Are Kelp Noodles Healthy? We Check the Nutrients, Calories and Benefits

Kelp noodles are translucent noodles made from a type of seaweed. They’re huge in Asia and making news elsewhere because they contain virtually no calories. But are kelp noodles healthy? We check the details and find out.

tangle of kelp noodles on a green bowl

When I first wrote this post, in 2017 I had very little to go on regards the health benefits of kelp noodles but now, updating this post in 2022 and information on kelp noodles is a lot more readily available – so, I can now answer all your questions on kelp noodle nutrition – and more.

What Are Kelp Noodles?

They’re noodles made from kelp, a type of seaweed.

Now, this might surprise you as kelp, in its raw form, is green or brown – and you can buy green kelp noodles, yet the ones we’re talking about here are clear. How?

It seems that the clear form of the noodle has had the skin removed. It’s then turned into a powder, mixed with sodium alginate (another seaweed-derived substance) and water and created into noodles.




Are Kelp Noodles Healthy?

There’s a few different ways to judge how healthy something is – how many nutrients it contains, how many calories, fat, sugar and salt it might contain and any specific health benefits or downsides you might experience while eating them – so, let’s have a look at the situation with kelp noodles.

What Nutrients are in Kelp Noodles?

The big hitter is iodine. Kelp is a good source of iodine which we need for thyroid function. While this didn’t used to be something we lacked in our diet, recent studies suggest that might be changing.

Dairy and iodised salt used to provide us with enough iodine to meet the amount we needed each day, but changes in the way dairy is farmed, and a move for many people of reducing dairy and salt in the diet means iodine deficiency is potentially becoming more common.

A 2018 report found up to 51 per cent of teenage girls studied in the UK were mildly deficient. Groups of pregnant women were also found to be low in iodine.

Eating large quantities of kale, cabbage and other goitrogenic vegetables raw (cooked is fine) can also interfere with iodine uptake.

A 113g serving of kelp noodles contains about 55mcg of iodine – that’s about the same as in a cup of milk and around a third of the amount we need a day.

Adding a source of iodine, like kelp noodles to your diet, could therefore be a good way to increase levels – especially for those on a vegan diet.

Other Nutrients Are in Kelp Noodles?

It’s hard to get a consistent number, as it’s not quite the same as kelp itself, but here’s what’s on the nutrition label for Sea Tangle

NutrientAmount per 113g serving
Iron0.72mg (4% of DVI)
Calcium195mg (15% of DVI)
Sodium65mg (3% of DVI)

Kelp noodles are also a source of fibre – a 113g serving contains 1g of fibre – which is 4 per cent of the 25-30g you should have a day.

How Many Calories Are in Kelp Noodles?

Kelp Noodles are very low calorie – which is one of their main selling points.

SeaTangle‘ say a 100g serving contains just 6 calories.

Compare that to 100g of cooked pasta which contains around 130-150 calories and you can see they are a significant saving.

Like those miracle shirataki noodles that have hit the news in the last year or so, Kelp Noodles are also fat-free and have virtually no carbohydrates.

Can Kelp Noodles Help With Weight Loss?

If you swap your normal serve of pasta or noodles for them, yes, absolutely as they will cut the calories in your meal by 250-300 calories (more if you eat larger servings of carbs).

Iodine also supports thyroid function and the thyroid controls the metabolism and the rate at which you burn calories.

By consuming kelp noodles, or other seaweed products in the diet you help support your metabolism and may help ensure optimum calorie burn

This isn’t a reason to go over consume kelp noodles though, too much iodine (classed as over 1100mcg a day) can actually have a negative effect on the thyroid.




Any Downsides of Kelp Noodles?

Too much iodine can interfere with some medications, particularly thyroid meds, so, if you’re going to replace a lot of your normal carbs with kelp noodles, you should speak with your GP just in case.

Also, just make sure that you’re not consuming too many foods with high iodine levels through your day.

They do contain sodium, but not as much as fresh kelp.

They aren’t as cheap as normal pasta – to say the least. However, a little goes a long way,  and you’d probably get 4-5 servings from that packet if you used them as an ‘add on’ rather than the main base of a dish but, they are still pretty costly.

Although, if you’re raw, vegan or veggie, split the pack in three and based a meal around them and that’s probably the same price as adding meat or fish.

Kelp noodles are also lower in fibre than traditional pasta so make sure you’re upping your vegetable and fruit intake if you’re using them to replace normal pasta in your diet rather than just trying something new.

Don’t let them stop you using more nutritional low carb swaps like spiralised carrots or courgettes that might contain more fibre and nutrients. Try and mix the two together.

Other than that there aren’t any major issues with kelp noodles.

So, Are Kelp Noodles Healthy?

They definitely can be part of a healthy diet.

They contains nutrients we need, they don’t contain fat or excessive sugary carbohydrates and, they can make sticking to a lower carb diet easier.

However, you shouldn’t replace all your vegetables with them, and if you have other sources of iodine in your diet, like iodised salt, dairy products and other types of seaweed, don’t consume too many in one go.




Kelp Noodles and Specialist Diets

The advice above is for those who eat a standard diet, but what if you need to avoid certain ingredients for medical or ethical reasons – can you still eat kelp noodles?

Are Kelp Noodles Gluten-Free?

Yes. They make a great alternative to pasta and wheat-based noodles for anyone avoiding gluten.

Just double check if you order them in a restaurant or ready made dish – because kelp noodles don’t have much flavour of their own, you want to check they haven’t been coated in soy, or another gluten-containing sauce to liven them up a bit.

Are Kelp Noodles FODMAP-Friendly?

The Monash University app labels kelp noodles as low FODMAP meaning they are also a suitable switch for those following a low FODMAP diet that excludes pasta.

Are Kelp Noodles Vegan?

Yes – and they’re a good source to top up your iron and iodine levels in a vegan diet.

Are Kelp Noodles Keto?

A 100g serving of kelp noodles has 1.3g of carbohydrates – including 0.2g of fibre. That gives them a net carb value of 1.1g – depending on your keto plan you could be eating 20-50g of net carbs a day so, yes, they are very likely to fit the bill.

Other Questions About Kelp Noodles

With that said you might still have a few other questions – like these…

What Do Kelp Noodles Taste Like?

I first saw kelp noodles at a trade show in London back in 2013- and had no idea what they were. At the time, the only way  I could describe them was ‘popping seaweed’ as they pretty much exploded in my mouth. I was immediately fascinated.

The kelp noodles were on a stand from a Korean company and they were dishing out little dishes of what looked like ice in soy sauce.

I was intrigued and took one, oh my lord, it was strange.

It didn’t have much taste on its own, instead, it picks up the taste of whatever you dip it in, but as I bit into it, it almost exploded in my mouth with a crack.

If you’ve ever had fish roe on sushi, it was that same type of feeling.

poppingseaweed

How Do You Use Kelp Noodles?

They can be eaten raw tossed in sauces like soy or Ponzu as a side dish. Or, they’re also a great addition to add crunch and bulk to salads – I like them with smoked salmon and avocado with a twist of lemon.

If you want to cook them you can use them in soups, stir-fries and other dishes. Remember, they don’t have a taste of their own, so you want to add flavour to them.

The easiest idea is just to stir fry lots of vegetables and some soy, ginger and garlic. Toss the noodles just before you’re about to remove the mix from the heat.

If you’re going to eat them raw, then marinating them in the sauce, or the dressing you’re going to use on the salad, for a few hours will give the maximum flavour concentration.

Just make sure you rinse them well before you use them or they will be very salty. That also goes for the dark green kelp noodles too – I once made that mistake with a pack I bought at Wholefoods. It wasn’t pleasant.




Where to Buy Kelp Noodles

In the UK, you can order kelp noodles from Planet Organic who stock the Sea Tangle range. Click to check them out here. 

If you’re in the US, you can buy kelp noodles from Amazon. Click here to check prices and availability.


Who is The Wellness Nerd?

My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.

4 thoughts on “Are Kelp Noodles Healthy? We Check the Nutrients, Calories and Benefits”

  1. I note your £ comment. I worry that increasingly, seaweed is being used as added value when it is in fact a wild food. In the West it has been used for garden manure with only laver, carrageen and to some extent dulse being used in the kitchen. Unlike mushrooms, toxicity isn’t an issue; some seaweeds just don’t taste very nice. As an extension of The Forager’s Kitchen (coastal chapter has some seaweed recipes) I have just finished writing a book using easily identified British seaweeds. In essence it’s a cook’s guide to seaweed. It would be brilliant if seaweed could be seen as a wild ingredient, in much the same way that the bramble is, rather than packaged in artisan packs and sold in expensive food halls.

    Reply
    • Good point – and the seaweed trend is definitely set to continue. It’s being seen as a good way to reduce fat in foods as well (don’t ask me exactly why I’d need to do a bit more reading). Admittedly, this product didn’t look or taste like dark seaweed – it’s nowhere near as strong – but love the idea of your book.

      Reply
  2. you can change the texture to be less “popping” by rinsing well, placing in bowl with warm water to cover, add juice of one lemon and 2 tsp baking soda, mix well and massage the noodles a bit. Let them sit 10-15 minutes in this bath. Rinse well and proceed with your recipe.

    Reply

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