09/17/2015 Nutrition & Recipes
The noodle is far too versatile to be left to one variety. How do you choose the healthiest and tastiest variations? Try these four ultra-healthy options—sweet potato, soba, zucchini, and spaghetti squash noodles—that put a new spin on what it means to love noodles.
The noodle is far too versatile to be left to one variety or method of preparation. There are multiple types of noodles and even more ways that they can nourish your body and mind.
You can stick to the traditional noodle or expand into new territory for meal diversity and nutritional variety. Different variations on the noodle also provide new options for those who may have sensitivities to high allergen foods such as gluten—the protein found in wheat—that is found in traditional pasta.
Carbohydrates are the single most important food for long-term health and brain function. There are a number of unconventional complex carbohydrate noodles sources that come from whole, natural plants that are healthy and great subjects for meal experimentation.
Sweet potato, soba, zucchini, and spaghetti squash noodles all slowly release sugar into the bloodstream to prevent blood sugar surges. They also contain a host of vitamins and minerals, as well as high amounts of fiber to normalize digestion and slow the absorption rate of sugar and fats.
This rainbow of options also offers phytonutrients, which protect us from potentially damaging free radicals. Below are four superstar noodle options to try.
*For the veggies options listed below, all you need is a vegetable peeler or spiralizer and you’re ready to get “noodling.” All can be enjoyed raw, sautéed, steamed, sauced, in soups, on salads or as a side.
Sweet Potatoes Noodles
This sweet vegetable is rated as one of the most nutritious, according to The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, a compound that helps maintain healthy skin and plays a vital role in eye health. Individuals who consume the necessary levels of beta-carotene can lower their risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, macular degeneration, and other age-related diseases.
Sweet potatoes are considered a low-glycemic index (GI) food, which is good news for diabetics. Contrary to its sweet name, they help stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance, according to 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life by David Grotto.
Sweet potatoes are available throughout the year. However, the concentration of nutrients and flavor are highest during their peak season in November and December.
The main ingredient of soba is buckwheat. Although buckwheat looks and tastes like a grain, it’s not. It is a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb.
From a culinary perspective, it’s considered a grain. Soba is a Japanese noodle that has unique characteristics and health-enhancing properties that are not found in traditional Western-style pasta. It’s gluten-free and can serve as another substitute for those sensitive to gluten.
True soba noodles are made from 100 percent buckwheat flour and have a unique nutty flavor. It’s important to note that many soba noodles also contain wheat flour so those with wheat allergies should make sure to check ingredients when shopping for soba noodles.
Buckwheat’s benefits range from promoting blood sugar balance to promoting heart health, according to The World’s Healthiest Foods. It's a noodle source offering high-energy fuel.
Noodles from zucchini offer a much lighter option suitable for warm summer days or in winter soups and stews. It also works as fantastic lasagna noodle when cut into long, flat ribbon-like pieces, which are best created with a mandolin and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices.
Zucchini is soothing to the intestinal tract and easy to digest. Veggies such as zucchini offer a wonderful source of magnesium and phosphorous, both of which are important for strengthening the bone matrix, according to the National Institutes of Health.
To achieve a “cooked” noodle consistency for this raw noodle, lightly salt the zucchini noodles and let them sit for 30 minutes. This will cause the noodles to “weep,” which removes excess water from the zucchini. Rinse with water to remove the salt and blot with a cloth or paper towel. Zucchini noodles are fantastic with a favorite pesto, tomato sauce, or baked into your favorite lasagna.
Spaghetti Squash Noodles
This vegetable option contains the essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. This squash variety contains antioxidants, including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which is linked to healthy vision and eye health.
Creating noodles from this squash is simple. Cut the oblong squash in half, remove the seeds and bake or steam until tender. Use a fork to separate the fibers and produce the mildly sweet-flavored “noodles.” Top with wilted greens sautéed with garlic and toasted pine nuts, or a spaghetti or creamy mushroom sauce.
There are oodles of noodles available to create delicious meals. It’s hard to get bored with the many colorful and nutritious options available.