Shirataki noodles are long, white noodles that consist of a type of starch known as glucomannan. The body does not digest this starch, making shirataki noodles very low in calories and carbohydrates.
Shirataki noodles are a popular part of Japanese cuisine. However, because of their nutritional properties and versatility, they have gained popularity in other parts of the world, particularly among those who follow low carbohydrate diets.
In this article, we will explore what shirataki noodles are in more detail, as well as their potential health benefits, how to cook them, and how to include them in meals.
Shirataki noodles consist of water and starch from the roots of the konjac plant, which is a type of yam. Other names for these noodles include “konjac noodles” or “miracle noodles.”
Manufacturers make shirataki noodles by extracting starch from konjac roots. They then use this starch to create a block, known as “konnyaku.”
People can eat konnyaku on its own as a meat substitute, or use it to create different shapes. Konjac starch is gelatinous and clings to itself, which makes it ideal for forming into noodles.
Shirataki noodles are unique because of the starch they contain: glucomannan. In the digestive system, glucomannan acts like a dietary fiber, which means the body does not break it down to use as energy.
This makes shirataki noodles extremely low in calories and carbohydrates, as they provide little energy.
Shirataki noodles may have a number of health benefits, depending on the individual. They include:
Use as a food substitute
People may find shirataki noodles both useful and beneficial for their health if they have a food allergy, food intolerance, or a digestive condition that limits their diet.
This is because shirataki noodles are free from substances that can cause symptoms in some people. For example, they do not contain:
This could help people with conditions that require these dietary restrictions to eat a more varied diet while also avoiding symptoms. Shirataki noodles can act as a replacement for popular foods such as pasta, wheat noodles, and egg noodles.
Reaching a moderate weight
Shirataki noodles may help people reach a moderate weight by providing a low calorie, low carbohydrate replacement for other starchy foods.
Additionally, there is some evidence that glucomannan may help to promote weight loss. A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis in Obesity Medicine found an association between glucomannan supplementation and weight loss in people with overweight and obesity.
Glucomannan is also a type of soluble fiber, which is generally beneficial for weight loss as it can increase feelings of fullness.
Reducing markers of diabetes and metabolic syndrome
Shirataki noodles have a low glycemic index, which means they do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels after eating them. This can make them a useful food for those with prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, or type 2 diabetes, who may need to restrict their carbohydrate intake.
However, these noodles may have additional health benefits for people with these conditions. According to a 2015 study, konjac glucomannan:
- can lengthen the time it takes to digest food, helping people feel satisfied for longer and so potentially helping to reduce body weight
- reduces the rise in blood sugar that follows a meal
- reduces the ingestion of foods that increase glucose concentrations
- a lower body weight and body mass index (BMI)
- a lower waist circumference
- lower levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, which may indicate lower levels of inflammation
This may make shirataki noodles a potential addition to the diet for those who are using dietary changes to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.
A systematic review in
This research focuses on glucomannan specifically, rather than shirataki noodles. As such, people should not rely on this food to treat high cholesterol.
Feeding beneficial bacteria
The glucomannan fiber in shirataki may act as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are substances that feed beneficial bacteria in the large intestine.
A critical review in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules notes that glucomannan does not break down in the stomach, so it can be a source of food for gut flora.
Scientists are only beginning to understand the ways in which gut bacteria affect human health. However, they are essential for digestion and nutrient absorption. Gut bacteria may also influence other aspects of health, such as mood and body weight.
Regular bowel movements
As with other sources of soluble fiber, shirataki noodles can help aid digestion and promote regular bowel movements. This may help people who experience constipation or who want to increase their fiber intake to generally improve digestion.
Shirataki noodles mainly consist of water and fiber. As a result, they contain few essential nutrients.
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The noodles also contain about 20.2 mg of calcium per serving.
Some companies may add other ingredients to improve markers, such as texture or flavor. Keep in mind that this may change the nutritional value of the noodles.
It is possible that eating large amounts of shirataki noodles may cause similar side effects, though no research exists on how common this is.
Additionally, while shirataki noodles are low in calories and carbohydrates, they contain very little energy and almost no vitamins or minerals.
As such, it is important to eat them as part of a balanced diet that also contains plenty of nutrient-dense foods. Otherwise, a person may develop deficiencies.
Shirataki noodles are very low in carbohydrates. For this reason, people following the ketogenic diet can eat them.
People following the keto diet should try to mix shirataki noodles with other carbohydrate replacement foods, such as cauliflower, zucchini, or spaghetti squash. People can also use these foods as substitutes for rice, pasta, and noodles. Unlike shirataki, though, they have more nutritional value.
Shirataki noodles often come bagged in water. To prepare them:
- Remove the noodles from the bag and place them in a colander or strainer.
- Rinse the noodles well, as the water they are bagged in can have a strong fishy smell.
- Cook the noodles by boiling them for 3 minutes.
- Strain the noodles and pat them dry.
At this point, some people prefer to cook the noodles again in a hot, dry frying pan. This evaporates any remaining water and can improve the texture or flavor before adding the noodles to a dish.
Shirataki noodles are versatile. People can add them to many dishes, as they absorb the flavor of other foods. People can use them in a similar way to pasta, rice, and other types of noodle.
To infuse the noodles with more flavor, cook them as normal and then add them to a sauce or broth. Allow them to simmer in the liquid for a few minutes to absorb the flavors.
Some ideas for meals using shirataki noodles include:
- Noodle dishes: There are many noodle-based dishes in Asian cuisines that people could use shirataki noodles for. Some examples include lo mein, pad thai, ramen, and yakisoba.
- Noodle salads: Cold noodle salads can be a good way to use up leftover noodles, when the weather is hot. People can combine shirataki noodles with fresh sliced or shredded vegetables and a tangy dressing.
- Pasta dishes: People can replace the pasta in Italian or Italian American dishes with shirataki noodles. For example, they could add them to marinara, pesto, ragù, or arrabbiata sauces.
- Soups and broths: Try adding shirataki to soups such as chicken, fish, vegetable, or miso-based soups to make them more filling.
- Curries: Consider using shirataki noodles in Thai curries, such as red curry or khao soi.
Shirataki noodles are fiber-rich noodles that may have some health benefits, such as helping people maintain a moderate weight and improving digestive health. They are low in calories and carbohydrates, and free from common allergens.
People can use shirataki noodles in a wide range of dishes. However, it is important not to rely on them, as they do not contain many nutrients.