It might sound like a crazy thing to ask – should you eat pasta or broccoli for weight loss and health?

I asked myself this question as I was preparing my favourite pasta sauce recipe this week.

You see, I’m doing an elimination diet right now for health reasons, and that means no grains. And since necessity is the mother of invention, I thought…..what could I have instead of pasta?

The garden’s full of broccoli right now, so I decided to try it with my bolognaise sauce.

The result? Flavour, texture and 100% satisfaction.

This quick switch got me thinking about how rigid you can be about food rules.

Who says you have to eat pasta with bolognaise sauce?

Pasta or Broccoli for Weight Loss

Pasta and weight loss

Pasta or broccoli for weight loss

Pasta can be a healthy inclusion in a weight loss eating plan on two conditions:

  • if you choose a pasta made from quality ingredients and
  • if you get the portion size right.

Here’s what an Australian government health site says is a standard serve of whole grains/cereals:

Half a cup of cooked pasta

Now let me ask – how much pasta do you normally serve up for yourself?

Eating too much pasta or other starchy carbohydrates usually means eating more calories than you need.

Also, depending on what you serve it with (e.g. just tomato sauce), “white” pasta may not be very satisfying and you may feel hungry again, or crave carbs or sugar, soon after eating the pasta.

If you are trying to lose weight and want to get pasta intake right:

  • choose half a cup of cooked wholemeal pasta
  • add a quality protein-based sauce (i.e. chicken, beef, tuna) so that you feel satisfied afterwards.

Broccoli and weight loss

Pasta or broccoli for weight loss

As you might guess, broccoli has less carbohydrate and fewer calories than pasta.

If you’re trying to decide whether you should choose pasta or broccoli for weight loss, broccoli might be a better choice.

Why?

Simply because it’s easy to overeat pasta so it’s more likely your portion size will be too big.

It’s pretty hard to eat too much broccoli. And even if you eat a big pile of it, broccoli has way fewer calories.

Pasta or Broccoli – Comparing Health Benefits

Rather than get all detailed and technical about the nutritional differences between pasta and broccoli, let’s look at two sets of graphs.

If you look at basic nutrients, you’ll see that broccoli contains fewer calories and carbs, and more potassium than the equivalent amount of pasta.

Pasta or broccoli

Data source: Calorie King Australia – Alan Borushek, Dietician

 

If you look at the main vitamins and minerals found in these two foods, you’ll see that broccoli contains more of the listed vitamins and minerals than the equivalent amount of pasta.

Note that amounts provided are expressed as % daily intake for ease of comparison.

Pasta or broccoli

Data shown as % daily intake.

Data source: World’s Healthiest Foods, Nutrition Self Data for Broccoli and Fresh Pasta

Two other health-related things to consider:

  • Pasta contains gluten which may not suit some people
  • Broccoli contains readily-fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPS) which may not suit some people

Being a whole, unprocessed vegetable, broccoli seems to have a higher nutritional value.

What does all this mean?

Basically, comparing the two,

  • pasta is predominantly a source of carbohydrate (energy) but has very little in the way of vitamins and minerals.
  • broccoli is predominantly a source of vitamins and minerals with very little in the way of calories and carbohydrates.

Which would you choose – pasta or broccoli – for weight loss and health benefits?

Let me know in the comments below.

Melanie White

Melanie White

Chief Inspiration Coach

I’m a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.