A deep maroon colored flower, konnyaku flowers share color similarities with other taro-based plants, such as skunk cabbage. The petiole grows out of the soil and sprouts as a lone single leaf. The flower is known to give off a distinctive, strong smell.
Konnyaku is a type of processed food made from the bulb of a taro-based plant called konnyaku potato. Konnyaku potatoes are believed to originate from Indochina, and they are often called “elephants foot” from the plants unique shape.
Currently, there are over 130 types of wild konnyaku potatoes that grow in Southeast Asia. Compared to Japanese konnyaku potatoes, these konnyaku potatoes do not contain the unique fibers called “Mannan”, which is a crucial substance in hardening the fibers when processing, giving konnyaku its notable unique texture. In recent years, China and Southeast Asia has increased exports of konnyaku in order to meet Japanese demand. Although not certain, it is believed that konnyaku was brought to Japan from China in the early 6th century.
Just like traditional potatoes, konnyaku is grown with a seed potato. It takes 2-3 years to grow, much longer than traditional potatoes.
First, the seed potato is planted in the spring, growing a “new” potato. By autumn, the sprouts grow, forming a baby konnyaku potato called “KIGO”. At this time, the KIGO is harvested, which is then replanted again in the following spring. This process of planting (spring) and harvesting (autumn) is repeated for 3 consecutive years. Each cycle is referred to as “1st grader”, “2nd grader”, and “3rd grader” KIGO.
During the 1st year, the KIGO grows approximately 5-10 times its original size, and 5-8 times during the 2nd year and 3rd year, with large plants growing to up to 30cm in diameter. The reason for the time-consuming growth is that konnyaku is processed most effectively with plants that have been replanted for 3 years. Konnyaku is extremely sensitive to low temperature and spoiled easily, requiring experienced advanced technique in storing the plant between autumn and spring for a successful growth.
(2) 1st year
(3) 2nd year
(4) 3rd year
“Lifestyle diseases”, stemming from daily living and nutritional habits, have created a large problem in our society, such as obesity. Besides obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, many “lifestyle” related diseases are referred to “metabolic syndrome”.
Konnyaku is low in calories and high in fiber, making it an extremely handy health remedy used through out history in order to help with digestion, and to prevent other diseases related to “metabolic syndrome”.
Studies show that increasing the number of bites when eating stimulates areas in the hypothalamus, the brains “satiety center”, allowing one to obtain satisfaction with a “8th full stomach”, preventing one from over-eating.
Konnyaku is most suitable for this kind of diet, with its chewy, not too hard, not too soft texture. Konnyaku tastes better with every extra “bite”, with flavors expanding in your mouth with additional bites. Because konnyaku is low in calories and have a flexible texture, it is often used when cooking as an additive to different foods to “increase volume”, allowing you to eat more food while keeping the calories low!
Diabetes is a disease in which one cannot control the blood sugar level in the bloodstream. When sugar is processed in the body, large amount of insulin is produced in order to regulate glucose levels. When konnyaku mannan is taken simultaneously with the sugars, this helps the small intestine from absorbing the glucose, preventing the body from a sudden spike in sugar levels. With a low calorie count and a useful cooking additive to increase the volume of food to be consumed, many harmful diseases resulting from eating habits (over eating/ obesity) that often lead to diabetes can be prevented.
An increase in cholesterol levels in the blood stream can lead to harmful arteriosclerosis to develop in the arterial walls. This is, resulting from the day-to-day lifestyle habits (high calorie/high fat diet) that need to be recognized and improved. In order to keep cholesterol levels in balance, it is crucial to have a balanced diet (high fiber foods) with calories kept under control. As konnyaku is made out of mostly water and therefore low in calories, it is possible to gain a sense of fullness, and bring down the overall calories at the same time. Konnyaku also serves to suppress the absorption of cholesterol from the small intestine, and bile acids are further excreted from the liver to avoid also being re-absorbed from the small intestine, thus reducing the abnormal elevation of blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is the raw material of the cell membrane of the body, and is essential for the synthesis of hormones in the body. As the body requires a sufficient amount of cholesterol to keep a healthy body, the konnyaku mannan helps as a function to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Constipation is caused from day-to-day lifestyle habits, including insufficient intake of dietary fibers, irregular diet, lack of exercise, stress, etc., leading to spastic and flaccid constipation. Flaccid constipation occurs when stimulation sensitivity and defecation reflex of the mucosa is weakened, leading to feces transportation capacity to be delayed in the large intestines. Having a high fiber diet can help to prevent this problem.
In the case of spastic constipation, to avoid intense stimuli leading to cramps, konnyaku-like foods have been tested to have positive physiological effects on the body.
Konnyaku allows a soft stimulation to the large intestines, increasing the defecation reflex, letting free the clutter in the stomach.
Old age leads to difficulty in moving the body, caused by various issues such as chronic back and knee pain. Many elders fracture a bone even with just a fall, which often lead to “walking disorders”. This state where ones body cannot function well and require long-term care is often referred to as “locomotive syndrome”.
In addition, lack of calcium in daily diet can cause the bones to become hollow, leading to osteoporosis. The symptoms worsen with further advancement of age and decreased calcium, with many patients becoming bedridden from breaking bones after a fall. Konnyaku solution contains twice the calcium compared to standard konnyaku, with much benefit to those who suffer from calcium deficiencies.
The helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that inhabits in the human body, typically attached to the mucus of the inner linings of the stomach. Pylori virus causes multiple diseases including chronic gastritis, gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, and even potentially leading to developing stomach cancer. It has also been revealed that this virus can cause iron deficiency anemia and chronic hives in children, which are unrelated to the stomach.
Eradicating Pylori viruses is important in preventing many harmful diseases including stomach cancer, but current antibiotics come with harmful side effects. The bacteria can eventually develop resistance to the medication, and the effects of medication have weakened yearly. Therefore, food has been brought to attention, and konnyaku has been recognized for its effect of creating an antibacterial effect against the pylori virus. It was also found that konnyaku prevents the virus from sticking on the gastric epithelium.
Eating konnyaku everyday will destroy the pilori virus!