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Ancient Asian vegetable Could Help fight Kiwi obesity

Ancient Asian vegetable Could Help fight Kiwi obesity

By Fleur Revell
24 February 2014

The recent update of decades-old New Zealand food pyramid, which now acknowledges the health benefits of a lower carbohydrate diet, has Kiwis reaching for alternatives to common meal staples such as pasta, potatoes and rice.

With carbohydrates now out of favour among dieters and a growing health conscious consumer, a new industry has sprung up internationally providing equivalent products which have the taste, texture and appearance of carbs but lack the undesirable starch levels.

One of these rapidly growing product lines uses an ancient Japanese root vegetable called Konjac to produce foods with the look, feel and taste of pasta, noodles and rice but without the calories.

These newly created products, while eliminating the gluten and complex carbohydrate levels of popular meal staples, manage to retain the fibre and offer a lower glycemic index equivalent for those watching their weight.

The international growth of these products is proving a significant boon for the functional food industry with one Australasian manufacturer of the product selling 1.5 million units of its Konjac line last year.

The founder of healthy living company Slendier Mai Haven, created the Konjac range in her kitchen as a way to curb her husband Ray’s growing waistline and health issues.

A staple in Japan and throughout Asia, Haven said she believed her husband’s rapid 10 kilogram weight loss was due to the introduction of Konjac to his diet.

Obesity is increasing worldwide and according to Ministry of Health figures almost one in three adult New Zealanders are obese, with a further 34 per cent overweight.

Haven believes Kiwis, like their Australian counterparts can also benefit from the introduction of this ancient Asian root vegetable to their diets.

“I remember as a young girl my mother eating Konjac to maintain a slim figure, and decided to start using it in our day to day cooking. The results were just incredible. I’m convinced that Konjac has the potential to be a major player in fighting obesity and alleviating other health problems,” she says.

“The natural fibre in the Konjac plant keeps you full for longer; it helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol and slows glucose absorption,” says Haven.

Haven says demand for Konjac product has led New Zealand supermarkets to introduce the range to cater to the growing number of Kiwis looking for healthy alternatives to pasta.

Slendier sources the Konjac (pronounced con-jack) for its products from high-altitude regions of China where the Australian-based company is helping to create jobs in remote communities.

She says the Slendier products are all gluten-free, contain no flour or eggs, are low in calories and carbohydrates, fat-free and good source of fibre, making them ideal for people looking to lose weight, for those with food intolerances, coeliac disease, diabetes and people simply keen to maintain a balanced diet.


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