Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shirataki Noodles

AKA konjac noodles, glucomannan noodles, konnyaku noodles, Japanese yam noodles

Konjac noodles also called
shiritaki noodles
Shirataki or konjac noodles are naturally low carb, low glycemic, and zero calories.  I don’t know about you, but I’m skeptical when I hear stuff like that. How can a food, especially pasta, have zero calories and zero net carbs? I mean, seriously. Tell me. How?

The Good
It all begins with the konjac glucomannan root. Konjac root is a tuber, like a sweet potato and is also known as Japanese yam. It’s naturally full of soluble fiber – the most viscous soluble fiber currently known. But unlike sweet potatoes, this yam consists primarily of water and soluble fiber. According to medical research, Clinical Excellence for Nurse Practitioners. 2000 Sep; 4(5):272-6 Dietary Fiber and Type 2 Diabetes, “Water-soluble fiber appears to have a greater potential to reduce postprandial blood glucose, insulin, and serum lipid levels than insoluble fiber. Viscosity of the dietary fiber is important; the greater the viscosity, the greater the effect.”

Konjac root can be ground and formed into both a powder and also into many different pasta shapes. Although, my favorite shirataki pasta shapes include konjac angel hair, konjac spaghetti, konjac linguini, konjac fettuccini and konjac orzo, there are many other shapes available on the market. I like these shapes because they have a better mouth-feel. You can also use any of these shapes and “rice” them using a food processor for use as a rice substitute.

I call these squiggly, transparent little noodles shirataki noodles. They are translucent like a glass noodle and have a very chewy texture, kind of like a rice noodle. They don’t have a flavor on their own. Shirataki noodles take on the flavor of the sauce or foods with which it’s cooked. Allow shirataki noodles to cook in the sauce for 15-30 minutes. It makes them a little less chewy.

If you want a dry-er styled noodle as in a lo mein or stir fry, it’s easy to rinse and drain the shirataki noodles then add them into a non-stick skillet with a splash of oil and fry them off for a couple of minutes until dried out. Then add them to the rest of your dish.

The Bad
Shirataki noodles aren’t without drawbacks. I will warn you right now. They smell fishy. Just power through it. Breathe through your mouth and rinse the little buggers. Let ‘em drain and cook per your recipe and you won’t taste anything fishy. Some people say the smell comes from the calcium hydroxide which is used to “set” the konjac root into an irreversible solid. Others say the konjac root itself smells like fish. I haven’t smelled the root so I can’t say for certain – but I’m betting it’s the calcium hydroxide solution. I just rinse them well and move on.

The Ugly
Another potential drawback for some people? Well shirataki noodles can give some people gas at first. I think it’s best to start with small portions and up your consumption a little at a time because this effect can go away after awhile. Your body can become acclimated to it. Soluble fiber is considered to be a pre-biotic and pre-biotics are food for the good beasties in your gut that protect you from the bad beasties that cause leaky gut syndrome and can even kill you. Pre-biotic foods actually ferment in your gut as a result of the good bugs digesting the soluble fiber. Kefir and fermented veggies are other examples of pre-biotics.

Susie T's Vote
4 out of a possible 4 spoons

I am such a big fan of shirataki noodles I’m considering becoming a distributor. As a Type 2 diabetic, I embrace soluble fiber and call it “friend” wherever I find it. I can eat an entire bag of shirataki without intestinal distress and without it raising my blood sugar. That’s 9 ounces of soluble fiber! Wowza! Of course I would be a stuffed little fluffy chix, but I could do it. If I ate the same amount of traditional wheat or grain pasta, my blood sugar would be in the upper 170s within 30 minutes and wouldn’t come down for 4 to 5 hours.

It’s great stuff – these shirataki noodles.

Want An Easy Recipe For Shirataki Noodles?
Faux Pho - Shrimp Version

The Facts

Shirataki or konjac noodles can be stored for up to a year without refrigeration. These are the kind without tofu in them, by the way. Don’t freeze shirataki noodles or you will get dry, stringy, hard strands that will be completely inedible. Big mistake. Trust me!

They are pre-cooked and rather “instant.” Rinse, drain and add to veggies, protein, sauces, whatever you like! They’re great hot or cold in a noodle salad. I think they have the natural affinity to Asian dishes, but I use them in Italian and other cuisines and pretend.

Also, shirataki noodles are pretty cheap. Buy a case of 24 for $35.00 which comes out to about $1.40/9oz bag. Each bag gives you 3 servings for a per serving cost of $0.47. Until I decide whether or not to become a distributor, you can buy these from Konjac Foods. If I become a distributor, maybe you would consider buying them through me. Presently you can't really buy them from Konjac Foods as single packages. But I would sell them by the case and some of the shapes you could buy with a minimum or 2 to 3 packages per order.

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Nutrition Nerd Alert!
The following information has the ability to make your eyes glaze over unless you’re a nutrition nerd like me…

Soluble Fiber Intake & Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus -
The Research
Research proves that the higher the viscosity of soluble fiber, the better the control of blood sugar level in patients with Type 2 diabetes:

"A high intake of dietary fiber, particularly of the soluble type, above the level recommended by the ADA, improves glycemic control, decreases hyperinsulinemia, and lowers plasma lipid concentrations in patients with type 2 diabetes"

Clin Excel Nurse Pract.(September 2000; 4 (5): 272-6)
Dietary fiber and type 2 diabetes.
"Water-soluble fiber appears to have a greater potential to reduce postprandial blood glucose, insulin, and serum lipid levels than insoluble fiber. Viscosity of the dietary fiber is important; the greater the viscosity, the greater the effect."

Med Hypotheses. (June 2002; (6): 487-90)
Glucomannan minimizes the postprandial insulin surge: a potential adjuvant for hepatothermic therapy.
"Glucomannan (GM) is differentiated from other soluble fibers by the extraordinarily high viscosity of GM solutions. Administration of 4-5g of GM with meals, blended into fluid or mixed with food, can slow carbohydrate absorption and dampen the postprandial insulin response by up to 50%."

Diabetes Care (1999 Jun v22, i6; 913-919)
Konjac-mannan (glucomannan) improves glycemia and other associated risk factors for coronary heart disease in type 2 diabetes.
A randomized controlled metabolic trial. "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"

Diabetes Care (2000; 23: 9 - 14)
Beneficial effects of viscous dietary fiber from Konjac-mannan in subjects with the insulin resistance syndrome: results of a controlled metabolic trial.
"A diet rich in high-viscosity KJM improves glycemic control and lipid profile, suggesting a therapeutic potential in the treatment of the insulin resistance syndrome."

Journal of the American College of Nutrition (2003, February, 22(1): 36-42)
Konjac supplement alleviated hypercholesterolemia and hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetic subjects--a randomized double-blind trial.
"The KGM supplement improved blood lipid levels by enhancing fecal excretion of neutral sterol and bile acid and alleviated the elevated glucose levels in diabetic subjects. KGM could be an adjunct for the treatment of hyperlipidemic diabetic subjects."

The New England Journal of Medicine (May 11, 2000. v342: 1392-1398)

Beneficial effects of high dietary fiber intake in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
"A high intake of dietary fiber, particularly of the soluble type, above the level recommended by the ADA, improves glycemic control, decreases hyperinsulinemia, and lowers plasma lipid concentrations in patients with type 2 diabetes."

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  1. I use Shirataki noodles all the time and love them. Mostly in asian type foods , but sometimes in Italian style dishes as well.Thanks for the information.

  2. Thanks for your comment! Yes, I think Shirataki are naturals in Asian cooking. :) They remind me of rice noodles and are very acceptable to me.

    I have learned to like them in Italian, although they just don't have as good a fit and I prefer it when I combine the shirataki with veggie noodles such as zucchini spirals or zucchini tagliatelli or pappardelli. It just adds the bulk that the shirataki's lack.

    The other way I like shiratakis are riced and also cut into "egg noodle" length in chicken soup.

    Enjoy and hope you come join us over at the main cooking area!!!!

  3. Hi
    Did you ever become a distributor for these noodle products? I have been looking into them and have decided to try them. My daughter is an Asian culture lover and that includes the food! Giving up visits to our favorite Chinese restuarant was probably the most diificult part of starting Atkins. Let me know and I.will order through you rather than other sources. That is, if I.can afford the shipping!