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Kelp Noodles

What You Need to Know About Kelp Noodles

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Updated May 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Kelp noodles are a food made from kelp, an edible brown seaweed that contains high amounts of iodine. Marketed as a low-calorie alternative to pasta and other noodle varieties, kelp noodles contain kelp, sodium alginate (a form of seaweed-derived salt), and water.

Why Do People Use Kelp Noodles?

Since no cooking is required in their preparation, kelp noodles are often marketed to people following a raw food diet. Not all kelp noodles are raw, so read the label or go to the manufacturer's website if you are looking for raw kelp noodles.

Kelp noodles are also marketed to people following a gluten-free diet (such as individuals with celiac disease).

Some proponents claim that kelp noodles offer a wide range of health benefits, partly due to their iodine content. For instance, kelp noodles are said to improve thyroid health, promote weight loss, protect against osteoporosis, and enhance heart health. However, despite these health claims, there is no evidence that consumption of kelp noodles can aid in the prevention or treatment of any health condition.

Kelp Noodles and Nutrition

Kelp noodles contain no fat, cholesterol, protein, or sugar. Per serving, they typically contain one gram of carbohydrates, one gram of fiber, and 35 milligrams of sodium. In addition, kelp noodles typically provide 15 percent of your daily calcium needs and four percent of your daily iron needs per serving.

Most kelp noodles contain fewer than 10 calories per serving.

Iodine Content

A trace mineral and essential nutrient, iodine plays a key role in metabolism and thyroid function. Inadequate iodine intake can lead to thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism.

While kelp is considered a top source of iodine, the exact amount of iodine in kelp noodles is unknown. To reach your daily iodine needs (150 mcg per day for most adults), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend following a balanced diet that includes seafood (especially cod, sea bass, haddock, and perch), kelp and other sea vegetables, and moderate amounts of iodized salt.

Other commonly available iodine-rich sea vegetables include the seaweeds wakame, arame, and hijiki.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Kelp Noodles?

Since kelp noodles are low in fiber, using them as a substitute for whole-grain pasta or brown rice may significantly reduce your fiber intake. The NIH currently recommends that older children, adolescents, and adults consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Inadequate fiber intake can cause digestive problems and may contribute to a number of health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

How to Use Kelp Noodles

There are two types of kelp noodles: green and clear. Green kelp noodles have the consistency of al dente pasta and taste like seaweed. Clear kelp noodles, the more popular type, have a relatively bland taste, but some brands have a slightly salty and bitter taste that can be reduced somewhat with thorough rinsing. They are crunchy in texture.

Kelp noodles are typically used in stir-fries, soups, salads, and vegetable dishes.

Kelp Noodles vs. Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles are made from the root of the konnyaku potato (a plant grown throughout Asia). They are another popular noodle substitute. Shirataki noodles are high in glucomannan, a type of fiber found to reduce LDL cholesterol in several studies. Unlike kelp noodles, shirataki noodles can have a slightly fishy smell when uncooked or unrinsed.

Where to Find Kelp Noodles

Sold in some natural-foods stores and Asian grocery stores, kelp noodles are also available for purchase online.

Sources

National Institutes of Health. "Fiber: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". October 2011.

National Institutes of Health. "Iodine in diet: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". October 2011.

Sood N, Baker WL, Coleman CI. "Effect of glucomannan on plasma lipid and glucose concentrations, body weight, and blood pressure: systematic review and meta-analysis." Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Oct;88(4):1167-75.

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