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Pasta has quickly gained popularity as a “fast food” that can be made in a myriad of ways.
Available in a variety of shapes such as orzo, penne, macaroni, and rigatoni, pasta is usually made from whole wheat or semolina flour and egg, but other ingredients can be added such as veggie purees. (1)
Gnocchi is considered a type of pasta that is made by mixing flour with boiled and mashed potato. The small shapes are then boiled in water to give a chewier pasta. (2)
When it comes to health, gnocchi and pasta both qualify as starchy foods, and if eaten regularly, they can lead to weight gain and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. (3)
However, between pasta and gnocchi, gnocchi has one additional benefit – it contains resistant starch, which has been studied to lower the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even colon cancer. (4)
So, if eaten in moderation and made from the right ingredients, both gnocchi and pasta can be equally healthy meals.
Read on to know more.
Pasta and Its Nutritional Value
Plain pasta is a great ready-to-cook food item. It is low in sodium when compared to other ready-to-eat food items such as instant noodles. (5)
About 100 g of cooked plain pasta provides 6% of the daily value (DV) of fiber, 12% of the DV of protein, 7% of DV of iron, 30% of the DV of folate, 23% of the DV of vitamin B1, and 10% of the DV of vitamin B2 and B3. It also fulfills 48% of the daily requirement of selenium. (6)
However, since pasta is usually consumed along with homemade sauce with the addition of vegetables, it can be a great vehicle to add additional nutrients.
This doesn’t mean you have to consume pasta just to consume vegetables; however, pasta can be a nice way to add in nutrient-rich foods, especially for fussy eaters.
Gnocchi and Its Nutritional Value
Gnocchi, due to the addition of potato in the flour, offers a different set of nutrients. About 100 g of potato gnocchi contains only 4% of the DV of fiber, 5% of the DV of protein, 4% of the DV of iron, 7% of the daily value of folate, 9% of the DV of vitamin B1, 6% of the DV of vitamin B2, and 7% of the DV of vitamin B3.
It is richer in sodium than pasta, with 100 g of gnocchi providing 13% of the DV of sodium. (8)
One additional benefit is the presence of resistant starch in gnocchi, which is obtained when potatoes are boiled and then cooled. Resistant starch is a type of digestion-resistant starch that is beneficial in improving the diversity of gut microorganisms and has also been studied to lower the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even colon cancer. (4)
Resistant Starch and How It Promotes Health
Simply explained, resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that has a similar role to fiber when it comes to its impact on health. When consumed, resistant starch is fermented in the small intestine by good gut bacteria, making it serve as a prebiotic (food for gut bacteria). (10)
Here are the health benefits associated with the consumption of resistant starch.
1. Helps with the management of blood sugar levels in people with diabetes
Multiple studies have found resistant starch to benefit insulin resistance and reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (where you do not take external insulin). (11)
Resistant starch works by slowing down the absorption of glucose from the intestine, preventing the accumulation of abdominal fat and rise of cholesterol levels. All of these functions come together to benefit the overall symptoms of diabetes. (12)
2. Reduces the risk of developing obesity
Due to its ability to resist digestion in the small intestine, where most food is metabolized, resistant starch can keep you full for longer.
In addition, studies have found the role of resistant starch in releasing enzymes that induce the feeling of satiety, increasing the rate at which fat is burned for energy, preventing fat accumulation in the abdomen, and preserving muscle mass. (13)
All of these functions work together to reduce the risk of weight gain and obesity.
3. May prevent the risk of cancer
Most cancer-preventative properties are conferred in the human body by antioxidants and polyphenols.
According to some research, resistant starch has the ability to prevent the risk of cancer development, especially in the colon. It does so by preventing the expression of proteins that are associated with the development of cancer.
Resistant starch has also been found to bring about cell death of cancer cells and reduce inflammation, which is a major cause of cancer development. (14)
However, it is important to note that resistant starch is not solely responsible for cancer prevention.
Based on the nutrients it provides, pasta seems to be a better choice than gnocchi. Not only is it rich in nutrients on its own, but it can be easily increased by the addition of ingredients such as meat, veggies, and sauces.
However, care must be taken not to consume more than the serving size, which is always mentioned on the box.
Is Gluten-Free Pasta Healthier Than Wheat Pasta?
While avoiding gluten may seem like a healthier option due to popularized diet concepts, studies have found gluten-free pasta to be less favorable. In healthy adults, they were responsible for raising blood sugar levels after meals, which can increase the risk of developing diabetes and weight gain. (15)
Therefore, unless you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, opt for regular whole-wheat kinds of pasta instead.
- Gnocchi and pasta are both traditional Italian dishes. Where pasta is made from whole-wheat flour, semolina, and eggs, gnocchi is made from whole-wheat flour and boiled potatoes.
- Pasta offers a wider range of nutrients, which can be increased by adding sauces and veggies.
- Gnocchi is often eaten plain or tossed in butter and contains lesser nutrients. The boiled and cooled potato in gnocchi provides resistant starch, which boosts gut health and can prevent chronic illnesses. However, this can also be achieved by adding boiled potato to a pasta dish.
- It is recommended to use whole wheat pasta over gnocchi.