The slimming noodles that many newspapers are reporting on are shirataki noodles, which are made from glucomannan. Whilst these are available under a number of different brand names, including Zero Noodles, Skinny Noodles, Slim Pasta and Miracle Noodles, they are also available from Asian Supermarkets under different brand names. It may be cheaper to buy shirataki noodles from alternative sources, because they are not explicitly marketed towards the weight-loss market, and so their prices are not artificially inflated.
However, the newer companies that are marketing towards dieters have the largest variety of shapes and textures available, allowing the dieter to replace a wider variety of foods. For example, Miracle Noodles and Skinny Noodles both sell Rice, Spaghetti, Fettuccini, Penne and Angel hair pasta varieties, whilst Zero Noodles sell Original style noodles, as well as Penne and Fettuccini varieties, with the website stating that more products are to be released soon. Slim pasta adds in oat fibre, with changes the texture but adds almost no extra calories, keeping the calorie count to 21 calories per 100 grams.
All shirataki noodles contain less than 10 calories per 100 grams, provided that there is no added soya. Noodles that are a mixture of glucomannan and soy have a slightly different texture, and are still lower in calories than pasta and rice, although are higher in calories than traditional shirataki noodles. It is said by numerous reviewers that in terms of taste and texture, glucomannan noodles that contain some soya are much better, as they have a less distinctive smell, and a less rubbery texture.
There are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans, as well as being gluten free and soy free. They also contain no fat or sugar, and are low-carb, making them suitable for low carb or low-GI diets. As Shirataki noodles are low carb products, they are often marketed as being suitable for the Dukan diet, the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet, which all restrict carbohydrate intake.
Glucomannan is an ingredient that is derived from the root of the plant Konjac (Amorphophallus konjac), which has been grown in Asia for centuries for use as a foodstuff and medicine. Glucomannan is a soluble fibre, which has the capacity to absorb as such as 17 times its own weight in water. Shirataki noodles already hold a lot of water, but, upon reaching the stomach, absorb more water, swelling to create added bulk. It is this effect that causes a suppression of appetite. Drink water with each meal to feel the greatest effect. Because they are also gelatinous, they also take a relatively long time to digest, making the dieter feel fuller for longer.
As glucomannan is a dietary fibre, it aids with digestion, preventing constipation and regulating bowel movements.
Numerous studies have focused upon the possible weight loss effects and health benefits of using glucomannan supplements regularly, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. However, these studies all focused upon the use of glucomannan powder contained within a capsule, rather than the consumption of shirataki noodles. Therefore, the results produced in these trials is not necessarily going to be reproduced exactly from consumption of the noodles, even if they are eaten daily.
One paper, entitled Glucomannan and Obesity: A Critical Review, found that consumption of glucomannan in capsule form slows down the absorption of food in the small intestine, which leads to blood sugar levels and insulin production becoming regulated. The study also found that because of the gelatinous nature of the product, emptying of stomach was slowed, increasing the period of time after a meal before the dieters felt hungry again.
Another study, Effect of two doses of a mixture of soluble fibres on body weight and metabolic variables in overweight or obese patients: a randomised trial found that the subjects who consumed glucomannan supplements two or three times a day over the course of 16 weeks had significantly reduced LDL-cholesterol levels, which is linked with improved cardiac health.
These studies, and others, found that side effects from the consumption of glucomannan were minimal. Possible side effects include constipation and stomach aches, which are both easily avoided by consuming plenty of water throughout the day. Again, as shirataki noodles hold a lot of water naturally, compared to the use of dried glucomannan capsules, these side effects are highly unlikely. Because of the high fibre content of the noodles, it is also possible that increased bowel movements will be noticed by the consumer. Tests on rats have revealed that there is no toxicity connected with consuming Glucomannan, even over a prolonged period of time.
Like to find out more about Glucomannan? Read our glucomannan ingredient investigation here
Remember that because shirataki noodles only have a few calories per portion, it is still necessary to eat other foods alongside the noodles. Eating just the noodles, with no added sauces or sides, or other meals, is not a sustainable weight loss program, and would lead to poor nutrition very quickly. As the noodles have little flavour on their own, this would be a rather tasteless option as well.
Zero Noodles states that;
Just by simply changing the carbohydrate from your evening meal with a pack of Zero Noodles you can dramatically reduce your overall calorie intake for the day. This can translate to at least around 1lb of weight loss every week, without even having to try! (Depending on your body weight and usual calorie intake).
This is based upon the idea that a usual portion of rice or pasta can contain in excess of 350 calories, whereas a similar amount of shirataki noodles contains less than 10 calories.
The internet is filled with tips and tricks from dieters who love to eat these noodles as a part of their calorie controlled diet. When opening the pack, many people report that there is a slightly fishy smell, which is completely removed when rinsed properly. Empty the pack into a colander, and run cold water over the noodles for several minutes. Then cook them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Many people suggest dry-frying the noodles after this stage, which improves the texture without adding any calories.
Once they are cooked, mix the noodles with the sauce, meat and vegetables of your choice; play around with different flavour combinations for variety. The noodles have very little flavour, but like Tofu, absorb the flavour of any sauce they are paired with. Try using flavouring and seasoning such as garlic, chilli, soy sauce, herbs and other spices to make the noodles as flavoursome as possible, without adding excess calories to the dish. The runnier the sauce that is used, the more flavour the noodles will absorb.
The noodles can also be used as a lower calorie version of indulgent foods, such as dishes using creamy sauces or lots of cheese. They are also recommended for use in noodle soups.
Shirataki noodles are available in many health shops, such as Holland and Barrett, as well as from many online retailers.
As mentioned above, Asian supermarkets are a good place to source shirataki noodles, especially as it may be cheaper than buying through places such as health food stores. The brand of your choice can usually be purchased from the shop section of their official website.
The price of shirataki noodles varies immensely, but is definitely more expensive than pasta and rice, both staple foods available cheaply in the UK. Prices for diet-branded noodles, such as Zero Noodles or Skinny Noodles, vary between £1.50 and £2.50 per 200 grams. The size of packets vary, and it is possible to get much larger packs (250-400 grams) for a similar price from an Asian supermarket, although this varies hugely.
Bulk purchases can also be made at a cheaper price per unit, especially from sellers on Ebay. Because of the unusual flavour and texture of shirataki noodles, it is probably best to try a single packet before making a bulk purchase, to prevent wasting money if the product is not liked.
Shirataki noodles are a versatile diet ingredient that could help many dieters who find it difficult to give up high calorie pasta and rice dishes.
The use of these noodles also means that dieters can get creative and still eat their favourite dishes, but with a lower calorie count. Whilst some people do not like the taste and texture of the noodles, there is a strong fan base for this ingredient in the UK and internationally, with Holland and Barrett regularly selling out of their stock nationwide. Hopefully, as the demand for shirataki noodles grows in the UK, their price will drop slightly, as their cost may be prohibitive to some dieters who are on a tight budget.