Shirataki Noodles are made from Konnyaku flour also known as Glucomann flour. The flour derives from the root of the Amorphophallus Konnyaku, which is indigenous to Asia and a member of the potato family. Food products using this particular root have been consumed in Asia for thousands of years.
The Konnyaku root first originated in China around 2,000 years ago and has been part of the Japanese diet for over 1,200 years. Consisting primarily of hydrocolloidal polysaccharide glucomannan (which is composed of glucose and mannose subunits) Konnyaku is incredibly low in calories and carbohydrates. Konnyaku is also rich in soluble dietary fiber. Generally, the Konnyaku root is ground and milled, and its impurities are separated.
The first documented use of Konnyaku root as food source was in Japan and found in an ancient Japanese inscription entitled, Man-you-shuu, A comprehensive compilation of historical material which was edited in the 6th century. According to the Man-you-shuu, Konnyaku came from the southeast region of Japan and was acknowledged and used as herbal medicine. Being used at the time to cleans one’s digestive system of irritating and poisonous substances. It was first consumed in a form of a block. As time went on, it was evolved into thin, viscous noodles known as “Shirataki” which literal meaning is “white waterfall.”
During the reign of the Muromachi dynasty in Japan (14th – 15th century), a doctor by the name Dosan Manabe explained in his writings that a daily consumption of Konnyaku is good for diabetes and certain types of tumors. In the Edo era, a recognized medical publication called the Wakan Sannsai Zue ( a Japanese & Chinese herbal medicine manual) stated that “Konnyaku is good for cleansing our intestine,” but at the time there was no scientific evidence. Throughout the generations, Japanese were told from their grandparent and parents that “Konnyaku is helpful in cleansing one’s digestive tract of irritating and harmful substances, and for maintaining healthy and clean internal organs,” of which is related with the functions of dietary fibers.
The benefits and the responsibilities of dietary fiber were not actually fully recognized until the 1970s. Prior to that, dietary fiber was not categorized as a nutrient in neither Japan nor the United States. In 1977, the United States Senate nourishment committee published a report. This report stated that the deficiency of fiber in the daily diet is one reason for adult diseases such as obesity, constipation, arteriosclerosis, heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, gallstone, and hemorrhoids. Dietary fiber stimulates the functions of the gastrointestinal tract, changes how nutrients are absorbed, and allows harmful wastes to leave the body quickly. Eating a diet rich in fiber has many benefits including but not limited to appetite reduction, lowering blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, reducing the risks of colorectal cancer, and facilitating regularity.
Konnyaku had its first debut in the United States as a base ingredient in a hot pot dish called Gyudon. It’s a simplified version of Sukiyaki, a very popular and traditional dish that uses Shirataki or Konnyaku noodles as a chief ingredient for two main reasons: Its unique texture gave the dish a well-rounded balance with other ingredients and it is also known to help reduce the absorption of LDL that originates from animal fats. Due to the many healthy benefits, Konnyaku and Shirataki have been increasing in popularity among American consumers in the recent years.
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