Health Benefits of Shirataki Noodles

Noodles with just a few calories per serving may sound too good to be true. But a serving of shirataki noodles contains about the same number of calories as a cup of broth or a handful of arugula. Shirataki noodles are made from a substance called glucomannan that comes from the konjac root. Glucomannan is a soluble fiber that absorbs a lot of water. Noodles made from glucomannan flour are actually about 3% fiber and 97% water, so it's easy to see why they are low in calories.

Konjac is native to eastern Asia. The plant itself goes by several names, including snake plant and voodoo lily. It bears a distinctive flower that smells like carrion. Glucomannan flour comes from the root of the plant, which can reach a size of up to 50 pounds. Konjac flour also serves as a thickening agent for food.  

Health Benefits

Unlike some healthy foods, shirataki noodles do not contain a wide range of nutrients. They do not contain any vitamins or minerals unless the manufacturer adds them. Some manufacturers add small amounts of tofu or other ingredients, but the nutritional benefits of these additions are usually insignificant. Still, as a low-calorie food, shirataki noodles offer some health benefits:

Diabetes Control

The soluble fiber in shirataki noodles can slow down the rate at which the body absorbs carbohydrates. This can help people with diabetes avoid blood sugar spikes. Studies have shown that glucomannan, the konjac flour in shirataki noodles, helps those with diabetes. People with diabetes should talk to their doctor before using glucomannan, as it could affect their medication. 

Weight Management

Although there are no studies specifically targeting shirataki noodles, high-fiber foods are helpful when it comes to weight control. Because fiber is filling, you may feel satisfied longer and eat less. Those on a ketogenic diet may enjoy shirataki noodles as a replacement for high-carb food. An investigation of glucomannan, the flour used in shirataki noodles, found that it helped with weight management. The best results, however, came from combining glucomannan with a healthy diet and exercise.

Colon Health

Fiber in the diet contributes to good health by reducing constipation. It improves general bowel function, which reduces your risk of hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and colorectal cancer.  The fiber in shirataki noodles is soluble fiber, which acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.  

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Nutrition

Because shirataki noodles are just fiber and water, they do not contain any vitamins or minerals.

They do, however, have some food value:

Nutrients per Serving

An 8-ounce serving (224 grams) contains:

  • Calories: 20
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 6 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Things to Watch Out For

If you are unused to consuming a lot of fiber, you may experience some gas, bloating, or loose stool after you eat shirataki noodles. Usually, as you transition to a higher fiber regimen, these symptoms will improve.

Some people who have taken glucomannan in solid tablet form have experienced blockages in the digestive system because of the way glucomannan swells when it absorbs water. This issue should not occur with shirataki noodles because the water content is already in the noodles. 

How to Prepare Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles come in the shapes you know, such as angel hair and fettuccini. They are available either dry or in water. If you opt for the variety packed in water, you will notice a fishy smell when you open them up. The smell comes from the konjac flour. Drain the water and rinse them well, and the smell should go away. The dry variety will not have a smell.

Prepare the noodles like any other pasta, by boiling them in water. After draining the noodles, some cooks like to dry roast them in the pan to remove some of the water content and firm them up.

Because shirataki noodles have so little nutritional value, it's important to pair them with other ingredients that pack a nutrient-dense punch. You can substitute them for pasta in almost any recipe. They work well in Asian and Italian recipes. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Serve curry with shirataki noodles instead of rice for a lower-calorie dish.
  • Use shirataki noodles in classic miso soup.
  • Serve shirataki noodles with puttanesca sauce. 
  • Make a cold pasta salad with veggies, noodles, and your favorite dressing.
  • Serve fish on a bed of shirataki noodles that have been tossed with pesto. 
  • Use shirataki noodles in a healthy bowl with shredded carrots, red bell peppers, and edamame.
  • Substitute shirataki noodles for the rice noodles normally used in pho. 
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 19, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Bioactive Carbohydrates and Dietary Fibre: "Health benefits of konjac glucomannan with special focus on diabetes."

Horticulturae: "Rehydration and Textural Properties of Dried Konjac Noodles: Effect of Alkaline and Some Gelling Agents."

Master Gardener Program: "Voodoo Lily, Amorphophallus konjac."

The Journal of Nutrition: "Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation."}USDA FoodData Central: "Shirataki Noodles."

Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet."

USDA FoodData Central: "Shirataki Noodles."

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