Health Benefits of Bamboo

Grown throughout Asia, Africa, and the Americas, bamboo refers to any one of about 1,450 species in the Poaceae family. Most varieties of bamboo are incredibly hardy, and grow well in both tropical and cold, mountainous climates. They’re among the fastest growing plants in the world, capable of growing up to 60 centimeters in a single day.

Today, bamboo is used in a variety of ways, from building houses to making paper. But while bamboo has been a nutritional staple in Asian countries for centuries, Western nations are just beginning to realize the potential of bamboo as a healthy, nutrient-packed food.

Health Benefits

With so many vitamins and minerals packed into these sturdy shoots, it comes as no surprise that there are a number of health benefits to bamboo.

Lower Cholesterol

With high levels of fiber and very few calories per serving, bamboo shoots are a great way to lower your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. This, in turn, can reduce your risk of heart disease.

Stimulates Appetite

From digestive disorders to pregnancy-related nausea, there are plenty of reasons you might want to increase your appetite. It’s not just the mildly sweet taste and crunchy texture of bamboo that gets your stomach rumbling though. The high concentrations of cellulose in bamboo have been shown to stimulate the appetite, prevent constipation, and improve digestion.

Supports a Low-Carb Diet

Low-carbohydrate diets have been shown to help prevent or improve some medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Bamboo supports a low-carbohydrate diet by providing plenty of nutrients with very few carbohydrates. This can help people on low-carb diets get the vitamins and minerals they need.

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Nutrients per Serving

The exact nutrients per serving of bamboo depend on the species of bamboo you're eating. With so many species to choose from, there's no easy nutritional table to draw from. However, there is a generally accepted nutrient range per serving.

Half a cup of fresh bamboo slices contains approximately:

  • Calories: 20
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sugar: 2 grams
  • Sodium: 3 milligrams

Bamboo is also a good source of a number of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Thiamine
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin E

Fresh bamboo is almost always a better source of these nutrients than fermented or canned bamboo varieties. 

How to Prepare Bamboo

Many companies sell bamboo powder or pre-cooked bamboo to use in cooking. However, if you choose to buy fresh bamboo, it's important to know how to prepare it.

Fresh bamboo contains toxins that are poisonous to humans, so bamboo shouldn't be eaten raw. Instead, it needs to be cut and boiled in salted water before use. After you’ve boiled the bamboo shoots for at least 20 minutes, you can peel off the leaves and soak the tender inside part of the bamboo in water for 30 minutes. Now it's ready to be used in your meal or stored in the fridge for up to one week.

Once you begin using bamboo in your meals, you'll begin to understand its flavor and be able to work it into dishes you already know and love. Some delicious ways to start adding bamboo to your diet include:

  • Stir-frying with meat and vegetables.
  • Combining with pork and spices to fill dumplings.
  • Chopping finely to use as an ingredient for hot and sour coleslaw.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

American Bamboo Society: “What is Bamboo?”

Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: "Nutritional Properties of Bamboo Shoots: Potential and Prospects for Utilization as a Health Food."

Mayo Clinic: "Low-Carb Diet: Can It Help You Lose Weight?"

McDaniel, Important Plants in Chinese Culture: "Bamboo."

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Centre for Food Safety: “Naturally Occurring Toxins in Vegetables and Fruits.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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