What if I told you there was a gluten-free, zero calorie, zero carbohydrate noodle that was a great alternative to traditional pasta noodles (for those who aren’t fans of veggie noodles)?
Turns out there is and while I was skeptical at first, I’ve come to love these incredible noodles:
What are Shirataki Noodles?
As you may guess from the name, shirataki noodles originated in Japan. They are made from the Konjac root, also called White Yam or Devil’s Tongue. They have a gelatinous texture and are a good source of the dietary fiber Glucomannan.
To make the noodles, the Glucomannan fiber is extracted from the Konjac root and mixed with water and limewater. This creates a gelatinous substance called konnyaku which is made into noodle-like or rice-like substances.
The finished noodles are 97% water and 3% indigestible fiber, making it a zero calorie noodle.
These noodles have gained the nickname “Miracle Noodles,” and are completely paleo and calorie-free.
They have virtually no taste on their own but have a slight fish-like smell when packaged wet. This is due to the water they are packaged in and can be easily rinsed off.
Some versions of these noodles have added soy or other ingredients so it is important to read labels if using these noodles. They can be found both wet (like these) and dry (like these) and can be used in many dishes in place of wheat-based noodles.
Are Shirataki Noodles Healthy?
It would seem like a product like this is too good to be true, but Shirataki noodles live up to their hype.
These noodles are a high-fiber food yet have no calories and no carbohydrates. The Glucomannan fiber in the noodles is a type of viscous fiber (soluble fiber). This is similar to what is found in chia seeds why they can absorb up to 50 times their weight in water.
Prebiotics in Glucomannan Fiber
The viscous fiber in Shirataki noodles is known as a prebiotic, meaning that it is indigestible to humans. It provides no calories or nutrients to human cells, but nourishes good bacteria in the digestive system.
This fiber also moves through the digestive system slowly and offers digestive and gut health benefits.
Certain beneficial gut bacteria function by fermenting this insoluble fiber in Shirataki Noodles and other fruits and vegetables. Gut bacteria feeds on the byproducts of this fermentation. This is one of the many reasons why vegetables and fruits are so beneficial and Glucomannan fiber is another source of this viscous fiber.
In addition, viscous fiber functions as a prebiotic. It nourishes the bacteria living in your colon, also known as the gut flora or microbiota.
A recent human study found that fermenting glucomannan fiber to short-chain fatty acids produces one calorie per gram (4).
Since a typical serving of shirataki noodles contains about 1–3 grams of glucomannan, it’s essentially a calorie-free, carb-free food.
Glucomannan for Weight Loss
Shirataki products and other Glucomannan containing foods are sometimes recommended for weight loss. These foods are no-calorie and high-fiber and are recommended on various types of diets.
Though the fiber itself is indigestible to humans, it feeds gut bacteria and moves through the gut slowly, leading to a longer feeling of fullness and satiety. Studies have shown that daily consumption of Glucomannan fiber can help with weight loss.
This are several potential reasons for this:
- It may reduce Ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels, especially when consumed regularly
- Glucomannan may help stabilize blood sugar levels (source)
- It may help improve cholesterol levels and ratios and may reduce LDL and Trygliceride levels (source)
- It may help improve digestion and feed beneficial gut bacteria
- It can stimulate the production of a gut hormone called peptide YY (PYY), which helps a person feel full for longer
Glucomannan as a Resistant Starch
Resistant starch is another name for a starch that doesn’t feed the human body directly but that increases fermentation in the gut and creates beneficial byproducts like butyrate (an important compounds linked to cell health).
Think of resistant starch as food for your gut bacteria because as the name suggests, it resists digestion in our guts but provides several benefits in the process.
Resistant starch may have many benefits for gut health and we aren’t consuming as much of it in modern times as we have historically.
While research has revealed the importance of probiotics and this is a booming industry of supplements, yogurts and beverages, prebiotics are also very important but not as trendy.
Glucomannan is a great source of resistant starch and an incredibly easy way to incorporate this into the diet.
The Downside of Shirataki Noodles
The one potential downside of Shirataki noodles containing Glucomannan (and other forms of resistant starch) is short term digestive discomfort.
Though Glucomannan is generally considered safe, there are some potential short term digestive side effects like bloating and discomfort. (source)
To avoid these issues, it is generally recommended to start taking Glucomannan and other forms of resistant starch slowly and work up gradually.
Additionally, because of the ability of Glucomannan to absorb a large amount of water, care should be taken not to consume it dry or without adequate water. Intestinal blockages have been reported from consuming large amounts of the dried form of this root.
It is best not to take Shirataki noodles or other Glucomannan containing foods within a couple of hours of taking medication or supplements as it may reduce absorption.
Where to Get Shirataki Noodles
These noodles and other products made from Konjac root are now available in many grocery stores and online.
I’ve tried the following types:
- Miracle Noodle Brand: Available from Amazon or at a discount from Thrive Market
- Better Than Brand: Available in Better Than Rice and Better Than Pasta
How to Use Shirataki Noodles
These noodles can be used in place of traditional pasta noodles in almost any dish, including Italian and Asian recipes. They are virtually tasteless and absorb flavors well, making them a perfect addition to stir frys, soups and pasta dishes.
Most brands come wet, or pre-hydrated in water within the package. They can technically be consumed this way, but it is recommended to drain them well and rinse under fresh water for a few minutes. This removes the slightly fishy scent that is a result of the storage in water in the package.
How to Cook For Best Texture
For best texture, I’ve found the following method helpful:
- Drain the noodles
- Rinse under cool water for 1-2 minutes
- Drop into boiling water for another 1-2 minutes to further soften and improve texture
- Drain and pat dry and place in a dry skillet over medium heat for at least 5 minutes to dry slightly
- Add to dishes or add flavors as desired at this point
The Bottom Line
These noodles can be a great gluten-free alternative to regular noodles. They require some specific preparation but take on flavors well. Shirataki Noodles can be good for weight loss and are considered a vegan, paleo and nutritious alternative to other noodles.
Have you ever used Shirataki Noodles? How do you like to prepare them?