Shirataki noodles are rapidly growing in popularity in the western world as a low calorie/ carbohydrate food. These noodles are made from a soluble fibre called glucomannan. Glucomannan is found in the roots of a number of plants such as konjac and corm (not to be confused with corn) and has been a part of the Japanese diet for a very long time. Although it sounds like a new and dubious product, it is largely natural and safe to eat. As it has made its way into the Western diet it has been hailed for ‘starting a weight loss revolution‘ and ‘an easy way to lose weight‘ alongside other health claims. This article will determine if shirataki noodles are healthy, cover how they interact in the body, how explain how they can help with weight loss.
Are Shirataki Noodles Healthy?
As shirataki noodles are made from natural plant fibre, they are completely safe to consume (in moderate amounts obviously).
Weight loss – Shirataki noodles aid with weight loss by providing an alternative to high carbohydrate foods such as pasta and conventional noodles. The glucomannan cannot be digested or broken down by the gut, and so the energy it contains cannot be absorbed – effectively making it a zero calorie food. This helps with weight loss because it can help to make you feel full, provides almost no calories and replaces high carbohydrate foods. This will help you lose weight by either providing you with a calorie deficit and/or by removing high carbohydrate foods which often get stored as fat.
Digestion & constipation – As the glucomannan cannot be digested/ absorbed, it remains in the digestive system as soluble fibre. Here it can help form a stool, which helps to facilitate the passage of food through the digestive system. Increasing dietary fibre (particularly from vegetables) is known to promote overall digestive system health, and will also help cure constipation!
Diabetes – Shirataki noodles help prevent type 2 diabetes in a similar way to weight loss. They replaces the high carbohydrate part of meals, which in turn, will reduce blood sugar spikes and the high insulin response from meals. This reduces the insulin stress on the body and so reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Will it melt the pounds off?
No. Shirataki noodles are a weight loss aid, not a miracle product. Having a bowl of shirataki noodles instead of pasta once or twice a week isn’t really going to make a massive difference to your weight. Think about it – replacing 1 pasta meal with shirataki noodles will take out about 125kcals from your day, for one day. If you have them everyday, then perhaps just this substitution will make a small effect on your weight, but the reality is that they are often too expensive to be having everyday. You need to think of shirataki noodles as a weight loss aid – don’t expect miracles (even if a brand of shirataki noodles is called Miracle noodle).
This doesn’t mean I would rule them out of your diet if you are trying to lose weight. Rather than replacing pasta or conventional noodles, I would suggest you actually cut these high carb foods out altogether, and try and follow a more natural diet, which for many is a dramatic and difficult change – and this is where shirataki noodles can help. For the days that you miss pasta or really have a hankering for a stir-fry with noodles, you should use shirataki noodles in the meal. Shirataki noodles, although highly processed, represent a more natural and healthier food than pastas – for one, high carbohydrate foods such as pastas are quite rare in nature, but soluble fibre isn’t. So don’t use shirataki noodles to replace pastas and noodles, but you can use them to help wean you off these foods (hopefully as you transition into a healthy and permanent diet).
How to prepare shirataki noodles
Shirataki noodles are actually very easy to prepare and can be eaten raw straight out of the bag (although you might find them nicer cooked). Simply open the bag of shirataki noodles over a sink and poor the contents into a sieve. The water does smell a little fishy, but don’t worry, its not really bad and the noodles don’t taste of it. You can then add the noodles into a pan of boiling water for 1-2 minuets to heat them up and then they are ready to eat. You can use them just like pasta/ noodles, and they have no noticeable taste and are a little rubbery in texture. If you are looking for a nice and healthy recipe to use shirataki noodles have a look at this user submitted recipe.
Shirataki noodles are made out of indigestible fibre, and effectively provides the body with zero calories – and so can help with weight loss to some degree. On top of helping with weight loss, shirataki noodles can also help promote digestive system healthy and (by replacing high carb foods) can help protect against diabetes. Rather than using shirataki noodles to replace pastas and noodles, shirataki noodles should ideally be used to wean you off pastas for the transition to a healthy and natural diet. They are easy to prepare, and can simply replace pastas/ noodles in your favourite dishes, but don’t forget about the slightly fishy smell when you open the packet!