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Can Japanese Shirataki Noodles Help With Weight Loss and Control Type 2 Diabetes?

Updated on December 11, 2011

Shirataki Noodles

tofu shirataki noodles, fettucine-shaped
tofu shirataki noodles, fettucine-shaped | Source

Shirataki Noodles and Weight Loss

Shirataki noodles (see photo) are Japanese noodles that are so low in calories and carbohydrates that they are said to be used regularly by Japanese women to stay slim. Because of what these noodles are made of, they are excellent as a food source for weight loss, and also beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.

While the noodles are still relatively new to the Western diet they have been common in the Asian diet for at least 2,000 years.

What does 'shirataki' mean?

The word shirataki is a Japanese word which means ’white waterfall’ - it alludes to the appearance of the noodles which are thin, gelatinous, and transparent. Sometimes called konnyaku noodles - they are made from the roots of the konjac plant - and are mostly composed of a dietary fiber known as glucomannan. There are different kinds of shirataki noodles on the market.

Isn't glucomannan sold in health food stores as a weight loss aid?

It's interesting to note that while shirataki noodles are still relatively new to the Western diet - glucomannan supplements have long since been sold in capsule form in health food stores. They have been sold as a dietary supplement. Unfortunately, Americans too often look for little pills as a diet supplement and not nutritious foods. The noodles are more satisfying and a logical alternative to the dietary pills.

How do the noodles affect weight loss?

It is the soluble fiber found in shirataki (think oatmeal) that slows digestion and prolongs the feeling of fullness that is an essential part of any weight loss program. Because the absorption is so slow your body absorbs more nutrients. If you replace one meal per day with these noodles you will significantly increase the fiber in your diet and reduce your caloric intake.

Fiber has no calories and it passes through the digestive tract intact. Because it absorbs water, it provides you with that satisfying 'full' feeling.

How can the the noodles be beneficial for people with Type 2 Diabetes?

The noodles are also beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. Simply by slowing the digestive process there is a slower absorption rate of glucose which then requires a slower release of insulin from the pancreas. This aids in the normalization of blood glucose after eating a meal.

What is this about glucomannan?

The glucomannan you find in these noodles is a water-soluble dietary fiber. It is made from the roots of the Asian Konjac plant. It is the glucomannan that makes up the majority substance in the noodles. Dietary fiber, which is found only in plant food, has been proven to have a multitude of health benefits including decreasing blood glucose levels. There is evidence to indicate that soluble fiber also helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis. It may also reduce the risk of some types of cancers.

Is there only one kind of shirataki noodle on the market?

There are several kinds on the market, and many shapes for personal preferences. Always read the labels. The noodles that say shirataki only, list a zero calorie count. The noodles in my photo are tofu shirataki and they are 20 calories for 4 ounces, and 3 grams of carbohydrates. Some list yam flour.

When I lived in S. Korea, these noodles were easily found in every supermarket. (Korea also makes many zero and lo-cal noodles). Here in the USA you may have seen them on the supermarket shelf but did not know what they were. They are sold in the refrigerated section and they are packaged wet. The shelf life is usually up to a year.

In China they are known as Moyu or Juruo. In Japan, the noodles are known as Konnyaku or Shirataki.

You can do a lot of research on the internet before you step into a market to make a purchase.

How do these noodles compare to our everyday pasta as far as calories?

Pasta is made from semolina (wheat) and has 210 calories for 2 ounces uncooked - and then you add red sauce which then raises the caloric content even more. The shirataki noodles, depending on which you buy, may have zero calories to 20 calories per 4 ounce serving.

These noodles can provide a healthy alternative for people who are finding it hard to give up a lifetime of pasta and must have some noodles in their life.

Note too that these noodles are wheat free, gluten free, and kosher.

Are they easy to prepare?

You can cook them by bringing water quickly to a boil, shutting off the heat, and letting them sit in hot water for a minute. They can also be prepared by just running them under hot water in a strainer  - or eating them cold - or at room temperature. Each package comes with cooking, and serving suggestions.

Will I like them?

If you have never tried them it is suggested that you eat a small portion the first time.

They easily absorb the flavors of broth, soups, and sauces. They are commonly served with sea salt, soy sauce, garlic powder, tofu, vegetables and shrimp.You can season them however you want. For me it is just soy sauce, garlic powder, and a pinch of a hot pepper powder, or hot sauce.

What if I am a vegan and/or only like organic food?

The label on my shirataki noodles claim they are vegan, have no cholesterol, no sugar and are not genetically engineered.

Where are they sold?

I have found them for sale in every Chinese, and Korean supermarket here in NYC - and this is where they are the cheapest. They are sold often at large known supermarket chains like Trader Joe's. I can find them in some local chain supermarkets here in Brooklyn, NYC. The ones in the photo I picked up for $2.49 at a small local Korean green grocer. And (surprisingly) they can be purchased online.The online websites offer a large variety and also offer the dietary information (a big plus!) and bargain prices.

Happy eating!


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