Shirataki Noodles: The Best Gut-Healthy Noodles for Your Waistline
By Rachael Link, MS, RD
Imagine being able to chow down on your favorite pasta dish, totally guilt-free. It might sound too good to be true, but it’s not! Shirataki noodles are almost entirely free of calories and carbohydrates and are the perfect option for those looking to cut calories and shed a few pounds while taking advantage of some added benefits to your health.
From reducing blood sugar levels to cutting cholesterol and improving gut health, these noodles boast some seriously impressive health benefits. They can also help slim your waistline by helping you stay full and even reducing levels of certain hormones that stimulate hunger.
Whether you’re on a low-carb ketogenic diet, following a grain-free Paleo diet or just looking for simple ways to reduce your caloric intake, adding these low-carb noodles to your diet can have a powerful impact on many aspects of your health.
What Are Shirataki Noodles?
Also commonly called konjac noodles, shirataki noodles are a carb-free and calorie-free type of pasta that has been skyrocketing in popularity recently.
They are made primarily from glucomannan, a type of fiber that comes from konjac root. Konjac, sometimes known as devil’s tongue or the konnyaku potato, is a type of plant that is native to eastern Asia.
In addition to shirataki, konjac root is a common ingredient in fruit jelly snacks and candies. It can also be used as a vegan alternative for gelatin to add thickness to foods and is even added to some weight loss pills.
Shirataki literally translates to “white waterfalls.” The noodles are translucent with a glass-like appearance and are generally tasteless, absorbing the flavors of whatever they are cooked with.
They are produced by mixing water with glucomannan fiber and a small amount of lime juice to help retain their shape. They are then boiled and shaped to form noodles.
Shirataki noodles are made mostly of water, containing about 97 percent water and 3 percent glucomannan fiber. For this reason, they are free of calories and digestible carbohydrates but provide many of the benefits supplied by glucomannan fiber, making them an excellent addition to the diet.
Benefits of Shirataki Noodles
1. Aid in Weight Loss
Because a serving of shirataki noodles contains almost no calories, it’s the perfect option when it comes to losing belly fat and slashing your caloric intake.
One cup of cooked spaghetti, for example, contains 220 calories, while a cup of shirataki noodles is calorie-free. Swapping your spaghetti for shirataki noodles just a few times per week is an easy way to cut out a huge chunk of calories and can lead to significant weight loss over time.
Additionally, the fiber found in shirataki noodles can slow stomach emptying, causing you to feel fuller for longer.
Glucomannan fiber, the main ingredient in shirataki noodles, has also been shown to influence certain hormones that contribute to hunger. A study in Bangkok published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice showed that eating glucomannan fiber reduced levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger. (1)
Another study published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that taking just one gram of glucomannan fiber daily led to a 5.5-pound mean weight loss over eight weeks in 20 obese subjects without any changes in diet or activity. (2)
To optimize your weight loss, make sure you pair your shirataki noodles with healthy toppings like vegetables or light sauces. It’s also best to combine shirataki noodles with a balanced diet as well as regular physical activity.
2. Reduce Blood Sugar
Fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which can maintain normal blood sugar levels and prevent dangerous spikes and crashes. Because shirataki noodles are high in glucomannan fiber, there is some evidence suggesting that they could help decrease blood sugar levels.
A 2007 study from Mahidol University’s Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok found that taking glucomannan fiber before a load of glucose significantly lowered blood sugar levels compared to a placebo. (3) Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found glucomannan supplementation lowered fasting blood sugar levels by an impressive 23 percent. (4)
Taking glucomannan has also been shown to lower levels of fructosamine, a marker used to measure average blood sugar levels. Researchers from the St. Michael’s Hospital’s Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto found that “KJM fiber added to conventional treatment may ameliorate glycemic control, blood lipid profile, and sBP in high-risk diabetic individuals, possibly improving the effectiveness of conventional treatment in type 2 diabetes.” (5)
For those with diabetes, incorporating a few servings of shirataki noodles into your diet each week could be beneficial in keeping blood sugar levels under control.
3. Keep You Regular
The two main components of shirataki noodles — water and fiber — can aid in reducing constipation and promoting regularity.
Water helps soften the stool, making it easier to pass — thus preventing straining and constipation. It also helps get things moving through the digestive tract.
Fiber also aids in preventing constipation by adding bulk to the stool. Increasing your intake of dietary fiber has been shown to cause an increase stool frequency as well. (6)
Glucomannan, in particular, may be especially beneficial when it comes to increasing regularity. A study from the Univerity of Iowa showed that constipation in children was effectively treated in 45 percent of those taking glucomannan supplementation compared to only 13 percent of those taking a placebo. (7)
In addition to eating shirataki noodles, a diet containing plenty of high-fiber foods and lots of water can also be beneficial for supporting regular bowel movements.
4. Reduce Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can build up in the walls of the arteries, causing a narrowing of blood vessels and forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. High cholesterol is a major risk factor of coronary heart disease, and making modifications to your diet is the best way to keep cholesterol levels in check.
The glucomannan fiber found in shirataki noodles may be able to help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
A review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at 14 studies and found that, on average, glucomannan lowered total cholesterol by 19 mg/dL, bad LDL cholesterol by 16 mg/dL and triglycerides by 11 mg/dL. The researchers from the University of Connecticut Schools of Medicine and Drug Information ultimately concluded: “Glucomannan appears to beneficially affect total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, body weight, and FBG, but not HDL cholesterol or BP.” (8)
Other ways to keep cholesterol levels low include choosing healthier fats, avoiding ultra-processed foods, increasing physical activity and losing weight.
5. Promote Gut Health
There are trillions of microscopic bacteria living inside your digestive tract, collectively making up your gut microbiome. These bacteria play a central role in almost every aspect of health, from strengthening your immune system to optimizing nutrient absorption. (9)
The dietary fiber found in shirataki noodles functions as a prebiotic. Prebiotics nourish the beneficial bacteria in your gut, acting as a source of fuel to promote better gut health.
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are other good sources of prebiotics that can boost both gut health and overall health.
Shirataki Noodles Nutrition
Shirataki noodles are made entirely of glucomannan fiber and water, so they are virtually calorie-free and free of digestible carbohydrates. They also contain no fat, cholesterol, protein or sodium.
This means that when you eat shirataki noodles, the main calories and nutrients come from whatever toppings you add, whether that’s sauce, cheese, meat or vegetables. For this reason, it’s especially important to pick healthy toppings to help round out your meal.
Tofu shirataki noodles are also available. The nutrient profile of these noodles is very similar to traditional shirataki noodles but with a slightly higher amount of calories and carbohydrates.
Shirataki Noodles vs. Other Noodles
Most types of noodles contain a good amount of calories and carbohydrates. In general, cooked noodles have approximately 200–220 calories and 40–45 grams of carbohydrates per cup. Shirataki noodles, on the other hand, are free of both calories and digestible carbohydrates.
This means that shirataki noodles can be a great alternative to regular noodles if you’re looking to decrease your intake of both calories and carbohydrates.
However, shirataki noodles are missing out on some of the beneficial nutrients found in other noodles. Whole wheat noodles, for instance, contain lots of B vitamins, manganese, selenium, magnesium and phosphorus, among other nutrients.
If you’re replacing your regular pasta with shirataki noodles on a regular basis, it’s important to make sure you’re getting these essential nutrients from other sources in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins or other whole grains.
How to Find and Use Shirataki Noodles
As shirataki noodles have increased in popularity, they have become more readily available and can be found at many grocery stores as well as online retailers. Popular brands include Nasoya, Miracle Noodles, Vitacost and Skinny Noodles.
When you open your package of noodles, you may notice a strong fish-like odor. The noodles are packed in water to absorb the odor of the konjac root. Running the noodles under water in a colander for one to two minutes helps get rid of this potent smell.
To prepare shirataki noodles, simply rinse, drain, add to a boiling pot of water and cook for two to three minutes. Then drain them again, add them to a pan and dry roast them over medium heat without any oil or spray for one minute. Dry roasting them removes excess water to prevent an unfavorable mushy texture.
These low-carb noodles absorb the flavor of whatever you combine them with, making them a great ingredient for a stir-fry or low-carb pasta dish. Combine the noodles with your choice of sauce, toppings or vegetables and enjoy.
Looking for some interesting ideas on how to cook shirataki noodles? Here are some tasty shirataki noodles recipes for you to try:
- Keto Creamy Avocado Pasta with Shirataki
- Shirataki Noodles with Almond Butter Sauce
- Low-Carb Pork Lo Mein
- Mushroom Pasta with Shirataki
- Honey Sesame Shirataki Noodles
Shirataki noodles are made from konjac, a plant that has been well-known for its medicinal properties for centuries.
Konjac has been used historically as a staple ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. In Japan, it even gained widespread popularity and saw an increase in demand in the 1800s.
Both konjac and shirataki noodles remain especially popular throughout Japan, though there are minor differences in processing depending on what region they are produced in. In some regions of Japan, the konnyaku jelly is cut into threads while in other areas it is forced through tiny holes into a solution with concentrated amounts of lime.
Today, shirataki noodles have become increasingly popular and are now used around the globe as a low-carb, low-calorie alternative to traditional pasta.
Shirataki noodles are generally well-tolerated and safe for most individuals. Some people may experience side effects, however, which can include digestive issues like gas, bloating and diarrhea.
Because shirataki noodles are high in fiber, it’s best to increase intake gradually, and be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated in order to avoid adverse side effects.
Although uncommon, some people may also be sensitive to the glucomannan fiber found in shirataki noodles. If you experience any negative symptoms like hives, itching, swelling, wheezing or difficulty breathing, discontinue use and talk to your doctor immediately.
While shirataki noodles are a great way to reduce your intake of carbohydrates and calories, they are also low in nutrients. If you’re eating these noodles regularly, make sure that you are consuming a well-rounded diet with plenty of nutrient-dense foods to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
Final Thoughts on Shirataki Noodles
- Shirataki noodles can be an excellent alternative to regular noodles.
- Besides being low in calories and carbohydrates, they also contain beneficial glucomannan fiber to help keep you full.
- Shirataki noodles may aid in weight loss and help lower your cholesterol and blood sugar while promoting better gut health and regularity.
- Because shirataki noodles are low in nutrients, however, it’s important to make sure you’re using healthy toppings and consuming a well-balanced diet full of other nutrient-rich foods.
- If you’re looking to cut calories or carbs from your diet, swapping regular noodles with these low-carb noodles a few times per week can be an easy solution.
Rachael LinkDr. AxeOctober 27, 2017