconveniences than any serious health thing that would harm anyone permanently. There are fewer fibers in the gluten-free pasta simply due to the fact that it’s made out of different things than the grains of the regular gluten pasta.

Gluten-free pasta can often have a nutritional deficiency, which makes it hard to rely solely on pasta to maintain healthy meals, as it simply will not have enough to sustain a growing human or a healthy adult. This continues on to another problem that many things in the food industry face, and gluten-free pasta and other gluten-free items are no stranger to it. Oftentimes, the packaged foods of the gluten-free variety are not as healthy as those that are handmade. 

While pasta has a little bit of leeway towards this problem since there are several different grains, there are unfortunately still additives in the food that those with gluten sensitivities or allergies are highly likely to feel unwell from eating simply due to their intestines being unable to take apart these unnatural elements. 

Gluten free corn pasta with vegetables.
Gluten free corn pasta with vegetables.

Another hugely unfortunate downside of gluten-free pasta for all its health benefits, and adjustments needed to make sure it provides the proper nutritional demands of the body, is the cost. The cost of gluten-free pasta can reach two times as much as the regular pasta of the same thing, even with a similar but gluten-free grain or component. This makes it even less accessible than regular pasta, especially for the people that need it.

One of the real downsides of gluten-free food is that it’s not one size, it fixes all. Cutting out the wheat in a diet without it being a necessary step can leave out important nutrients that a body needs to function well and happily, especially without having a way to mitigate these effects and balance them out. 

Relying on a gluten-free diet as a way to cut down on weight isn’t a good thing to do in a prolonged state. The easiest way to make sure this doesn’t become a problem is to refrain from cutting out wheat unless it is strictly necessary as part of a food sensitivity or allergy.

Types of Gluten-Free Pasta

There are so many different types of gluten-free pasta, it is actually quite amazing that, in order to adapt and create things that are still palatable, people affected by diseases such as celiac or just sensitivity, went through all of this effort and now there are many more people that benefit from a widened variety of things to eat from, especially for people who didn’t know they might’ve needed a different dietary option than they’d previously assumed.

Brown rice pasta is one of the most popular gluten-free pasta as it is still a grain and rice flour is a frequent substitute for other gluten flour in recipes for all manner of foods. There is also white rice, but brown rice seems to be more favorable for the making of pasta in the gluten-free variety. It also has a bit of a sweeter flavor to it, making it a bit more palatable. 

Another frequent gluten-free pasta on the shelves, specifically in the United States and potentially elsewhere, is chickpea pasta. Chickpeas are also garbanzo beans, which is the same thing. This bean-flour pasta is gluten-free, which is already a huge pro for those in gluten-free communities. It is also a great source of protein as the bean is a source of protein and having it in a different form can help vegetarians to get the necessary proteins in their diet without being sick of beans. 

The taste of chickpea pasta can be found lacking at times, but it’s not the worst in regard to gluten-free foods. Multigrain pasta is another great resource, as it’s made from a variety of different grains including quinoa, corn, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, and rice. While this isn’t best for people who have corn sensitivities, it’s a great well-rounded pasta option for those with sole gluten sensitivities. It shares a lot of different micronutrients important for the body.

There is also soba pasta, which is solely made from buckwheat. As mentioned previously, buckwheat isn’t actually a grain that has gluten in it. It lacks the gluten proteins that would give it that name. Buckwheat is closer to the rhubarb family than the wheat family of plants. It is also another popular grain for gluten-free flour alternatives.

Soba noodles with eggplant in sweet and sour sauce.

Best Pasta Dishes

There are so many different options and there are even more when everyone gets to thinking about the versatility of the type of pasta dishes. The different types of noodles make for an adaptable meal that will make almost anyone happy. It’s specific on the cut of the pasta, but with the alternatives being everywhere, this means that pretty much any regular pasta dish can be modified to fit the food sensitivities of the individuals affected as needed.

Spaghetti noodles with tomato sauce and meatballs.
Spaghetti noodles with tomato sauce and meatballs.

Some popular pasta dishes may include spaghetti, fettuccine Alfredo, lasagna, pasta bake, pasta casseroles, macaroni and cheese, and even ravioli. Spaghetti is an extremely easy dish to make and, best of all, it’s so very adaptable to make it safe and easy for those with food sensitivities. Taking just the spaghetti noodles, either gluten-free or regular, boil them until soft. Be careful not to overcook the gluten-free as it just turns to mush if it’s cooked too long. 

Add a tomato sauce with whatever seasonings desired, such as thyme, parsley, etc., and then serve with meatballs or ground meat. A personal favorite is ground turkey. This can make for a quick and easy meal after a long day where the preparation is easy to have ready long beforehand with frozen meat, pre-prepared sauce, and noodles readily at hand. 

Anna Silver

Anna Silver is the principal creator of CookForFolks.com, a website dedicated to new go-to original recipes. Inspired by her grandmother’s love of cooking, Anna has a passion for treating the people in her life to delicious homemade food and loves to share her family recipes with the rest of the world.

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