Shirataki noodles have zero calories and are touted as miracle noodles. Since regular pasta has no place in a low carb or keto diet, shirataki noodles are certainly intriguing. This post explains what shirataki noodles are, how they can have 5 grams of carbohydrates yet no calories, and some insights into preparing them and their taste.
Shirataki Low Carb Noodles – At-A-Glance
- Shirataki noodles are white, somewhat translucent noodles made from a type of fiber called glucomannan.
- Glucomannan feeds the friendly bacteria of the gut, lowering inflammation, boosting immunity, and protecting you against colon cancer. Some sources say it aids weight loss.
- This food can be advertised as a 0 calorie food because it is not digested like other carbohydrates. The gut bacteria digest the fiber, producing minimal caloric energy.
- The noodles have an incredible ability to retain water. Stir-frying the noodles helps to reduce their water content.
- The prepared noodles have the look and feel of pasta noodles but a chewy consistency different from traditional noodles.
Shirataki Low Carb Noodles – The Answer to Pasta Cravings? [Video]
In this video, you will learn…
- What shirataki noodles are.
- How they have no calories!
- How to best prepare them.
What are Shirataki Noodles?
Shirataki noodles can be found in the health food aisle of your local grocery store. They are refrigerated and come in a bag that holds about as much water as it does noodles. The noodles themselves are white and somewhat translucent.
They are made from a type of fiber called glucomannan that comes from the root of an Asian plant known as konjac. Glucomannan is what gives these noodles their uniqueness and may explain how they got the nickname miracle noodles.
Glucomannan (The Secret to Miracle Noodles)
Glucomannan is a type of soluble fiber that is often included in weight loss supplements. Being a soluble fiber means that it can absorb water. As soluble fiber moves through you, it combines with water and digestive juices to form a gel-like substance that slows digestion, keeps hunger away, and slows the absorption of other nutrients like sugar.
Those are all qualities that promote weight loss. However, when I looked into the research on glucomannan, it wasn’t a slam dunk with some review studies showing little if any weight loss result (1) (2).
That is not the best news, but one significant benefit that soluble fiber can provide is feeding your good gut bacteria. Because the fiber is not easily digested, it makes its way down to your colon, where friendly bacteria turn it into short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids have many known benefits, including lowering inflammation, boosting immunity, and protecting you against colon cancer (3) (4) (5).
The soluble glucomannan fiber has some gut health benefits, which also helps us understand how these noodles can have 0 calories but 5 carbs.
How Can a Food Have Carbs But No Calories?
Carbohydrates contain energy in the form of calories. Every gram of carbohydrate provides you with roughly 4 calories worth of energy.
Shirataki noodles have 5 grams of carbs per serving but no calories. That is certainly a fact that can leave you scratching your head. This food can be advertised as a 0 calorie food because of the way the gut bacteria act on the glucomannan fiber in the noodles.
A study looked at different dietary fibers to determine how much energy they provided for the body. Remember that fiber is not easily digested, so it doesn’t break down in your small intestine and send its energy to your bloodstream like other carbohydrates. Instead, it makes its way down to your large intestine, where the gut bacteria ferment it and turn it into short-chain fatty acids.
Those fatty acids provide you with a lot of health benefits and also act as an energy source. However, the energy they provide is a fraction of what we get from easily digestible carbohydrates. This study showed that the short-chain fatty acids from glucomannan produce one calorie per gram of fiber (6).
Since a serving of shirataki noodles is mainly from glucomannan, it is more or less calorie-free.
How to Prepare Shirataki Noodles
With Shirataki noodles, we have a very low-calorie food that feeds your gut bacteria, improving your health. That was intriguing enough for me to give them a try. The thing is that I had no idea how to prepare them. Fortunately, many talented food bloggers have figured this out for us. I used a recipe from Wholesomeyum.com.
I learned that the most unusual issue you run into when preparing shirataki noodles is their incredible ability to retain water. They come packed in water, so they are fully hydrated when you open the bag. You want to discard the water they come in and take steps to reduce their water content before serving.
The basic steps I took were first to rinse the noodles, boil them, rinse again, pat the noodles dry, and then stir fry them in a skillet for 10 minutes with no oil added. Surprisingly, the noodles did not burn or stick to the pan. When they were fully cooked, they still looked like pale noodles, but they had no flavor.
The flavor comes from what you add to the noodles, which will add calories to this zero-calorie food. The recipe on Wholesomeyum.com has you add a creamy garlic parmesan sauce that is low in carbohydrates.
How do Shirataki Noodles Taste?
I had three taste testers, along with myself, try the prepared shirataki noodles. The sauce was good. The noodles have the look and feel of pasta noodles but a somewhat different chewy texture that you wouldn’t expect from traditional pasta.
If you are a low carb dieter looking for a pasta alternative, shirataki noodles are worth a try and may provide some gut health benefits. However, if you are entertaining high-carb friends, I’m not sure they will be impressed with these low-carb noodles.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Onakpoya, Igho, Paul Posadzki, and Edzard Ernst. “The efficacy of glucomannan supplementation in overweight and obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 33.1 (2014): 70-78.
(2) Keithley, Joyce K., et al. “Safety and efficacy of glucomannan for weight loss in overweight and moderately obese adults.” Journal of obesity 2013 (2013).
(3) Säemann, Marcus D., et al. “Anti‐inflammatory effects of sodium butyrate on human monocytes: potent inhibition of IL‐12 and up‐regulation of IL‐10 production.” The FASEB Journal 14.15 (2000): 2380-2382.
(4) Blouin, Jean‐Marc, et al. “Butyrate elicits a metabolic switch in human colon cancer cells by targeting the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex.” International journal of cancer 128.11 (2011): 2591-2601.
(5) Andoh, Akira, Tomoyuki Tsujikawa, and Yoshihide Fujiyama. “Role of dietary fiber and short-chain fatty acids in the colon.” Current pharmaceutical design 9.4 (2003): 347-358.
(6) Oku, Tsuneyuki, and Sadako Nakamura. “Evaluation of the relative available energy of several dietary fiber preparations using breath hydrogen evolution in healthy humans.” Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology 60.4 (2014): 246-254.
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.