You’re going to love me after reading this. I’m about to share a secret ingredient from the Far East that will allow you to indulge in multiple bowls of pasta. And even rice. This is a godsend for anybody who struggles with carb/starch addiction and can’t seem to manage their blood sugar. 

What’s this secret ingredient that is as close to zero calories as you can get and has no effect on blood sugar levels? 

Well, if you stroll through your supermarket aisle, it’s not such a secret anymore. It’s called konjac or shirataki noodles. Popular brand names of it include Miracle Noodle, NuPasta, Skinny Shirataki Noodles. 

But let’s assume you’ve never heard of shirataki noodles. What makes them so magical that they have no calories and what’s their story? 

What Is Shirataki Pasta? 

Over the last few years, there was a certain thing that flipped the world upside down that came from China. But when it comes to eating all the pasta you want without feeling bloated, we can thank China. Legend has it that shirataki noodles came to Japan about 800 years ago via China. Buddhist monks ate these noodles for spiritual purification and medicinal reasons. 

The secret sauce in shirataki is held in the root of the plant. The plant, which is called ‘konjac’ — not to be confused with the hit ‘70s TV show Kojak — has a bulbous root that contains a lot of water. The fiber from this root is called glucomannan fiber. 

Shirataki noodles are not super high in fiber. They only have about one gram of soluble fiber. Most of it is just water. But the water and tiny bit of fiber from the root of the plant gently expands your stomach when you eat it. 

Benefits of Glucomannan

Now, this might not sound so yummy but bear with me. What happens when you eat shirataki pasta is the glucomannan fiber acts like a sponge in your digestive tract. It absorbs water and then creates something that sort of looks like aloe vera gel.  

It’s the gel-like substance that does wonders for anybody trying to manage weight and blood sugar levels. The gel delays the length of time that carbs and fats get digested. This action helps you feel satiated (full) for longer. And that prevents cravings for snacks, and steadies blood sugar levels. 

For Diabetes Management

How effective is the glucomannan fiber in shirataki noodles for blood sugar management? Well, in one study of 278 people with diabetes, glucomannan, the researchers concluded, “improves glycemic control and lipid profile, suggesting a therapeutic potential in the treatment of the insulin resistance syndrome.”

Another study showed that konjac mannan (another name for glucomannan) increases insulin sensitivity and is has therapeutic potential for the treatment of diabetes. 

For Weight Control

In a small study with 30 patients, glucomannan helped the subjects lose weight better than a low-calorie diet without glucomannan. 

For Cholesterol & Blood Pressure

The results of this study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that glucomannan fiber reduced total cholesterol by 10%; low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by 7.2%;  triglycerides (fats in the blood) by 23% and systolic blood pressure by 2.5%. 

For Gut Health

Glucomannan fiber is prebiotic. That means it acts like food for the friendly bacteria in your gut. And because of this, it may help reduce inflammation in your digestive tract.

Love to Bake? Use Glucomannan Powder

Personally, I’ve never used glucomannan powder. But it’s a great substitute or at least cutting agent for regular white flour. (In case you don’t know, white, and even wheat flour, is what’s mostly responsible for packing on the pounds and the development of type 2 diabetes.)

The food industry sometimes uses glucomannan as an emulsifier and thickener. If you love to bake, according to Nuts.com, here’s how to use glucomannan powder: 

“First whisk it with cold water and then combine it with the other ingredients in your recipe. One teaspoon of glucomannan powder is recommended for thickening one cup of liquid, although you should first experiment with a small amount to obtain desired results.”

Glucomannan powder has no smell and tasteless, so you don’t have to worry about it overpowering your recipe. 

How To Cook Shirataki Noodles

Just to recap, shirataki noodles contain a small amount of glucomannan fiber. It’s this combination of water and fiber that makes you feel full for longer. But unlike odorless glucomannan powder, shirataki noodles can smell like sweaty gym socks. This is especially true for shirataki noodles that are packaged in plastic and water. 

The good news is all you have to do to eliminate the odor is rinse it under cool water for a minute. Shirataki noodles are easier to cook than regular pasta. Or at the very least, it doesn’t take as long as regular pasta. All you need to do is lightly boil these zero-calorie noodles for about 3 minutes. After the noodles are lightly boiled, fully drain the noodles and pat them dry with a paper towel. You can even put them in a skillet with no oil to fully dry them out. 

Just like you don’t eat spaghetti plain, you also would not want to eat shirataki noodles without anything. The best way to enjoy them is to add them to a stir-fry. Make sure you top the stir fry with a sugar-free sauce. I recommend Walden Farms zero-calorie Asian dressing and marinade. The sauce has a few ingredients I’m not crazy about like soy vegetable protein, but for those trying to manage blood sugar, it’s a smart choice. 

Just Like Regular Pasta, Don’t Over Do It!

The great thing about shirataki/glucomannan is that it’s pretty much calorie-free. (There’s less than one calorie per serving.) That means you can eat as much of it as you want without worrying about gaining weight or spiking your blood sugar level. 

But here’s the thing. Build up your tolerance to it because the water and the fiber can cause gas. So just like regular pasta, limit your serving size to one bowl. And make sure you fill your bowl with veggies and a lean protein to make it a balanced meal. 

Until next time, 

Jenna Witt, NP