'No-Calorie Noodles': Will You Try Them?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Have you heard about the new noodles that have no calories? It's true. These noodles have no calories, fat, gluten or carbs. Made from a soluble fiber derived from a Japanese yam, the noodles have been available in Japan for years.

Some health professionals and manufacturers say the lack of carbs and fiber make these a viable food source for those who have diabetes, celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Their texture is similar to shirataki noodles, which contain the same fiber (glucomannan). Shirataki noodles--named after the shirataki yam (konyaku)--have been popular for a few years, but they have about 20 calories a serving because of the tofu they also contain. (The yam is also known as konjak, konjaku, devil's tongue, voodoo lily, snake palm, or elephant yam.)

However, not everyone is a fan of the noodles, and for reasons other than their slimy texture and fishy smell straight from the bag. (The smell goes away if you rinse them, and they morph from a squishy, squidlike texture to firm noodle texture as you heat them. I ate them while living and traveling in Asia.)

The research I did on the noodles didn't mention that this isn't the first time konjac has been popular--and that the fiber it contains has been banned in some forms and in some countries.

Glucomannan has been banned in Australia and other countries because it poses a choking hazard, and Canada's federal health department has warned against taking supplements containing glucomannan without sufficient fluid intake for the same reasons. Health Canada also recalled some powders, tablets, and pills containing glucomannan earlier this year. (Update: the owner of the noodle company says the noodles are mostly water and therefore pose no risk of choking.)

Health Canada warned that without consuming at least eight ounces of water with glucomannan, risks include "choking and/or blockage of the throat, esophagus or intestine, according to international adverse reaction case reports. It is also important to note that these products should NOT be taken immediately before going to bed."

Konjac candy has caused several deaths due to choking (one family was awarded $50 million after their 3-year-old choked to death on konjac gel candy). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced recalls of candies and sweets containing konjac gel and issued several warnings regarding choking hazards.

I couldn't find much information on the amount of fiber in the noodles, so there's no way for me to compare how much glucomannan is in them compared with the candy or the supplements. (Read to the end of the post for the noodle company owner's feedback. He says there is little fiber in them.) To clarify, I'm not saying that these noodles pose a choking risk--just providing information on the fiber they contain.

While living in Korea, I ate jelly and noodles made from this yam, and they are among the few Korean foods I dislike. (Savory, starchy gelatins are a popular side dish in Korea.)

All other information aside, I'm not a fan of these noodles. I would much rather eat smaller portions of a "real" food or abstain from it. In my opinion, the fewer calories a processed food has (bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, etc), the less flavor it has as well. As calories, fat, and ingredients go down, additives rise.

I know everyone has different opinions and palates, and shirataki noodles are wildly popular, so I imagine these will be as well. Even Hungry Girl, who loves tofu shirataki noodles, says that no-calorie noodles taste like they have no calories.

UPDATE: The owner of Miracle Noodles reached out to me. Jonathan Carp wrote: "My name is Jonathan Carp, I am the owner of Miracle Noodle. Today we received an email about your article. To clarify things, there is no risk of choking from shirataki noodles. Miracle Noodles contain very little actual fiber since they are 97-98% water as are all shirataki and konnyaku. They do not contain soy. Since they are already mostly water, they pose no choking hazard.

Dry roasting works well for the noodles and is one of the best ways to pre-prepare the noodles, http://www.miraclenoodle.com/dry-roast-shirataki-new.html but that is another topic altogether. They work great as a side dish that allows people to enjoy noodles without the guilt. Preparation is the key. There is a learning curve to working with them, which we provide when people buy our noodles, once you know how to cook with them, they are just as good as any other noodle. I would love to prove that to you:) Since you said you couldn't find the above information, I figured I would send it to you. I hope you might update your entry."

How about you? Will you try them? Have you? Do you think that "no-calorie" foods can be delicious?

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