Is gluten-free pasta really that good for you?

If you’re looking to improve your diet, steering clear of starchy carbohydrates such as white pasta is a good start. And for those who have made this move, there is a veritable sea of ‘healthy pasta’ alternatives. While some have become spiraliser converts – making spaghetti ribbons out of courgettes and other vegetables – many choose store-bought ‘low-carb’ versions of pasta made out of everything from beans and quinoa to konjac root.

But are these gluten-free pennes and noodles really better than normal spaghetti? And even if they are healthier, what if they taste foul?

We carried out a taste and nutrition test on some supermarket alternatives with the help of nutritional therapist JACKIE LYNCH – and were surprised at which ones we preferred…

Are gluten-free pennes and noodles really better than normal spaghetti (pictured)? 

Orgran Gluten Free Quinoa Penne


Per 75g serving:

Cals: 274 Carb: 57g

Fibre: 2g Protein: 5g

SARA’S TASTE TEST: The quinoa penne tasted more like rice than pasta on its own, but with a tomato sauce it was just like normal penne, so I happily munched away… until I looked at what it is made of – and its calorie and carb content, which is when it slightly soured in my mouth.

With just ten per cent quinoa, I felt as if I’d be better off with wholewheat spaghetti.

JACKIE’S JUDGMENT: Quinoa is incredibly nutrient-dense, packed with vitamins and minerals, and classed as a ‘complete’ protein, because it contains all the essential amino acids. All good, except that this product is only ten per cent quinoa – the rest is rice, maize and millet flour, making it pretty starchy. The carb level is double what you’d find in standard pasta, with less fibre than wholewheat pasta and the same amount of protein. 4/10.

The Orgran Gluten Free Quinoa Penne (pictured) contains 274 calories per each 75g serving

Explore Asian Gluten Free Organic Edamame Spaghetti


Per 75g serving:

Cals: 273 Carb: 14g

Fibre: 15g Protein: 34g

SARA’S TASTE TEST: I was incredibly sceptical of this – and when I first got it out of the colander, it smelled like feet!

But it ended up being my favourite of all of them.

Does it taste like white spaghetti? Of course not, but it has great flavour. In addition, it was filling without giving me the dreaded ‘carb coma’, and it kept its texture even when reheated the next day (where some others ended up mushy and spongy).

JACKIE’S JUDGMENT: While this is significantly higher in calories than standard pasta, it’s worth a closer look because of the high protein and fibre content. Edamame is young soya bean cooked in the pod, and, gram for gram, this product contains more protein than a chicken breast, making it a great option for vegetarians.

Soya is packed with antioxidant plant compounds, which is an extra bonus, though these may have been depleted during the production process. The combination of protein and fibre will keep you going for longer, supporting weight management and generating sustained energy levels. 10/10.

Explore Asian Gluten Free Organic Edamame Spaghetti (pictured) contains 273 calories per 75g serving 

Doves Farm Organic Gluten Free Maize Rice Penne


Per 75g serving:

Cals: 260 Carb: 57g

Fibre: 2g Protein: 5g

SARA’S TASTE TEST: This penne weirdly seemed to cook from inside out, so it either ended up with a tough, chewy exterior, or it became mushy. However, even though I thought I was on to a winner (it tastes just like white pasta) my arm raised in celebration soon fell limp to my side when I looked at the carb and calorie content.

JACKIE’S JUDGMENT: Good if you need to be gluten-free, as it mimics the ingredients of standard pasta and has a similar taste and texture. But with more than twice the calorie and carb content, it’s worth remembering that gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean better, it just means gluten-free. If weight management is your goal, you’d need to keep an eye on the portions of this one. 5/10. 

Doves Farm Organic Gluten Free Maize Rice Penne contains 260 calories per 75g serving 

Profusion Organic Chickpea Fusilli


Per 75g serving:

Cals: 270 Carb: 38g Fibre: 11g Protein: 15g

SARA’S TASTE TEST: Does it taste of chickpeas? Yes it does. So while I kept telling myself it was better than normal pasta, I ended up leaving half my portion. Because I wanted pasta, not chickpeas. It has a cardboard aftertaste: like bad wholegrain pasta. If you need more chickpeas in your diet, eat houmous.

JACKIE’S JUDGMENT: Chickpeas, like other pulses, are practically a meal in themselves, which helps to justify the high calorie count of this product.

They are packed with soluble fibre, which helps to regulate cholesterol levels, optimise digestive function and keep you fuller for longer. They’re also an excellent source of heart-healthy antioxidants. This product is a great option for anyone concerned about blood-sugar management. 6/10. 

Profusion Organic Chickpea Fusilli (pictured) contains 270 calories per 75g serving 

Bare Naked Noodles

380g, hollandand

Per 75g serving:

Cals: 6 Carb: 0.1 Fibre: 2.5g Protein: 0.2g

SARA’S TASTE TEST: These don’t taste of anything, which I guess is a plus point when eating them is like biting through plastic strings.

JACKIE’S JUDGMENT: With practically zero calories, this product might seem a winner, but there isn’t much nutrition either. The noodles are made from konjac, a plant grown in Asia and used to make noodles. It can be highly nutritious and an excellent source of fibre. However, this is the most processed of the alternative pastas and far less nutrient-dense as a result. 2/10. 

Bare Naked Noodles, which can be bought from Holland and Barrett, contain just six calories