Zero Calorie Noodles: Do They Work For Weight Loss, Or Are Shiritaki Noodles Another Fad?

Zero Calorie noodles have been gaining popularity as a low calorie alternative to traditional pasta.

They do now make them in a rice shape as well, which is nice enough, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend the tube versions or other pasta shapes, the consistency is a bit more like the sort of noodles you’d get in an Asian soup so it doesn’t really work well for large shapes.

They’re also often called Shiritaki or konjac noodles because they are made from glucomannan a none digestible type of fiber derived from the root of the konjac plant.

The good news is though, it’s actually prebiotic making it good for your gut microbiome.

TLDR: The short answer is I couldn't be more positive about these noodles as a weight loss aid.

My Personal Experience With Zero Calorie Noodles

So, first up, it’s worth noting that I have actually used Shiritaki noodles myself and did in fact find them to be particularly useful for dieting. It’s also worth noting that despite what anyone will tell you they do not taste as good as real noodles. Although if prepared correctly then they won’t be too bad at all.

I will also note, and I did not learn this immediately, that you really want to rinse them 2 or 3 times before you heat them or they will taste fishy. Skipping this step has led a few people I recommended them to saying they were awful, so I’ve made sure to put it at the beginning of the article.

Now, it’s also worth mentioning that Skiritaki Noodles, often called Zero Calorie Noodles, are a very effective tool, especially if you’re having a craving for pasta or something similar. Pasta is far higher in calories than people realize, and unfortunately most people do not get portion control correct.

For context 200 calories of noodles is about the size of a womans fist if flat against the plate, 1 cup of pasta is getting to the 350-400 mark before you add any sauce.  

And both myself and my colleagues here at CenterTRT often come across the issue of pasta portion control, both personally and historically with patients.

In short, I am a huge proponent of Zero Calorie noodles. I’m not going to say eat them every day, but cutting 300 calories from a meal right from the offset, especially if pasta is a staple for you is enough for genuine and meaningful weight loss.

It’s also worth noting that I am a big proponent of volume eating in general, and that’s all about finding ways to increase the size of your meal whilst lowering your caloric intake, so it’s hardly a shock that zero calorie noodles are a big plus in my book.

What Are Shirataki Noodles?

Shirataki noodles originate from Japan and are made from a combination of water and glucomannan fiber. The noodles are called "shirataki," which means "white waterfall" in Japanese, due to their translucent appearance. They are produced by mixing glucomannan flour with water and lime water, shaping the mixture into noodles or rice-like pieces and then boiling them.

The Benefits of Shirataki Noodles

Low in Calories and Carbohydrates

One of the main benefits of shirataki noodles is their extremely low calorie and carbohydrate content. A typical serving of shirataki noodles which is about 112 grams, contains only 10.1 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates.

Meaning that if you use them with a lean meat you can create an incredibly low calorie meal very easily. And it will be filling.

This makes them an excellent choice for individuals who are following a low-calorie high volume diet.

High in Viscous Fiber

Glucomannan the type of fiber found in shirataki noodles, is highly viscous. It absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive system, which slows down digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness. It’s often used as a weight loss aid even in capsules in it’s powdered form (and is one of the more effective ones) as if you drink enough water with it of course you will feel full.

This can be beneficial for weight management as it may help reduce calorie intake.

Now, due to the fact that glucomannan swells, do not overdo it with the portions the first few times you try it, it’s going to get a bit bigger in your stomach, this was a mistake I’ve made personally.

Potential Weight Loss Aid

Several studies have shown that glucomannan, the main component of shirataki noodles, may aid in weight loss.

Glucomannan can delay stomach emptying, prolonging the feeling of fullness and reducing appetite.

It can also help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.

Now, as far as I’m aware there aren’t any studies that the noodles themselves help with weight loss, however, high volume low calorie diets themselves have been shown to.

Blood Sugar Control

Shirataki noodles have a low glycemic index, which means they have little impact on blood sugar levels. This makes them a suitable option for individuals with diabetes or those who need to manage their blood sugar levels. The slow digestion of glucomannan in shirataki noodles helps prevent spikes in blood sugar after meals and can contribute to better glycemic control.

Cholesterol Management

Glucomannan fiber has been found to have cholesterol lowering effects. It helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine and increases the excretion of bile acids, which contain cholesterol. Studies have shown that regular consumption of glucomannan can lead to a decrease in LDL cholesterol levels and improve overall cholesterol profiles.

Digestive Health and Regularity

The high fiber content in shirataki noodles promotes healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. The viscous fiber acts as a bulking agent, adding bulk to the stool and facilitating its passage through the digestive system. This can be beneficial for individuals who struggle with constipation or want to increase their fiber intake.

Nutritional Profile of Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles are primarily composed of water and glucomannan fiber.

A 112-gram serving of shirataki noodles contains approximately 10.1 calories, 0 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fiber.

Keep in mind though, there’s almost no vitamins or minerals in zero calorie noodles.

How to Prepare Shirataki Noodles

Preparing shirataki noodles is a straightforward process. Follow these steps to ensure they are ready to use in your favorite dishes:

  1. Remove the noodles from the packaging and place them in a colander or strainer.
  2. Rinse the noodles thoroughly under cold water to remove any odor from the packaging liquid.
  3. Rinse them again, trust me, you haven’t rinsed them enough!
  4. Boil the noodles in a pot of water for 3 minutes to improve their texture.
  5. Drain the noodles and pat them dry using paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.

At this point, you can choose to cook the noodles further in a dry frying pan to remove any excess moisture and enhance their texture, just don’t undo the lack of calories with a load of oil. Remember one spoon of oil is 120Kcal.

Creative Ways to Use Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles are incredibly versatile and can be used as a substitute for traditional pasta, rice, or noodles in various recipes. Here are some creative ways to incorporate shirataki noodles into your meals:

Asian-Inspired Stir-Fries

Replace regular noodles with shirataki noodles in your favorite Asian stir-fry recipes. The noodles will absorb the flavors of the sauce and vegetables, adding a unique texture to the dish.

Low Carb Pasta Dishes

Create low-carb versions of classic pasta dishes by using shirataki noodles. Whether it's spaghetti Bolognese, fettuccine Alfredo, or pesto pasta, shirataki noodles can be a great alternative for those watching their carbohydrate intake.

Noodle Soups

Add shirataki noodles to soups and broths to make them more filling and substantial. Whether it's a comforting chicken noodle soup or a spicy ramen, the noodles will provide a satisfying texture.

Salads with a Twist

Incorporate shirataki noodles into cold noodle salads by combining them with fresh vegetables, herbs, and a tangy dressing. This can be a refreshing and low-calorie option for hot summer days.

Low-Carb Pad Thai

Use shirataki noodles as a base for a healthier version of pad Thai. Toss the noodles with stir-fried vegetables, protein of your choice, and a homemade or store-bought pad Thai sauce.

Potential Side Effects of Shirataki Noodles

Some people can experience bloating, gas, or diarrhea.

And of course if you’re overeating them this is more likely. Personally I was doubling on portions and this was a bit much, 1.5 was fine to avoid side effects, but 2 portions at once did cause me some discomfort.

If you really are overeating pasta, maybe go half and half, it’s still an improvement.

These side effects are primarily attributed to the high fiber content of the noodles and can be minimized by gradually introducing them into your diet and drinking plenty of water.

It is also important to note that shirataki noodles do not provide significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, or other essential nutrients. Therefore, it is crucial to include them as part of a balanced diet that incorporates a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

Do Shirataki Noodles Work?

The question is does low calorie and high volume eating work, and personally it is my preference when it comes to weight loss diets, it works for me and most people I recommend it to. The trick is to find things that scratch the same itch as your regular diet, but in a way that allows you to eat more for less calories. Makes things very simple.

So, if you’re looking for a quick fix, and you eat a lot of pasta, they can be a great way to drop your calorie intake without feeling too hungry.

Author: Dr Mark Watson

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