Bamboo Shoots May Be New Health Food
Perhaps your only exposure to bamboo shoots has been as part of a Chinese entrée. But according to researchers from Panjab University in India, young bamboo shoots may be a new health food for a growing number of health conscious consumers.
Bamboo shoots may have anticancer qualities
According to a review published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, young bamboo shoots “are rich in nutrient components, mainly proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, and fibre and are low in fat and sugar.” Specifically, the authors noted that fresh shoots are a good source of thiamine, niacin, vitamins A, B6, and E, potassium, calcium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, and chromium, and contain 17 different amino acids, eight of which are essential for human health.
Another component in bamboo shoots are phytosterols, phytonutrients that are similar to cholesterol yet have been shown to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestinal tract and help lower “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
Bamboo, which is among the fastest growing plants in the world, is mainly recognized for its industrial uses, including building construction and furniture. The young shoots, however, have been consumed as food in China for more than 2,500 years, where the majority of bamboo shoots are still enjoyed today.
The reviewers, who were led by Nirmala Chongtham, professor in the department of botany at Panjab University, noted that research suggests bamboo shoots possess several health benefits, “from cancer prevention and weight loss to lowering cholesterol level, improving appetite and digestion.”
Other benefits credited to bamboo shoots include antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, which are attributed to the presence of phenolic (phenols) compounds. The reviewers added that the shoots “also contain anti-carcinogenic agents,” and that “bamboo-derived pyrolysates have been proposed to have antimicrobial and antifungal activities and to protect neurons from oxidative stress.”
The growing trend of health consciousness among consumers has sparked an increase in the number of functional foods. The reviewers suggest bamboo shoots can be counted among them. Currently bamboo fiber is added to many foods, including bakery items, sauces, cookies, pastas, snacks, breakfast cereals, and other food products.
Chongtham N et al. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 2011; 10(3): 153-68