What Is Low-Carb Macaroni?

C. Mitchell

Low-carb macaroni is a type of pasta that has been specially created to contain a low percentage of digestible carbohydrates. Most standard pasta products, including macaroni, are naturally carbohydrate-heavy. Carbohydrates, often referred to simply as "carbs," are not themselves harmful, and can be a good source of metabolic energy for humans. Medical specialists usually dissuade people from consuming vast quantities of carbs, however, citing potential obesity and heart-health risks. People looking for low-carb eating options without having to avoid pasta entirely often choose this sort of modified macaroni.

An excessive carbohydrate intake can contribute to obesity and heart problems.
An excessive carbohydrate intake can contribute to obesity and heart problems.

Carbohydrates are natural compounds that humans and other animals can convert to energy. They are most common in sugar, starch, and wheat-based products. Standard macaroni is a wheat-based pasta that is shaped like a small curved tube. Manufacturers who produce low-carb macaroni products usually use different flour blends to achieve a noodle that still looks and tastes like macaroni, but contains fewer carbohydrates.

Macaroni and cheese can be baked in individual ramekins.
Macaroni and cheese can be baked in individual ramekins.

Most of the time, the substitutions made in order to create low-carb macaroni actually make the product more healthful. Different flour and grain substitutions can increase the food’s protein and fiber count. Nutritious whole grains are often substituted for refined wheat, as well.

Making pastas according to a low-carb recipe is usually more costly, and the end product is often much more expensive to the consumer. It is not uncommon for a box of low-carb macaroni to cost double or triple what a regular box would. Part of this owes to the process, but part of it is also driven by the market. Adopting a low-carb diet is usually a matter of choice. Manufacturers sometimes consider low-carb macaroni a luxury product, and price it accordingly.

Very few medical conditions require patients to adopt a low-carb lifestyle. People who are allergic to gluten or sensitive to refined sugars often have a sort of de facto low-carb diet, but this is generally incidental. A low-carb macaroni is not usually a good option for people with dietary sensitivities, since it still contains both wheat and sugar in most cases. It just contains less of them than a standard macaroni.

Using a low-carb macaroni is a good way to work towards low-carb eating. Macaroni is usually only one ingredient in a meal, however. Making sure that the entire meal lives up to the health properties of the noodle usually requires careful scrutiny of all ingredients.

Cheeses and meats do not usually contain carbs. Sauces high in sugar can up a dish’s carbohydrate count very quickly, however, in some cases negating the carb savings of specialized macaroni. A low-carb diet depends on low-sugar foods as well as foods that minimize flour.

Sometimes, recipes for low-carb macaroni dishes will not actually include any macaroni at all. This is very common with macaroni and cheese recipes. Macaroni and cheese is a popular preparation in many parts of the world, but has a stronghold in the United States and Canada. Low-carb diet advisers often create “macaroni” and cheese recipes that use squash, cauliflower, or tofu as wholesale macaroni substitutes. These dishes are often referred to as low-carb mac and cheese, but they do not actually contain macaroni at all.

Refined sugar has a high carbohydrate content.
Refined sugar has a high carbohydrate content.

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