Dieters have been known to go to interesting extremes in order to cut calories from their meals.
Dieters have been known to go to interesting extremes in order to cut calories from their meals. Thanks to newly relaxed restrictions on health food labels in Japan, dining on noodles made from trees is now an option.
Omikenshi Co., the Osaka-based company behind "cell-eat" noodles, didn’t start out as a diet food manufacturer. For the past 100 years they’ve been selling fabrics like the semi-synthetic rayon, but business had been struggling recently. Japan’s rayon production is down 90 percent since peak numbers in 1967, thanks to increased competition from imports. Still, the company’s jump from textiles to health food wasn’t as drastic as you might imagine—both cell-eat and rayon are made from wood pulp.
The noodles’ greatest appeal lies in their abysmal calorie count. In addition to boasting only 60 calories per kilogram, cell-eat contains no gluten, no fat, and almost no carbohydrates. One thing the wood-based noodles are high in, however, is fiber.
Because the cellulose in the noodles is indigestible, consumers can eat enough of it to fill them up without absorbing any of the calories. To make the flour in cell-eat, manufacturers combine the cellulose from trees with konjac, a yam-like plant native to Japan. Konjac doesn’t taste very appealing on its own, and adding wood pulp to it actually improves the flavor and texture. Omikenshi Co. plans to start producing the noodles next year at a rate of 30 tons per month.