Gluten-free pasta with very few calories to enjoy every day, accompanied by your favorite sauce. It’s not a dream; it’s called Shirataki and comes from the Far East.
The Pasta That Comes From The East
Konjac shirataki, or simply shirataki, is a unique pasta that is gluten-free and has very few calories. It comes from Japan, and although it is still little known, it has a thousand-year tradition in the Far East. The name refers to its appearance and the main ingredient: spaghetti made of konjac flour. This food has interesting nutritional characteristics, which make it a precious ally, especially in slimming diets.
Shirataki, The Secret Of Lightness
Shirataki are suitable for any diet and are particularly suitable for diets aimed at weight loss and for those with metabolic pathologies. They have a minimum caloric intake of 10 to 20 kilocalories per 100 grams, depending on whether the pasta is wet or dry because they contain very few carbohydrates but instead have a high fiber content. From a chemical point of view, Amorphophallus konjac, the plant from which the flour for preparing shirataki is obtained, is a polysaccharide formed by the concatenation of glucose and mannose units, a type of sugar.
The part of the plant with the highest concentrations of active ingredients is the tuberous root. From this, a sort of flour is obtained, which has the characteristic of being able to absorb a large quantity of water, transforming into a gelatinous mass. Many floury extracts, especially those that have a gummy consistency and those that contain mucilage, pectin, or hemicellulose, exhibit swelling properties. The higher the swelling index, the more the substance is able to absorb water.
The bloating index of Konjac is at least 80. This means that when we eat konjac-based foods, we feel a sense of fullness, which can reduce our appetite. Konjac Glucomannan, or KGM, is known to be a hunger suppressant, thanks to the feeling of satiety and the fact that the dense mass it forms in the stomach prevents the absorption of cholesterol and other nutrients. During digestion, the food bolus, covered by the gel formed by Konjac, is protected by the action of digestive enzymes and, therefore, passes towards the intestine, carrying sugars and lipids with it.
Konjac Flour Paste
Shirataki spaghetti is made by pushing the pasta made from konjac flour through a grid of blades that forms these white threads, like a waterfall, hence the name shirataki, which literally means “white waterfall.” Shirataki contains approximately 4 g of glucomannan in a 100-gram raw serving. Of all the known dietary fibers, it is the one with the highest molecular weight and the most robust viscosity; it can absorb up to 200 times its weight in water. Furthermore, glucomannan does not cause an increase in postprandial blood sugar.
Shirataki, A First Course “Without”
Pasta prepared with Konjac flour is perfect for those with particular dietary needs or intolerances. It is, therefore, a first course suitable for those who have celiac disease. These spaghetti are prepared with only two ingredients: water and glucomannan. In vegan diets, konjac root is widely used, in addition to shirataki noodles, because, thanks to its sticky consistency, it is the ingredient, for example, in gelatinous candies, which are usually prepared with substances of animal origin, in chewing gum. Still, it is also used as a thickener in jams.
Versatile And Light Konjac Paste
Konjac flour is used to make pasta. The best-known format is spaghetti, namely shirataki, but there are also other forms. Regardless of their appearance, the main characteristic of these foods is their lack of flavor.
On the other hand, however, when they are cooked alongside condiments, they absorb the aromas very well, which is why they are appreciated in Japanese cuisine for the preparation of unique dishes with meat and vegetables. Shirataki can be found in shops specializing in Asian products, in large retailers, and online. They can be found dehydrated or preserved in water.
- Dried: before consuming them, it is necessary to rehydrate them. Just dip the shirataki in boiling water and let them rest for a couple of minutes. It is not necessary to check them or evaluate their doneness since they do not overcook. Once cooked, they should be drained and then rinsed with hot water to eliminate sugar residues. At this point, you can proceed by adding the seasoning to taste.
- Preserved in water: in this case, it is best to rinse them under running water to eliminate the characteristic smell, similar to that of fish, and sauté them in a pan with the seasoning.
Shirataki With Mixed Vegetables
In traditional Japanese cuisine, shirataki are usually stir-fried with vegetables, mushrooms, meat, and surimi. They also lend themselves to being cooked with the sauces of our culinary tradition: tomato sauce, carbonara, and Genoese pesto. The only limit is your imagination. In this recipe, konjac spaghetti is accompanied by vegetables.
- shirataki pasta
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt or soy sauce
- spices to taste
For Shirataki, follow the preparation instructions already seen. In the meantime, prepare the sauce separately, in which the spaghetti will be sautéed for a few minutes to gain flavor. Brown the onion in oil. Add the carrots cut into julienne strips. Add the peas. When there is little left until the end of cooking, add the courgettes cut into julienne strips. Finish cooking, and season with salt or soy sauce. Add some pepper and spices to taste.
Glucomannan Has Many Properties In A Few Calories
The glucomannan contained in Konjac, as we have seen, is a polysaccharide. The chemical structure of polysaccharides has a significant impact on their functional characteristics and bioactivity. From a nutritional point of view, it is rich in soluble fiber, so it reaches the colon, remaining relatively unchanged. Due to this characteristic, it is widely used as a food supplement. It has essential health benefits as it reduces cholesterol, normalizes triglyceride values and blood sugar levels, has beneficial effects on the digestive system, and promotes intestinal activity and the immune system. Improves blood sugar and other risk factors for coronary heart disease in patients with type II diabetes. In particular, glucomannan:
- acts on the large intestine, promoting gastric motility and mitigating constipation, and on the small intestine in inflammatory intestinal diseases;
- reduces levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and, consequently, the need for food;
- controls lipid metabolism in the liver;
- Being a very alkaline fiber, it rebalances gastric acids, which are altered due to a diet based on the consumption of meat and other foods with a high acid content.
- Being rich in fiber, it is also highly recommended for those who suffer from hemorrhoids.
- promotes the lowering of sugar levels in the body, thus contributing to the control of diabetes symptoms;
- stimulates the metabolism and is an excellent option for those who are looking for help losing weight.
- Thanks to its characteristic viscosity and the ability to limit the absorption of lipid residues, which are responsible for the increase in cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body weight.
Warnings And Contraindications
The viscous gel produced in the intestine by Konjac causes reduced absorption of active ingredients. This means that it can also slow down the absorption of medicines, supplements, and pesticides. It is, therefore, best to consume shirataki at least two hours after any pharmacological therapies. Given their abundant fiber content, they should be consumed accompanied by abundant quantities of liquids to facilitate their expulsion. They are not suitable for those suffering from intestinal obstructions.
Because konjac paste lowers blood glucose levels, people with diabetes should consult their doctor if they plan to include it in their diet regularly. Frequent consumption of glucomannan-based foods can cause disorders such as flatulence, meteorism, abdominal bloating, and diarrhea. Although this spaghetti is rich in fiber, the general advice is still valid, according to which it is essential to have a varied and balanced diet to stay healthy.