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It seems that every few years - if not months - people find a new magical food that they claim is the perfect solution to weight loss. How scientific these claims are can be a matter of debate. One ingredient that has recently been receiving more attention, despite being used in Asian cooking for years, is glucomannan.
Glucomannan is defined as a dietary fiber. That puts it in the same category as many types of grains, legumes, vegetables and cereals. The human digestive system can only partially break down fiber after we eat it, but without it, your gastrointestinal tract will not work properly. It also has a range of other important health benefits. Glucomannan is a soluble fiber known for its ability to absorb water.
Like most fiber, glucomannan comes from a plant. Specifically, if you dry out the root of the konjac plant (called the corm or bulbotuber), what you are left with is around 40% glucomannan. Konjac plants are primarily grown in East and Southeast Asia and are used in Chinese and Japanese cooking. Other sources include salep from orchid roots, but these orchids are endangered and their sale is strictly limited. You may find small amounts in the bark of some trees.
Foods full of carbohydrates like sugar and starch are generally used to provide energy. If we do not use that energy, it may be stored in the body as fat. Glucomannan is often used as an alternative to wheat flour, providing the base for noodles, pasta and rice without the same carbohydrate and calorie levels. That means that glucomannan-based foods may be an effective weight loss alternative to high-carb, high-calorie dishes.
Another way in which glucomannan may be of an advantage to a weight loss regimen is because of how it sits in the stomach after eating. Advocates claim that it acts as a sponge, absorbing water and making you feel more fuller while also delaying the emptying of the stomach. This means you may not need to eat as much to sate your hunger, which is an advantage when trying to lose weight.
The presence of glucomannan in your stomach may also delay the absorption of carbohydrates, protein and fat while helping the good bacteria in your stomach work more efficiently. It has been claimed to lower cholesterol as well.
If you are on a low-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet such as the ketogenic diet or Atkins, an alternative to carbs like glucomannan can be invaluable. Even if you do not want to remove carbs completely, it may still be a useful addition to your regular meal plan. The most obvious approach is the way the Japanese traditionally do it, in the form of noodles. These can be bought alongside glucomannan substitutes for other carbs such as rice or pasta, such as the Zero Noodles Mixed Selection.
Alternatively, the Zero Glucomannan Fiber Dietary Supplement is pure glucomannan. Just add some to a glass of water before you eat, and you could experience its benefits. These kinds of supplements are a simple and efficient way to add glucomannan to your diet without depriving you of your favorite foods.
As with any food or supplement, there can be risks to taking glucomannan, although they tend to be relatively mild. As a form of fiber, high amounts of glucomannan may lead to bloating, belching, gas or diarrhea, especially if you are not used to consuming this kind of food.
Calories are not the only thing missing from glucomannan, which is low in nutrients generally. A healthy diet must be based on a balance of different foods. You need to ensure you still consume plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals, such as by eating fruit and vegetables. Glucomannan as a weight loss supplement is also not a substitute for regular exercise, which remains vital for staying healthy.
If taking glucomannan in supplement form, be sure to follow the dosage instructions. Taking too much or not combining it with the correct amount of liquid may block the throat and cause choking. If you have any doubts, are on medication or if you have other medical conditions, it is best to talk to your doctor first.
Evidence suggests that glucomannan, whether as a substitute for carbs in noodles, pasta and rice or as a dietary supplement, may help support weight loss efforts, although it needs to be combined with other food groups and regular exercise.