If like me you managed to catch the semi-final of this year’s The Apprentice on Wednesday then you were probably intrigued by the mention of the root vegetable called konjac. One contestant’s business plan revealed her plan to utilise konjac and its nutritional properties to produce healthy ready meal alternatives. Although she lost her place in the competition, we as viewers were able to hear a little bit more about the plant that is ready to take the health and fitness market by storm.
This root vegetable is extremely popular in areas of Asia, such as Japan and China, and has been a part of oriental cuisine for years. We can expect to hear more and more about konjac in our part of the world in the coming years though as its nutritional benefits become more and more recognised. Already Holland & Barrett and Superdrug have plans to sell ready meals that make use of konjac early in the new year.
Its primary nutritional benefits relate specifically to konjac’s use as a weight loss supplement. The useful thing about this root vegetable is that is so very simple. It doesn’t try to trick our bodies or cleverly affect our hormones or anything like that. In fact it is so simple it has almost no fat, sugar, starch or protein. Instead, konjac is incredibly fibrous. Fibre helps to regulate and increase our bowel movements and has also been said to positively reduce the levels of LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol, in our bodies.
While all that is good, it doesn’t really explain how we can use this as a weight loss supplement though. Well the thing you need to know is that konjac can be used to form a variety of shapes and textures. Add this to the fact that it is almost tasteless and then you can turn this humble root vegetable into a wide range of differing food alternatives.
Traditionally it has been used to form alternatives for pasta or noodles because these are usually served with flavoursome sauces. It’s also a great vegan substitute for gelatin because it possesses a similar texture when in jelly form. Americans might be more familiar with konjac than us Brits but will know it as lychee cups (small fruit jellies). It doesn’t quite melt in the mouth like gelatin though and this has been associated with a number of deaths and near-deaths in America over the years.
Anything described as a famine food sends alarm bells ringing in my head. But what I like about konjac and ready meals that are made using it is that it isn’t trying to be a quick-fix. The idea is just to make a few substitutions in your life. Cooking yourself a meal with whole foods will always be recommended above any ready meal.
Essentially the concept behind these meals is keeping you fuller for longer. As a result you are less likely to snack and therefore shouldn’t find yourself over eating. Reducing calories intake isn’t the only thing you should focus on though. You need to get a right balance of all the micro and macro-nutrients in your life and that is what some ‘healthy’ ready meals tend to overlook! As for an ingredient itself though, get ready to hear more and more about konjac in our day-to-day lives! They might just be on to something here…