Konjac powder is a flour made from the root of the konjac plant, scientifically known as Amorphophallus konjac. This starchy tuber has been used for centuries in Asian cuisine and traditional medicine.
In recent years, konjac powder has grown in popularity in the West due to its impressive health benefits and uses as a gluten-free, low-carb substitute.
What is the Konjac Plant?
The konjac plant is a perennial herb native to eastern Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. It grows a large starchy tuber underground that resembles a potato or yam.
This tuber is harvested and ground into a fine, white powder to produce konjac flour. The konjac tuber is composed primarily of glucomannan gum, a highly viscous dietary fiber. Glucomannan is what gives konjac powder its gelling properties.
Konjac has been consumed in Asia since at least the sixth century as both food and traditional medicine. In Japan, the tuber is known as “konnyaku” and is commonly used to make noodles, tofu, and jelly snacks.
Nutrition Profile of Konjac Powder
Konjac powder is low in calories and carbs but packed with fiber. Here is the nutrition breakdown for 100 grams (3.5 oz) of konjac powder:
- Calories: 10
- Carbs: 3g
- Fiber: 2g
- Protein: 0g
- Fat: 0g
The key nutritional benefit of konjac powder is its incredibly high fiber content. The flour is made of approximately 40-50% glucomannan fiber, which is a water-soluble, viscous dietary fiber.
Glucomannan absorbs water and forms a gel, which is what gives konjac flour its thickening properties. This soluble fiber is not digestible, so konjac powder has very few net carbs.
In addition to fiber, konjac powder contains small amounts of minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and selenium. However, levels are generally low and konjac is not considered a rich source of vitamins or minerals.
Health Benefits of Konjac Powder
Konjac powder and its glucomannan fiber have been associated with a variety of health benefits:
Promotes weight loss
Multiple studies have found glucomannan promotes feelings of fullness and can help reduce body weight. The fiber forms a bulky gel in the intestines, helping slow digestion and control appetite.
In one study, people taking a glucomannan supplement for 8 weeks lost 5.5 pounds on average without making any diet changes.
Soluble fiber can bind to cholesterol in the intestines and remove it from the body before it is absorbed. Several studies show konjac glucomannan may reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol by 7-15%.
Regulates blood sugar
The viscosity and gelling nature of glucomannan can slow digestion and absorption of carbs. Research shows konjac flour may improve insulin sensitivity and help regulate blood sugar spikes after meals.
The bulking and laxative effect of konjac fiber makes it an effective treatment for constipation. Studies show it can increase stool frequency, improve stool consistency, and act as a prebiotic to support gut health.
Applying konjac gel to the skin can form a protective barrier and increase moisture. Early research shows it may improve irritation and inflammation conditions like eczema.
Supports heart health
In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, konjac powder reduces blood pressure and levels of triglycerides, which are other major risk factors for heart disease. The fiber is also thought to lower inflammation.
Potential cancer benefits
Test tube and animal studies suggest the glucomannan in konjac may have anti-cancer effects against breast, liver, lung and skin cancers. However, more research is needed to confirm effects in humans.
Overall, konjac powder acts as a prebiotic fiber that supports gut health, digestion, heart health, and weight management. It is an excellent source of soluble fiber to increase daily intake.
Key Takeaway: Konjac powder is rich in viscous soluble fiber known as glucomannan, which has been shown to promote weight loss, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, and relieve constipation.
How to Use Konjac Powder
Konjac powder is a versatile ingredient that can be used in place of flour to make low-carb pasta, breads, cakes, jellies, and more. It has no flavor of its own, so it easily takes on the flavors it is prepared with.
There are several ways to incorporate konjac powder into your diet:
- Make shirataki noodle recipes. These translucent konjac noodles are over 90% water and contain just 1-3 calories per serving. They can be used like pasta in Asian dishes.
- Use it to bake or make konjac bread, muffins, and other flour-based foods. Replace about 20% of the regular flour with konjac flour.
- Thicken sauces, gravies, puddings, jellies. Konjac powder absorbs liquids easily and can act as a replacement for cornstarch.
- Make konjac jelly candies or desserts using fruit juice and konjac powder.
- Take konjac fiber supplements. Capsules provide 3-4 grams of glucomannan powder.
- Use konjac rice in place of cauliflower rice for a zero-carb option.
- Make konjac-based vegan imitation seafood like shrimp, eel, or fish cakes.
When cooking with konjac powder, it's important to hydrate it fully by soaking in water for 2-3 minutes before use. Always use konjac powder in moderation and drink plenty of fluids, as the fiber can expand in the throat if dry.
Potential Side Effects and Precautions
Konjac powder is generally well-tolerated, but there are some potential side effects to be aware of:
- Bloating or abdominal discomfort. Since konjac expands in the stomach, too much can cause cramping and gas.
- Diarrhea or loose stools if intake is suddenly increased. Start with small amounts.
- May affect blood sugar control for diabetics. Monitor glucose closely when using konjac supplements.
- Increased risk of choking if konjac jelly or noodles are not prepared properly or chewed thoroughly. Always soak before eating.
- May block the esophagus or intestines if taken dry and without enough water. Stay hydrated when using.
- Allergic reactions are rare but possible. Discontinue use if any symptoms develop.
Konjac powder should be avoided by:
- Children and infants: choking risk
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women: not enough research on safety
- Anyone with difficulty swallowing: potential choking hazard
- People with digestive disorders: may exacerbate gastrointestinal issues
Introduce konjac powder gradually and drink plenty of water with it. Consult your doctor before using konjac supplements if you have any medical conditions or take medications.
Is Konjac Powder Keto?
Yes, konjac powder is considered keto-friendly and a great low-carb substitute. With only 3 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber per 100 grams, konjac powder has a very low net carb count.
Replacing wheat flour with konjac powder allows you to make breads and baked goods that fit into a low-carb, ketogenic diet. Shirataki noodles are almost zero net carbs, so they are perfect for keto as a pasta alternative.
Where to Buy Konjac Powder
You can find konjac powder, shirataki noodles, and konjac supplements at most health food stores and online:
- Bob’s Red Mill: sells glucomannan powder made from konjac root
- Eden Foods: organic konjac flour
- Miracle Noodle: shirataki noodles, konjac rice, and konjac pasta
- Thrive Market: konjac capsules and konjac flour
- Amazon: multiple brands of konjac powder, noodles, and supplements
When purchasing konjac powder, look for 100% pure konjac flour or glucomannan powder. Avoid products with added sugars or fillers. The konjac noodles should only contain glucomannan fiber and water.
Key Takeaway: Konjac powder can be used as a substitute for regular flour when cooking. It helps create low-carb, keto-friendly foods like bread, noodles, and jellies. Introduce it slowly and stay hydrated when using.
What does konjac powder taste like?
Konjac powder has a very mild taste on its own. When hydrated, it takes on the flavors of the ingredients it is cooked with. Konjac noodles tend to be neutral in taste with a slightly rubbery, gelatinous texture.
Can you use konjac powder like regular flour?
Yes, konjac can replace about 10-25% of regular flour in recipes for baked goods like bread, muffins, and cakes. Use too much and the texture becomes gummy. For best results, blend it with other gluten-free flours.
Is konjac powder safe to consume?
Yes, konjac powder and noodles are safe to eat when prepared properly. Make sure to soak konjac noodles before cooking. Eat konjac products slowly with plenty of water to prevent choking or obstructions. Avoid giving konjac jelly to young children.
Does konjac powder have any carbs?
There are 3 grams of total carbs in 100 grams of konjac powder. However, 2 grams come from indigestible fiber, so the net digestible carb content is only 1 gram. Shirataki noodles have less than 1 gram of net carbs per serving.
What is the difference between konjac flour and xanthan gum?
Konjac flour is made from the root of the konjac plant, while xanthan gum is a product made from fermented corn sugar. Both are used as thickeners in gluten-free cooking. Xanthan gum can form a more stable, elastic gel while konjac has a smoother, creamier texture.
Can you use konjac powder to make bread?
Yes, you can make konjac bread by replacing about 10-20% of the wheat flour with konjac powder. This adds fiber and moisture to keep the bread light and fluffy. Use it along with other gluten-free flours for best results.
Does konjac powder have protein?
No, konjac powder contains no protein. It is almost entirely composed of glucomannan soluble fiber, with very small amounts of minerals like calcium, magnesium and selenium.
What foods contain konjac?
In addition to konjac flour, noodles and supplements, you can find konjac used in some jellies, candies, desserts, and imitation seafood products popular in Asia. Always check labels for konjac content.
Can you eat too much konjac?
It's best to keep konjac intake moderate, around 2-4 grams of glucomannan fiber per day. Consuming too much konjac powder without enough water could lead to choking or bowel obstructions. Be extra cautious with konjac jelly.
Konjac powder is a gluten-free flour alternative that offers an array of health benefits. Its high viscous fiber content provides weight loss, blood sugar, and cholesterol-lowering effects.
Use konjac powder moderately in place of regular flour when cooking to make low-carb foods. It can improve the texture of baked goods and thicken sauces. Shirataki konjac noodles are an easy swap for traditional pasta.