Even if you haven’t heard of konjac, you’re probably familiar with products made from this herb.
Konjac is used to make shirataki noodles, a pasta alternative you’ve probably seen on the shelves of local health markets.
But a new konjac product is entering the market: a sipping jelly. Some brands claim that this fiber-filled jelly helps curb appetite – but does it actually work? How healthy is konjac jelly?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is Konjac?
“Konjac is an herb native to certain parts of Asia, where it has been used for a long time in traditional Chinese medicine,” explains Dana E. Hoons, PhD, MPH, RD, is a senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and author of the forthcoming book Recipe for survival.
Sometimes called voodoo lily, snake palm, or elephant yam, this plant is “known for its starchy properties and as a source of soluble dietary fiber,” adds Hunes.
Konjac can be used as a thickener in sauce and soup recipes.
Glucomannan, a polysaccharide extracted from konjac, can also be used as a prebiotic supplement to help feed healthy gut bacteria and promote regularity.
Huness explained that it is mostly the plant’s action — the part that grows underground — that is used to make these products.
What is Konjac Jelly?
Thanks to its fiber and starch content, konjac plant action also works as a gelatin substitute — and that’s how konjac jelly is made.
Konjac jelly products use water and Konjac powder to create a gelatinous goo.
Companies then add flavors and sugar substitutes to create a gelatin-like snack that provides fiber and minimal calories.
Is Konjac Safe to Eat?
“Conjac has some known risks,” Huns says.
Gel candies made with konjac have been linked to choking deaths because they don’t dissolve as easily as other gel candies or gelatin snacks.
It’s also possible that konjac “could expand into the esophagus or intestine,” leading to medical problems, Huns added. The European Union and Australia have banned konjac jelly over these concerns.
What are the benefits of Konjac?
Konjac can help support healthy cholesterol levels, “similar to how soluble fiber in oats can,” Hunes says. One study found that the fiber in konjac may also help treat constipation, although that study only looked at seven people.
But what about Konjac jelly?
Although fiber intake is associated with lower body weight, that doesn’t mean konjac jelly will help you slim down.
A study of 53 overweight and moderately obese participants found that the glucomannan in konjac did not have a significant effect on weight loss.
It is also worth noting that many konjac jelly products on the market today contain little to no fiber.
These are mainly just sweet foods – no A fiber-rich snack. If you want to reap the benefits of dietary fiber, reach for one of these high-fiber foods instead.
If you’re hesitant to consume this herb, there’s a non-food way to get in on the konjac trend: It’s used to make facial sponges.
What are the best brands of konjac jelly?
First things first: Hoons advises you to read any instructions and warnings before deciding whether or not to eat konjac jelly.
Note that Konjac jelly will not melt in your mouth like flavored gelatin and may require chewing.
If you still want to try this trend, be sure to read nutrition labels closely.
Although the konjac plant is touted for its fiber content, many popular konjac jelly brands do not actually contain significant amounts of dietary fiber.
Konjac jelly provides chewy texture and sweetness, but not much else — and many are loaded with artificial sugar and sugar alcohols.
Here are a few popular brands, but you can probably satisfy your snack cravings with low-calorie snacks that provide more nutrients, including fiber.
EVERYDAZE Konjac Jelly
The brand offers a wide range of flavors from peach to cola with vitamin C and collagen.
But when the label says “zero sugar,” remember that it contains erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and sucralose (a sugar substitute).
Jayone Drinkable Konjac Jelly
These six-calorie jelly pouches are available in grape, mango or peach — but they’re sweetened with 12 grams of erythritol and contain zero grams of fiber.
Jelly.B Drinkable Konjac Jelly