Konjac or konnyaku is a traditional Japanese health food made from the ancient root vegetable konjac. It has a distinct rubbery and jello-like texture, and it’s nearly flavorless before seasoning. Although the origins of konjac in Japan are debated, it is widely thought that the plant was first introduced from China as a medicinal food, and mainly consumed by Buddhist monks in the early days before it became popularized with the general public.
Health benefits of konjac
Sometimes called the “broom of the stomach”, konjac is hailed for its ability to sweep the bowels of toxins and waste. High in the dietary fiber glucomannan, once digested konjac forms a gel that coats the lining of the gut and encourages healthy bowel movements. It does this while also slowing spikes in blood sugar levels and alkalizing the body. Research supports that konjac’s glucomannan content may help lower total cholesterol levels by reducing absorption of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the body. This makes konjac a friendly food for diabetics, patients with cardiovascular disease, and anyone seeking a healthy lifestyle. More recently, konjac has received much attention as a miracle diet food. (Did we mention that’s it’s vegan, gluten-free and nearly zero calories?)
Cooking with konjac
In Japan, konjac is produced in a variety of shapes and sizes that are incorporated in regional cuisine. Perhaps the most popular version of konjac is shirataki, thin translucent noodles commonly found in sukiyaki, nikujaga, and other simmered dishes. Shirataki’s plain taste and delicate nature helps to balance the dense, meaty broths in such foods. Then there’s traditional konjac, which is cut into purple or white triangular and rectangular slices. This type of konjac is best associated with Japanese winter stew oden, where it accompanies fried fish cakes, boiled eggs, seaweed, and daikon radish.
In recent years, the western market has exploded with konjac-based foods. The plant’s gelatinous consistency makes it an ideal substitute for starchy foods like rice, noodles, and pasta, and it’s very common to find “miracle” health products with recipes for konjac spaghetti, stir fry, steak, fried rice, and even desserts. If you struggle with gluten intolerance or allergies, this versatile root vegetable can easily stand-in for all your favorite high-carb dishes.
Konjac for weight loss
Considering that konjac has practically no fat, is very low in calories, and rich in minerals, it’s a no-brainer for any beauty or weight loss aficionado to find creative ways to include konjac in their diet. This is because konjac root can absorb as much as fifty times its weight in water, transforming into a gel in your stomach that expands and makes you feel full for hours. The inclusion of high-satiety foods like konjac is said to be a key factor for effective and sustainable weight loss, as it helps satisfy appetite and fight off hunger pangs. Since konjac also has zero carbs and blood sugar stabilizing effects, it’s a weight loss superhero for those practicing keto, paleo, and slow carb diets. Of course, you should never overdo it. Just a small portion of konjac goes a long way. If you’re a yo-yo dieter and cravings constantly catch you off-guard, you might find konjac to be a helpful addition to your weight loss plans.
Konjac in Japanese skincare
It turns out that konjac also has amazing water-retention properties that makes it an excellent facial cleansing sponge. If you’re thinking – what?! I thought abrasion in J-Beauty cleansing was a big no-no – never fear, konjac sponges are incredibly gentle exfoliators that buff away dead skin and even (wait for it) remove stubborn makeup. They not only give you a radiant glow, but they deep cleanse with less effort. In fact, konjac sponges are so mild that they were first used by Japanese farmers to cleanse babies’ skin, which also makes them great all-over body exfoliators. You’ll often find konjac combined with other active ingredients, like this purifying charcoal sponge and this hydrating camellia oil one by YAMAMOTO FARM. The possibilities are truly endless. And the icing on the cake? Konjac sponges are 100% biodegradable, so you can safely toss them out with the rest of your compost. Here’s to an unassuming cleansing tool that meets all your eco-friendly, vegan, and sustainable needs!
SHOP: KOMACHI Konjac Sponge (Charcoal)
This facial cleansing sponge is made out of 100% organic konjac grown in Japan’s Gunma Prefecture. This plant, commonly eaten in the Japanese diet, has amazing water-retention properties that allow the sponge to gently remove impurities from your pores for a soft and glowy complexion. The charcoal helps cleanse excess sebum and oil from the pores–great for combination and oily skin-types, but gentle enough for sensitive skin.
SHOP: JUICY Konjac Sponge (Camellia)
This sustainable facial cleansing sponge is made out of konjac powder, derived from a plant commonly eaten in the Japanese diet. These all-natural sponges gently remove impurities from your pores for a soft glowy complexion. The camellia oil possesses excellent moisturizing properties, perfect for anti-aging and dry skin types.