You may gravitate toward whole-grain pasta, which seems more nutritious than white, but most white pasta is made with enriched flour, adding an array of nutrients. A cup of enriched, white spaghetti has less fiber than its whole-wheat counterpart. The two contain about the same amount of protein, and they differ in vitamin and mineral content. Read labels to determine which type of pasta is better for you.
A cup of cooked white spaghetti has 221 calories and 1.3 grams of fat, while the same amount of whole-wheat spaghetti has 174 calories and .76 gram of fat. Because you may consume as much 2 cups in a serving, this could equate to a difference of 100 calories and 1 gram of fat, making whole-wheat pasta a wiser choice for people counting calories and trying to lose or maintain their current weight.
A cup of cooked white spaghetti provides 2.3 grams of dietary fiber, while a cup of whole-wheat spaghetti gives you more than twice that, with 6.3 grams. Fiber decreases the amount of cholesterol your body absorbs, lowering your risk of cardiovascular conditions associated with artery plaque, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women get at least 25 grams of fiber a day, so whole-wheat pasta brings you closer to meeting that goal.
Enriched, cooked white spaghetti has more iron and phosphorus than whole wheat, with 1.79 milligrams of iron and 81 milligrams of phosphorus per cup, compared with wheat's 1.48 and 12 milligrams, and each provides 62 milligrams of potassium. Cooked whole-wheat spaghetti has twice as much calcium, magnesium and zinc, with 21, 42 and 1.13 milligrams, respectively, giving you a little more than 10 percent of your daily requirement for magnesium and zinc and smaller amounts of the other minerals.
Because of enrichment, white pasta is generally more vitamin-rich than whole wheat, particularly in B vitamins. Each cooked cup has twice as much thiamine and niacin and three times the riboflavin of whole-wheat pasta, but wheat gives you twice the amount of vitamin B-6. Cooked, enriched white pasta has a large amount of folate, a vitamin that helps protect against neural tube defects in unborn babies. A cup provides 167 of the 320 micrograms you need each day, while a cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti has 7 micrograms. Unenriched white spaghetti has 10 micrograms of folate per cup.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture -- Nutrient Database: Spaghetti, White, Enriched
- U.S. Department of Agriculture -- Nutrient Database: Spaghetti, Whole Wheat
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol with Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes
- U.S. Department of Agriculture -- Nutrient Database: Spaghetti, White, Unenriched
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.