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Can Noodles Ever Be Healthy?
April 21, 2016
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Can Noodles Ever Be Healthy?

What you need to know about the nutrition of your noodles.

Traditional pasta has gotten a bad rap (high in carbs, full of white flour).

But there are lots of other noodles on the market that can actually be, dare we say, good for you.

“They may look and taste similar, but noodles can be made from many different raw ingredients, from wheat to buckwheat to seaweed, and their nutritional benefits vary.”

But no matter which you choose, watch your portion sizes.

“Between half a cup to a cup of cooked noodles should satisfy you without overloading your blood sugar.”

Here’s the 411 on which of these squirmy, squiggly edibles you should put on the dinner table, and which ones you should leave behind.

Traditional Pasta

There are 425 calories in 4 ounces of traditional pasta.

Think the “spaghetti” in “spaghetti and meatballs,” the “mac” in “mac and cheese.”

But while common and available in virtually any grocery store, traditional pasta is not the healthiest noodle option.

“Traditional white flour pasta is a simple carb, so it’s broken down fairly quickly by the body, which can cause blood sugar spikes.

This not only results in the inevitable crash-and-burn that leaves you feeling sluggish, but also promotes fat storage.”

Make these noodles healthier by cooking them al dente.

“Al dente noodles are harder for your body to break down and therefore won’t cause as high a spike in blood sugar.”

The same goes for whole-grain or whole-wheat pastas because they contain more fiber.

Semolina Noodles

There are 344 calories in 4 ounces of semolina noodles.

“Semolina” describes a coarser grind of grain than what’s found in traditional flour and it can be made from wheat, corn, or rice, among other ingredients.

“It’s used to make pasta since it tends to hold up better while boiling.”

When shopping for semolina, look for the words “whole semolina” on the label so you know your noodles are made with whole grains.

“Regular semolina is considered a refined grain pasta, which doesn’t contain all the fiber and, therefore, lacks some of the health benefits of the whole grain alternative.”

Quinoa Noodles

There are 410 calories in 4 ounces of quinoa noodles.

Quinoa seems to be everywhere these days and the pasta aisle is no exception.

This is a good thing since “pasta made from 100 percent quinoa flour has all the nutritional benefits” of quinoa, explains Lee Gross, former personal chef to Gwyneth Paltrow.

These benefits include being a complete protein, which means that it contains all nine amino acids that the body needs.

It also contains high levels of B vitamins, vitamin-E, magnesium, iron, riboflavin, and calcium.

Plus, it’s gluten-free.

Egg Noodles

There are 430 calories in 4 ounces of egg noodles.

As the name implies, these noodles contain more eggs than traditional pasta.

“Egg noodles offer a broader spectrum of nutrition than regular pasta, including higher amounts of protein and essential amino acids.”

They are also lower on the glycemic index so they won’t cause the same blood sugar highs and lows and, as a result, provide you with more sustained energy.

However, they are low in fiber and have more cholesterol than traditional pasta.

Udon Noodles

There are 210 calories in 4 ounces of udon noodles.

These thick, Japanese-style noodles have an appearance that lies somewhere between linguine and fettuccine.

Many varieties actually look like white flour pasta and the similarities just start there.

“They're traditionally made from durum flour and are usually refined, so they have a nutritional profile that’s similar to traditional Western pastas.”

In other words, they don’t boast that much added nutrition.

Opt for whole wheat udon when you can find it, although soba noodles are a healthier Japanese-style pasta.

Soba Noodles (Buckwheat Noodles)

There are 400 calories in 4 ounces of brown rice pasta.

Thanks to the gluten-free trend, the popularity of rice pasta is on the rise.

“One reason to choose rice pasta is if you’re wheat, or gluten-sensitive or have celiac disease, since it’s both wheat, and gluten-free.”

However, nutrition-wise, it may not be better than other noodles out there.

“Compared to whole-wheat pasta, brown rice pasta actually contains less fiber and less protein.

And traditional white pasta is similar in nutrients to white rice pasta.”

And as you can see, the calorie count is the same, too.

Kelp Noodles

There are 10 calories in 4 ounces of kelp noodles.

These clear, glossy-looking noodles are made from seaweed that’s been ground and mixed with salt and water.

“Kelp pasta is great if you’re watching your weight since it only contains about 35 calories per half-cup cup serving.” (Regular pasta clocks in around 110 calories.)

“And with only 1 gram of carbohydrates per serving, it won’t cause the rise in blood sugar the way traditional grain-based pastas do.”

Added bonus?

Kelp is loaded with bone-strengthening calcium and magnesium.

Shirataki Noodles

There are 20 calories in 4 ounces of shirataki noodles.

Like kelp noodles, you can think of these noodles, which have a yam flour base, as a dieter’s best friend.

Available in a variety of shapes from flat fettuccine to long and lean linguine to macaroni style, they’re super low in calories.

For example, a 4-ounce serving has just 20 calories and is low in carbs, fat, and sugar.

This much traditional pasta could cost you more than 400 calories!

Mung Bean Pasta

There are 380 calories in 4 ounces of mung bean pasta.

This is one of the latest additions to the world of pasta.

“There are plenty of ‘alternative’ noodles available these days, but one of our favorites are those made from beans.

Besides being higher in protein and lower in refined carbohydrates, these pastas usually have a firm, springy texture, similar to a perfectly cooked ‘al dente’ wheat noodle.”

They’re also a good source of iron and are gluten-free.

Black Bean Pasta

There are 360 calories in 4 ounces of black bean pasta.

These dark, slim noodles are made with two simple ingredients: black beans and water.

Because they're mostly beans, they’re a good source of protein with an estimated 25 grams per serving.

They also contain 48% of your daily fiber needs and 26% of your daily iron needs, all while being gluten-free and having almost no sodium, saturated fat, or cholesterol.

Instant ramen noodles, beloved cheap dinner of college kids and budget eaters everywhere, have been linked to heart attacks and diabetes.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the ramen, along with other instant noodle products, may increase a person’s risk for cardiometabolic syndrome, a risk factor for severe cardiovascular disease and stroke, especially in women.

“This research is significant since many people are consuming instant noodles without knowing possible health risks.”

For the study, researchers looked at the data of 10,711 adults between the ages of 19 and 64, collected via the nationally representative Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2007-2009.

They found that eating instant noodles, ramen, lo mein, glass, Thai, or others, twice or more a week was associated with cardiometabolic syndrome, a collection of abnormalities affecting the body’s cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic systems.

Although the specific cause of the problem was not immediately clear, it was noted that it might stem from the fact that most instant noodle meals come packaged in Styrofoam, which contains bisphenol A (BPA), a known hormone disruptor, which is also why women could have been more affected in this study.

But the food product contains plenty of unhealthy ingredients, including MSG and the chemical preservative tertiary-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), and is also high in saturated fat.

The study focused on individuals in South Korea, as the country has the highest per-capita number of instant noodle consumers in the world, and because, in recent years, health problems there, including heart disease and obesity, have been on the rise.

But the findings appear to be quite relevant to consumers stateside too, as the United States ranked sixth globally in instant noodle sales, according to the World Instant Noodles Association, which found that the United States accounted for 4,300 billion units sold in 2013 (coming in just behind China, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, and India, and one spot above South Korea, in fact).

This is not the first time ramen noodles have been publicly maligned.

In 2012, a viral video taken from inside the digestive tract, part of a small and inconclusive study by Dr. Braden Kuo, showed just what happened after instant ramen was ingested, and it wasn’t pretty.

The stomach worked overtime, struggling for hours to grind up the strands; TBHQ, a petroleum byproduct, was named as a possible culprit.

Years earlier, Malaysian health officials issued a warning against eating instant noodles because of ingredients such as thickeners, stabilizers, sodium, and preservatives that have been linked to heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.

The bottom line?

Ingest the cheap and filling noodles at your own risk.

Unfortunately, that's all the time we have today.

We wish you and your family the very best in health and happiness this new year of 2016!

Marilyn and I truly hope this information helps, and you found some value in this edition!

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