Someone in my class was talking about this “Hungry Girl diet” and mentioned shirataki noodles.
Have you heard of them? What do you think?
– Danielle Ippolito
I have indeed heard of them. FYI: for my thoughts on Hungry Girl and her “diet” (it’s not a diet as much as it is a way of eating), please read this post.
Onto your question:
Shirataki noodles are made solely from an Asian root vegetable. Since they are mainly composed of soluble fiber, they are very low in calories. Some manufacturers of these noodles claim they are “calorie-free”, which makes no sense to me. Unlike insoluble fiber, soluble fiber is not calorie-free.
While a local Asian market may sell shirataki noodles made exclusively from that fiber, the more popular brands sold here in the United States are made from a combination of said root vegetable and tofu (mainly for texture purposes). In fact, the ingredient list places ‘tofu’ before ‘yam flour’.
I often see them as touted as “weight-loss food”, which is silly because there is nothing about them that inherently causes weight loss. They are certainly low in calories, but “weight-loss food” implies that a food has some sort of magic property that results in weight loss.
A dinner of shirataki noodles may be low-calorie, but if your lunch was a Chili’s quesadilla, don’t expect any weight-loss miracles.
Here is why I’m not quite as enthusiastic about the “new pasta”:
- Shirataki noodles are flavorless, and reinforce the stereotype that healthy food must be void of taste and solely consumed “because it’s good for you”
- While low in calories, they are also low in every nutrient. I wouldn’t refer to them as “nutritious”
- Since they have very little flavor, many people consume them in ways that are highly caloric anyway (i.e: rich sauces, stir-frying them in oil, etc.)
If someone enjoys these noodles, more power to them. I would never steer someone away from eating them. They are certainly an excellent source of soluble fiber, and offer some health benefits.
However, it’s worth remembering that there is nothing inherently unhealthy about pasta, especially whole-grain varieties. The main problem in the United States is that pasta is eaten in huge amounts and drenched in highly-caloric sauces.
If you are looking for wheat-free pastas, I recommend soba noodles (look for ones made solely from buckwheat flour, such as the Eden Organics brand), brown rice pastas, or quinoa pastas.
If calories are a concern, give spiralized zucchini “noodles” a try.