More Reasons for Me to Love My Shirataki Noodles

Several months ago, in order to cut down on some carbohydrates in my diet (I’m pretty much a carb junkie), I started to eat Japanese shirataki noodles that I’d found in my healthfood store.  It was a eureka moment for me when I discovered the whole package had only 20 calories and no carbohydrates.  I was even more excited a few days ago when I found out that my no-carb-low-cal treat is actually good for me and my biome.

Shirataki noodles are made from water and starch from something called a konjac plant which, I just learned, is a kind of a yam.  Manufacturers of the noodles extract the starch and create a block of a substance called konnyaku, which can be eaten by itself or formed into any desired shape as it the gelatinous substance sticks together beautifully.  (On Japanese cooking sites, you can find delicious sound recipes for konnyaku – like this one with miso sauce.)  The starch, glucomannan, acts as an soluble dietary fiber, which our bodies cannot digest to extract energy (calories).



So what are the health benefits?[i]

  1. As a soluble fiber, glucomannan acts as a prebiotic, feeding good flora of the gut.
  2. Glucomannan may be able to lower cholesterol. One review found that 3 grams per day leads to a 10% reduction in LDL.
  3. Because they are a low glycemic index food, these noodles are great for whose with diabetes or metabolic syndrome. To boot, glucomannan helps people feel full for longer because it lengthens the amount of time it takes to digest food.  It also reduces the rise in blood sugar that follows eating a meal.  A double-blind, randomized, controlled study in 2017 found that eating 400 grams per day of the noodles for 4 weeks (followed by 4 weeks of eating a placebo) led to lower body weight, lower BMI, lower waist circumference and lower C-reactive protein – so likely lower inflammation levels.[ii]
  4. Again, as a source of soluble fiber, shirataki noodles can promote digestion and elimination, thus helping those with constipation issues have more regular bowel movements.
  5. As noted above, they have no meaningful calories so as a substitute for noodles or rice, they can be a lifesaver when trying to lower calorie intake.  Also, glucomannan may actually promote weight loss.  A 2020 review and meta-analysis found that those who are overweight or obese do lose weight when adding it to their diets:  “In this meta-analysis we found a significant reduction in body weight following glucomannan consumption in overweight and obese adults. Therefore, the recommendation on glucomannan supplementation could be a practical approach to reduce body weight in overweight and obese adults.”[iii]
  6. For those with food allergies or intolerances, they are often a great substitute. They contain no common allergens like wheat, gluten, egg or corn.

Now that I know all this, I will be searching for konnyaku next time I am at the health food store, to add it to my beloved noodles as a food staple.  There are many easy recipes to be found on the internet, and while I’m not really familiar with Japanese cooking (I’m sorry to say), it looks like it won’t be hard to  make some of them.



[ii] Cheang, K, et. al. Effects of glucomannan noodle on diabetes risk factor sin patients with metabolic syndrome: a cdouble blinded, randomized, crossover controlled trial. Journal of Food and Nutrition Research. 2017. 5(8):622-628.

[iii] Mohammadpour, S, et. al. Effects of glucomannan supplement on weight loss in overweight and obese adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.  Obesity Medicine. 2020:19.

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