I am ever on the look out for ways to enjoy the things I love in a lower carb way without giving up on flavor or feel. Thus, my delight when Mike’s sister introduced me to shirataki pasta.
I honestly love pasta, although I have long eschewed it except for rare indulgences, because of the carb content. Nowadays, I don’t eat even small bits of it, having completely divorced myself from wheat, gluten, corn and any significant amount of most all grains about 2 years ago. But when I look back at it, what I realized is that I really loved pasta as a vehicle for sauce more than for the noodles themselves. And this wheat-free, gluten-free, practically-zero-usable-carb (and low calorie) substitute is ideally suited to be that vehicle!
Made from the tuber-like root of the Amorphophallus konjac plant, this pasta stand-in contains mainly fiber (about 40% glucomannan) and almost no usable starch.
Per our friends at Wikipedia:
The food made from the root of this plant is widely known in English by its Japanese name, konnyaku (yam cake), being cooked and consumed primarily in Japan. The two basic types of cake are white and black. Pushing the cake through a grid of sharp blades at the end of a wooden box gives noodles, called shirataki, which are also sold in white and black colors.
In a 2/3 cup serving there is only 1 gram of actual usable carb, so I figure, why not blow it out and have a double serving? From a carb standpoint, no reason, but because the fiber content is so high, it would be wise to take it slow and easy from a gastrointestinal standpoint. Suddenly downing a significant load of soluble fiber, if you aren’t used to it, can overwhelm GI tolerance and lead to bloating and gas.
That aside, the ‘miracle’ pasta (as one maker calls it) is also widely touted for many purported healthful benefits, some of which could indeed operate through reasonable and known mechanisms, contributed chiefly by the glucommanan. These include:
- lowering blood sugar, by slowing absorption of dietary glucose, as most fibers do
- lowering cholesterol, again, by slowing down absorption and reabsorption from the gut in a manner akin to Questran and other soluble fibers
- helping to relieve constipation by holding water in the contents of the gut, similar to such products as psyllium
Glucomannan has also been reputed to assist in weight loss, through, from what I’ve been able to suss out, decreasing appetite by creating a sense of fullness and by supplanting the volume of other caloric foods. That mechanism isn’t as clear to me as a secret for long-term weight loss, though I guess there could be some benefit if you were to eat a lot of it. I’d just be careful about eating too much too fast! Caveat comedentis!
Wanting to give it a cautious try, I picked up a pouch of shirataki spaghetti at our local grocery store (in the bags of pre-washed salad section) and a few nights ago, I threw together some marinara, bacon, onion, garlic, and a couple of diced up hunks of left-over ribeye and made a Pasta Carbonara to put over them.
Mike–not actually a big pasta fan–loved it and so did I. It has a ‘bite’ reminiscent of really good pasta, firm on the teeth, yet tender, and holds up well to tossing with a hearty sauce like the one I made. It comes in spaghetti, flat ‘fettuccini’ noodles, and angel hair pasta noodles and even as ‘rice’. Whatever shape, I can guarantee we’ll be enjoying more of it in 2014. I’m thinking Seafood Alfredo, Linguini con Vongole, Spaghetti Putanesca. Oh, the list could go on!