Konjac Flour and Noodles: Nutrition, Benefits, Risks
Whether you’re going full keto or simply scaling back on carbs, konjac flour — aka glucomannan powder — might become your new fave ingredient.
Made from the crushed root of the konjac plant, this high fiber, no-carb flour has been linked to a bounty of health benefits. But before you board the konjac flour train, it’s important to understand what it is and how to use it safely.
Like almond flour or coconut flour, konjac flour isn’t flour in the traditional sense. Konjac flour is a powder made by crushing the starchy roots of the konjac plant, which is native to several East Asian countries.
TBH, this little root powder is nothing new. It’s been marketed as glucomannan powder for years. It’s the MVP in shirataki noodles and the star ingredient in Lipozene, a weight loss supplement. It’s also been used in Southeast Asian cuisine for basically forever.
More recently, konjac flour’s gained buzz in the wellness world because it’s naturally free of carbs and gluten-free.
It’s no secret that fiber makes you poop. And konjac is so full of fiber that it’s sold as a dietary supplement for gut health.
A small 2006 study found that adding glucomannan, aka konjac powder, to a low fiber diet could increase bowel activity by a whopping 30 percent. 🤯 It’s a super small, dated study, but it’s promising.
A more recent animal study found that a konjac-and-probiotic combo might be like kryptonite for constipation.
Fiber is known to reduce blood-fat levels, which is great news for your heart.
A research review on konjac glucomannan showed that the powder can lower cholesterol levels. It might be partially due to the way konjac forms a covering on the surface of the intestines, which helps prevent fat absorption.
Filling up on fiber may help you reduce body fat.
That’s because eating high fiber foods (like konjac!) could help you feel full for longer, smooth out any digestive kinks, and impede your body’s fat absorption.
In one super dated 2005 study, konjac consumption + calorie restriction led to faster weight loss than calorie restriction alone.
Folks living with diabetes might know that carb count is critical to blood sugar management. For some, that makes pasta a rare treat. Konjac to the rescue!
On top of being low carb, konjac is known to help glucose levels. All that fiber slows digestion, which staves off blood sugar spikes.
Evidence is a bit slim, but konjac flour seems to improve your skin from the inside out.
A small 2013 study suggested that konjac can prevent breakouts. And a 2015 animal study found that it could speed up wound healing.
So, will konjac flour make your acne do an about-face? Unlikely. But it could be a helpful addition to a skin-nourishing diet.
Pssst. Konjac is also a Korean beauty fave used *on*the face. The konjac sponge is actually made out of the konjac plant. (The more you know 💫).
Konjac is considered generally healthy. But just like any food, there are potential downsides.
Remember, konjac flour is packed with fiber. Eating too much fiber, too fast can cause:
Konjac acts a bit like gelatin. It congeals and thickens. So, going hog wild on konjac every day could cause a bowel obstruction. That basically means it could get stuck in your GI tract and prevent anything from exiting your bowels. This can be super painful (like the worst constipation of all time). And in worst-case scenarios, it can require surgery to correct.
According to the FDA, candy made with konjac has led to fatal choking in both kids and seniors. Here’s the issue: Konjac doesn’t dissolve in your mouth. It’s dripping with fiber, which creates bulk.
So, drink plenty of water with your konjac products. And some folks should avoid konjac altogether:
It’s a valid risk whenever you try a new-to-you food. Seek help ASAP if you develop these symptoms of a reaction after eating something made with konjac flour:
Good question! You can make bread from a combination of konjac four and other flour. But bread made from pure konjac flour will fall flat, and look and taste strange.
One recent study found that replacing 50 percent of a gluten-free bread recipe’s flour with konjac resulted in bread with “a strong odor and taste of fish.” After testing several ratios, researchers suggested sticking to flour formulations with less than 37.5 percent konjac — but even lower percentages were predicted to look and taste better.
Konjac flour noodles go by many names — shirataki, miracle, and even zero. They’ve earned mystical, magical status in the wellness world because they’re:
Sounds like a miracle, right? But these skinny, white noodles are simply made by mixing konjac flour with a little lime water. The resulting gel is pressed into noodles. Voilà!
Unlike classic dry pasta, shirataki noodles are usually sold pre-moistened in a pouch. Some brands sell noodles made from a combo of konjac and tofu to make them a little easier on your digestive system.
The most common use for konjac flour is as a thickening agent. But beware — this stuff gels up liquids waaaaay more than cornstarch. A little goes a long way.
Use konjac flour to thicken your:
You can also mix konjac flour into all-purpose flour to create a softer crumb in cakes, cookies, and other baking concoctions. Start with just a bit of konjac flour, then work up until you hit the texture you want.
Many keto-friendly recipes use konjac flour to stabilize or thicken. But beware that the other recipe ingredients aren’t *always* gluten-free.
This gluten-free powder is sold under several names:
Look for it at specialty Asian food stores or online.