Eating Pasta during Pregnancy: Health Benefits, Risks & Recipes

Eating Pasta During Pregnancy – Is It Safe?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Pasta is one of the most popular Italian dishes. A plate of pasta either in white sauce or red sauce is a hot favourite among people all over the world. But is it safe to eat pasta during pregnancy? Find out.

Can You Eat Pasta When Pregnant?

When made using the right ingredients, pasta can be rich in vitamin A, vitamin B, fibre-rich complex carbohydrates, and folic acid. However, it is important to remember that pasta also contains lectins and phytates, which cause a nutritional deficiency of zinc and magnesium in the baby. Moreover, most pasta dishes are usually made of refined flour which is not considered to be very healthy. Pasta made with whole-grain wheat can be eaten during pregnancy, but only in moderation.

Which Type of Pasta Is Considered Good?

Pasta is tasty, cheap, and easy to cook. However, it is not considered to be very nutritious. Does this mean we should stop eating pasta? No. Today, there are a ton of healthier alternatives available that can up the nutritional value of this dish. A few of them are listed below.

1. Whole Wheat Pasta

Whole wheat pasta is a healthy alternative to the pasta made from refined flour as it contains a lot of fibre and protein. This reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes, and a few types of cancer. However, people who are sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease should still avoid it.

2. Quinoa Pasta

Quinoa pasta is made from flour that is produced by grinding quinoa seeds. Quinoa pasta is protein-rich, contains a good amount of iron and magnesium, and is gluten-free, which makes it the best and healthiest among all types of pasta. It is also said to reduce blood sugar, insulin, and triglyceride levels.

3. Spelt Pasta

Spelt is a grain that is closely related to (but is not) wheat. Spelt pasta is high in fibre and rich in protein. It contains a moderate amount of gluten. Therefore, people with gluten sensitivity should avoid it. However, people with mild gluten intolerance can eat it.

4. Brown Rice Pasta

Brown rice pasta is ideal for people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It is gluten-free and free of FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) – i.e molecules that cannot be absorbed by people suffering from IBS.

Brown Rice Pasta

Are There Any Health Benefits of Having Pasta for Pregnant Women?

Pasta is filling and nutritious if made the right way and with the right contents. Listed below are 8 benefits of the much-loved dish.

1. Rich in Fibre

Multigrain pasta made with a whole lot of vegetables and leafy greens like spinach and kale can be a good source of fibre and minerals.

2. Free of Gluten

If you have been advised to go gluten-free, you can eat brown rice pasta and quinoa pasta. As discussed above, these kinds of pasta are gluten-free and thus safe for people with IBS or other gastro problems.

3. Keeps Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar in Check

Whole wheat pasta, quinoa pasta, and sprouted-grain pasta are said to keep blood sugar levels and blood pressure levels in check. Quinoa pasta, in particular, reduces the chances of obesity, thus cutting down the risk of heart disease and gestational diabetes in pregnant women.

4. Rich in Folic Acid and Iron

Whole wheat pasta is rich in folic acid and iron, which are some of the most essential nutrients for the baby’s overall development in the mother’s womb.

5. Improves Bowel Movement

Pasta made from whole wheat grain flour and quinoa flour contain ample fibre. Adding green leafy vegetables to the dish aids in improved bowel movements, thereby preventing common pregnancy problems like constipation and haemorrhoids.

6. Increases Energy Level

The carbohydrate content in pasta helps elevate the energy levels in pregnant women and keeps them active.

7. Prevents Infections

The vitamin A content in pasta prevents several types of infections during pregnancy.

Pregnant woman making pasta

Risks of Eating Pasta While Pregnant

Here are some risks attached to eating pasta during pregnancy.

1. Contains Phytates and Lectins

Pasta contains phytates and lectins. Phytates block the body from absorbing magnesium and zinc, two of the much-needed nutrients required during pregnancy. Lectins encourage the passage of toxins from unhealthy food into the blood.

2. Presence of Gluten

Gluten is present in most types of pasta. Therefore, people who are gluten sensitive or suffer from IBS or Celiac disease should avoid eating pasta. Eating too much gluten can also cause problems in women who only show signs of allergies as it can aggravate the symptoms and cause problems.

3. Weight Gain

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy could lead to complications during labour. Therefore, pregnant women should refrain from eating foods that can cause weight gain, one of which is pasta.

4. Presence of Iron

Iron intake prevents anaemia, but on the flip side, too much iron can cause constipation which can cause haemorrhoids.

5. Increase in Blood Sugar

Pasta made from refined wheat flour can cause a spike in your blood sugar levels if one suffers from diabetes. Therefore, eating pasta made from whole wheat grain flour or quinoa flour is advisable.

How to Handle Pasta Cravings While Pregnant

Cravings are a part and parcel of pregnancy. However, pasta is a dish that has high carbohydrate and (often) gluten content and should be avoided in most situations. If you absolutely cannot control your cravings, here are a few ways to handle them:

  • Try putting more veggies and less pasta while cooking. This way, you will be able to satiate your cravings and also eat healthily.
  • Take small helpings. Do not eat a lot in one go.
  • Instead of going for the white sauce pasta, go for a healthier red sauce pasta or a simple olive oil pasta.
  • Use whole-wheat pasta or quinoa pasta in your dish instead of refined white flour pasta.

Healthy Pasta Recipes for Pregnant Women

Here are two pasta recipes to help you eat healthily and manage your cravings.

1. Spicy Shrimp Tomato Pasta

This is a simple and tasty pasta recipe for non-vegetarian food lovers. It is easy to cook and the ingredients are easily available.

What You Will Need

  • Whole-wheat/quinoa/brown rice pasta – 200 g
  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp
  • Garlic – 4-5 cloves
  • Shrimp/prawns (deveined and cleaned) – 100 g
  • Fresh tomatoes (diced) – 3-4
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Cracked pepper
  • Fresh coriander leaves (chopped roughly)
  • Butter – 2 tbsp
  • Salt to taste

Tomato Shrimp Pasta

Instructions to Follow

  • Cook the pasta in a large bowl of boiling water according to the package instructions.
  • Drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.
  • Heat a pan and add in the olive oil and butter. Crush the garlic and fry it in the pan. Once the garlic is fried, add in the shrimp.
  • Sauté the shrimp for a few minutes and take them out of the pan. Keep aside.
  • Pour in the diced tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and add in the cracked pepper.
  • When the tomatoes get cooked and form a sauce-like consistency, add in the cooked pasta and fried shrimp.
  • Cook the pasta in the sauce well and add in salt. Stir well.
  • Turn off the heat and add coriander leaves. Serve hot.

2. Veggie Pasta

This simple and light pasta dish is exactly what you need during your pregnancy.

What Will You Need

  • Quinoa pasta/whole-wheat pasta/brown rice pasta – 4 cups
  • Broccoli florets – 4-5
  • Carrots (diced) – 1/4 cup
  • Red bell pepper (thinly sliced) – 1/4 cup
  • Onion (thinly sliced) – 1/4 cup
  • Garlic (finely diced) – 3-4 cloves
  • Zucchini (thinly sliced) – 1/4 cup
  • Cherry tomatoes – ½ cup
  • Green peas – ½ cup
  • Parmesan cheese (grated) – ½ cup
  • Olive oil – 4 -5 tbsp
  • Salt to taste

Vegetable Pasta

Instructions to Follow

  • In a large vessel, bring the water to boil and cook the pasta. After the pasta turns tender, put it in cold water.
  • Then, in a large pan, put the oil. Once the oil is heated, put the crushed garlic. Fry it till the raw smell goes away.
  • Add the onions and fry till they turn brown. Then add the broccoli (semi-cooked), carrot, red bell peppers, peas, and zucchini. Sauté for a few minutes till the veggies turn soft. Add in the cherry tomatoes.
  • Add the pasta and salt.
  • Mix all the ingredients together. Add the grated cheese in the end, and serve hot.

Just like other food, pasta should be consumed with caution during pregnancy. Too much of it could result in obesity, high blood pressure, or rise in blood sugar levels which may further cause problems during labour or pose a risk on the baby in your womb. Remember that taking care of your eating habits during pregnancy goes a long way in giving birth to a healthy baby.

Resources and References: The Bump

Also Read: Eating Pizza during Pregnancy

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