Is Pasta Bad for Your Cholesterol?

Almost everyone loves a good pasta dish. The good news is that even if you follow a cholesterol-lowering diet, there's no reason you can't enjoy meals containing pasta every once in a while.

Pasta doesn't contain cholesterol but it is high in carbohydrates. Some types of carbohydrates can affect cholesterol levels, so it's important to select the ingredients you use carefully. Otherwise, you can add extra calories and fat to your diet—both of which can contribute to high cholesterol levels.

This article offers healthy pasta-making tips so the next pasta dish you prepare will be delicious and cholesterol-friendly.

cholesterol-friendly pasta
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

What Is the Link Between Pasta and Cholesterol?

Pasta made from white flour is often referred to as a refined carbohydrate because it is high in carbohydrates and low in fiber. Some research has shown that a diet high in refined carbohydrates—white bread, white pasta, sweets, pastries, snacks, and chips—is associated with increased levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the blood.

High levels of these blood fats increase the risk of developing heart disease.  

How much cholesterol is in pasta?

A cup of dry pasta has 0 milligrams of cholesterol. However, it's high in carbohydrates, with about 43 grams per serving. Eating foods high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates can raise your cholesterol level.

How to Choose the Right Pasta

Pasta noodles are the heart of the entire dish. While some forms of pasta can be healthy, other types contain many calories and are high in carbohydrates. So, when selecting pasta, you can choose healthier options that are cholesterol-friendly.

The Benefit of Whole Grain Pasta

Pasta labeled "whole wheat" or "whole grain" typically looks a little darker than pasta made from white flour. These options contain a higher amount of fiber, which can lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

If in doubt, always check the product label. It will display the carbohydrate and fiber content per serving.

The amount and types of ingredients you can add to a pasta dish are endless. Some of these can create a delicious and heart-healthy dish, while other ingredients could sabotage your cholesterol-lowering efforts.

What kind of bread or pasta is good for cholesterol levels?

Whole-grain and whole wheat varieties of both bread and pasta contain more fiber and nutrients that lower cholesterol and the risk of developing heart disease.

Pasta Alternatives

Instead of traditional pasta made from white flour, try these pasta alternatives that are either lower in carbohydrates or higher in protein and fiber:

  • Spaghetti squash
  • Spiralized vegetables (zucchini, carrots, butternut squash)
  • Shiratake noodles (made from the konjac plant)
  • Black bean pasta
  • Red lentil pasta
  • Chickea pasta
  • Edamame pasta

Grab the Veggies

Vegetables are a heart-healthy food, so you can select any vegetable to include in your pasta dish. Some of the many veggies that pair well with pasta include:

  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Onion
  • Zucchini
  • Peppers

You can also throw in a few olives, which contain healthy monounsaturated fats.

Mix veggies and pasta in equal amounts to get a lower-carb, fiber-filled dish that will keep your cholesterol levels—and heart—healthy.

Easy on the Cheese

It is common to incorporate cheeses into pasta dishes. Unfortunately, while cheeses contain some calcium and provide added flavor and texture, they also add saturated fat to your dish. These fats stay solid at room temperature, just like butter does.

The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fats make up less than 6% of your daily calories because of their role in heart health, including high cholesterol risks.

Instead of loading your dish with cheeses like Romano or mozzarella, try topping your pasta with a small amount of lower-fat cheese instead. Low-fat cheese varieties include:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Low-fat ricotta

Select Lean Meats

Sausage and ground beef are common additions to many pasta dishes. Unfortunately, these, too, are a source of saturated fat that could raise your cholesterol levels. So, if you can, try to limit sausage and red meat when you make pasta.

If you are looking to add a little protein, some heart-healthy options include:

  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Beans

Spice It Up

Spices can enhance the taste of your dish. They can even make the difference between a tasty dish and a boring one.

Many herbs and spices commonly used in pasta dishes—such as parsley, oregano, garlic, and basil—contain healthy nutrients. And they do so without adding any fat or calories.

So, spice up your pasta dish to your taste. Drizzle a little heart-healthy olive oil with your spices to create a light coating on your noodles.

Choose Healthy Sauces

Sauces are also an important component. However, the wrong type of sauce can introduce extra sugar and fat.

Although you can find plenty of sauces in the grocery store, making your own from scratch isn’t too tricky.

If you opt for a prepared marinara sauce, check the label on the product. Some of these contain extra salt, sugar, and fat, which are not heart-healthy. Especially try to limit your use of creamy sauces, such as cheese and alfredo sauces, since these are a source of added fat and are high in saturated fat.

Another homemade alternative? Skip the sauce altogether and dress your pasta with a drizzle of olive oil and some sliced cherry tomatoes. Sautéing this combo first can help soften the tomatoes and release extra flavor into the oil.


If you have high cholesterol, pasta doesn't have to be completely off-limits. By choosing healthy noodle alternatives and other heart-healthy ingredients, you can make cholesterol-friendly pasta dishes.

Try to steer clear of high-fat cheeses and meats. Instead, opt for low-fat and lean varieties. In addition, there is no limit to how many vegetables you can add. So, experiment with a variety of veggies to add some flavor to your meal.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Bhardwaj B, O'Keefe EL, O'Keefe JH. Death by Carbs: Added Sugars and Refined Carbohydrates Cause Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease in Asian IndiansMo Med. 2016;113(5):395-400.PMID: 30228507

  3. FoodData Central. Pasta, dry, enriched. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  4. American Heart Association. Whole Grains, Refined Grains, and Dietary Fiber.

  5. Hollænder PL, Ross AB, Kristensen M. Whole-grain and blood lipid changes in apparently healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled studiesAm J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(3):556-572. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.109165

  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.

  7. American Heart Association. Saturated Fat.

  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition.

By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.