Shiritaki Noodles- Are They Paleo?

I love when I receive an inquiry about a food I don’t know about as it serves as a learning opportunity for me.

A reader recently sent me an email asking if the Shiritaki Noodles she found would be Paleo friendly.

I asked for a link to the brand she had in mind, as the only kind I’d seen before had soy in them.

The one she was referring to declares it as soy and gluten free, and the ingredient panel is as follows: 

Ingredients: Water, glucomannan (soluble fiber), calcium additive.
No soy, gluten, or wheat!

OK, so next questions- what’s glucomannan and what is the ‘calcium additive’?

A quick search online showed that the former is:

  • a water-soluble polysaccharide that is considered a dietary fiber. 
  • a food additive used as an emulsifier and thickener.
  • sold as nutritional supplements for constipation, obesity, high cholesterol, acne vulgaris and type 2 diabetes
  • is also the main ingredient in shirataki noodles and konnyaku which are traditional Japanese foods. These products are made from the ground corm of the konjac plant. 

That’s ‘corm’ with an ‘M”, not corn.

What’s Corm? “A short, vertical, swollen underground plant stem that serves as a storage organ used by some plants to survive winter or other adverse conditions such as summer drought and heat.”

So, then, is it Paleo?

Honestly, I still don’t feel I know enough about either the glucomannan nor the corm to feel comfortable eating, personally.  My rule of thumb is that if I can’t identify it as a food, then I don’t want it in my body.

I would suspect that since it’s used as an emulsifier (like soy lecithin) and thickener (like guar gum (from beans), xanthan gum (from corn) or carageenan gum (from seaweed…but highly processed), that it is likely to have a high level of anti nutrient properties.

Any food scientists out there care to chime in?

Take home message:  I wouldn’t include it in my own diet. If I want ‘noodles’, I’ll stick with kelp… or spaghetti squash.