Gluten-free food has never been more popular. More than a quarter of adults claim they want to reduce their gluten intake. Finding versions of some foods without gluten proves harder than others, though.
For pasta and ramen addicts, gluten-free noodles often present a challenge. Can you find a gluten-free version of your favorite comfort food that still satisfies the primal urge to binge on spaghetti? What are the upsides of switching to a noodle that doesn't taste the same?
Keep reading and we'll tell you all about the health benefits of gluten-free noodles. If you're on the fence about new noodles, maybe this article will give you the push you need.
Gluten-Free Pasta and Health Conditions
Many people have a range of similar but distinct health conditions related to gluten. These include wheat allergies, gluten sensitivity, and celiac disease.
All three of these conditions affect how the body handles gluten. By swapping from a wheat-based pasta to another pasta, people with these conditions can improve their day-to-day lives.
Celiac disease causes the body to attack the lining of the small intestine. This can lead to long-term health consequences as the body struggles to absorb nutrients.
Gluten sensitivity produces similar symptoms, but with much less long-term damage to the small intestine. Both conditions leave those who try to eat wheat in pain and gastrointestinal distress.
A wheat allergy has different effects. Someone with a wheat allergy who eats food with gluten in it might break out in hives, start itching, or feel swelling in the mouth. Wheat allergies can also present as diarrhea or headaches.
Any of these conditions should lead to a switch from traditional pasta to gluten-free alternatives. Only by cutting out gluten can someone with such a condition begin recovering from damage to the body.
What Are Noodles Made Of?
Traditional pasta has gluten because manufacturers use wheat as the primary grain product in the noodles. Gluten, a protein that forms within wheat, gives wheat-based products their stretchy quality. This allows them to bend and pull without ripping.
Wheat flour isn't the only flour that has gluten. Other common grains, such as barley and rye, also contain gluten.
Gluten-free pasta uses different flours from regular pasta which don't contain any gluten. Common flours include corn flour, rice flour, or quinoa flour, though many types of gluten-free noodles have become available as the market has grown.
Different gluten-free flours have different taste and texture profiles. Some hew close to the wheat pasta formula, while others go far from that standard. The health benefits of different flours vary a lot.
Grain-Based Gluten-Free Pastas
When you get pasta that uses another grain, such as corn or rice, you avoid gluten but often get a similar flavor, texture, and nutrient profile. As a result, the health benefits won't look as striking as with more radical changes in pasta flour.
These kinds of pasta have similar nutrient profiles to wheat-based pasta. They won't be identical, and might better suit your dietary needs. Wheat-based pasta has a little more protein than corn or rice noodles, so if you want more protein in your diet you may be better off sticking to wheat.
That's not to say you won't gain anything by switching to gluten-free pasta made from another grain. The health benefits of this type of pasta affect those with celiac disease, gluten allergy, or gluten sensitivity, as described above. If you're a noodle addict who's acquired a gluten intolerance, grain-based gluten-free pasta will help address a lot of your health issues.
One exception to this general rule about grain-based gluten-free pasta comes from quinoa pasta. Quinoa pasta has a balanced nutrient profile including fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The texture can take a little time to get used to, as can the nuttiness of the flavor profile, but quinoa pasta makes a great choice for nutrition-conscious pasta lovers.
Non-Grain Gluten-Free Noodles
Non-grain noodles target those who love the experience of eating noodles but want to cut down on carbohydrates and make an investment in eating healthy. The number of alternative noodle options keeps growing and each one offers something different.
If you want to add a lot of protein to your diet, try chickpea noodles. These noodles offer both fiber and protein in spades. The texture differs a lot from common wheat noodles, so prepare for a pretty drastic change if you switch.
On the other end of the spectrum, shirataki noodles offer few nutrients at all. These noodles come from the konjac plant and pass through the body almost undigested. If you need a lot of fiber but want to cut your caloric intake down, shirataki noodles will help you out.
Kanten noodles, derived from a type of seaweed, offer a similar nutrient profile to shirataki noodles. In Japan, kanten noodles have earned some notoriety as part of low-carbohydrate diets. They can also help those who want to improve their bone health, as they offer more calcium and magnesium than most other types of noodles.
Use Your Noodles
Gluten-free noodles of all types can help pasta and soup addicts change their nutrient profiles without changing their habits. If you're the type of person who finds it hard to change what you eat but wants to break the spell cast by gluten, consider alternative noodles for their health benefits.
If low-calorie, high-fiber noodles sounded appealing, take a look at our selection of soups. Thanks to our wide range of flavor profiles, we're sure you'll find something to love.