White or Wheat?

May 17, 2011, 1:12 p.m. (ET)

If you’ve ever ordered a sandwich, the first question that you were probably faced with is, “white or wheat?” Nowadays we have so many options when it comes to our food. Does it really matter what type of bread you choose to have your sandwich on or what type of pasta you get? Breads and pasta are generally healthy as they supply our bodies with carbohydrates, a much needed fuel especially among athletes. However, just as regular white breads and pastas are a good source of nutrients, whole wheat/whole grain are a better choice.

Whole wheat/grain products contain the entire grain seed. These grain seeds as well as fiber, and many other vitamins and minerals are lost in the refining process when bread and pasta are made from white or processed flour.

Whole wheat/grain products contain more fiber. Dietary fiber is the portion of plant foods that your body is unable to digest. I know it’s a little confusing. If our body can’t even digest them, what good does it do us and why should we even eat them?

According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber normalizes bowel movements and helps maintain bowel integrity and health. It also lowers blood cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar levels and aids in weight loss. The American Dietetics Association states that, whole wheat/grain pasta contains about three times the amount of fiber than regular pasta.

Whole wheat/grain products tend to have a lower glycemic index. Glycemic index (GI) measures what effect carbohydrates have on blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates, like the ones found in whole wheat/grain products are broken down more slowly, and release glucose more gradually into the bloodstream. This means they have a low GI. Low GI carbohydrates keep your energy levels balanced and help you to feel fuller for longer between meals.

If you don’t regularly choose whole wheat/grain breads and pastas why don’t you give it a try?

One of My favorite recipes that is great with whole wheat pasta comes from the Mayo Clinic’s, Healthy Recipes. If you don’t like asparagus, substitute it for another steamed vegetable like green beans, broccoli, zucchini.

Happy cooking and healthy eating!

Jaime Carpenter MEd, ATC, CSCS, NCTM

Penne Pasta with Chicken and Asparagus


  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta

  • 1 cup chopped asparagus

  • 6 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with herbs, including juice

  • 1 ounce soft goat, feta or Romano cheese, crumbled

  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese


Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender), 10 to 12 minutes, or according to the package directions. Drain the pasta thoroughly. Set aside. In a pot fitted with a steamer basket, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Add the asparagus. Cover and steam until tender-crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spray a large nonstick frying pan with cooking spray. Add the chicken and garlic and saute over medium-high heat. Cook until the chicken is golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, including their juice, and simmer 1 minute more. In a large bowl, add the cooked pasta, steamed asparagus, chicken mixture and goat cheese. Toss gently to mix evenly.

To serve, divide the pasta mixture between 2 plates. Sprinkle each serving with 1/2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.








Nutritional Analysis (per serving)





81 mg


41 g


240 mg


55 g


6.5 g

Total fat

8 g


462 mg

Saturated fat

3.5 g


125 mg

Monounsaturated fat

2 g



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