Bamboo Shoots: Their Evolution From grass To Health Food

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Bamboo usage is associated with mankind from times immemorial. They are plants of global interest because of their distinctive life form, ecological importance, and the wide range of uses and values they have for humans.Although, bamboo shoots possess lots of health beneficial traits, but their consumption isconfined to only certain parts of the world. They are now rising in popularity in the other parts of the country due to modern research accrediting various health benefits to bamboo shoots.Although the bamboo shoot used in tribal diet is a very old practise, yet the food potential of the bamboo shoot per se remains unexplored.

Literature on the food potential of bamboo shoots is scattered and has been realized in a reductionist manner.There is immense need to highlights the bamboo shoots as a food source, its nutritive and medicinal values,microbiological and economic importance of bamboo shoots with a holistic perspective.There is significant insight into the global scenario of bamboo shoot-based food products and their consumption pattern, the quality attributes, and the opportunities for value addition along with future prospects in view of international food safety, security and nutrition.They are popular in Asiatic countries and form a major component of their traditional cuisineand now it is slowly growing in demand from western countries.The bamboo plant, which is included in the grass family, is a hidden treasure of health. Bamboo has been addressed with different names because of their highly multipurpose properties. For example, Chinese called bamboos as “Friends of the people,” Vietnamese as “My brother,” and Indians as “Green Gold.” Bamboo shoots are a delicacy in Asia, and are available either fresh, fermented, dried or canned. One of the world's fastest growing plants, bamboo--usually grown without fertilizers, pesticides, or irrigation--is a sustainable food, a ranking many health and eco-conscious consumers appreciate. Since time immemorial, fermented bamboo shoots are being used by the people of North East Region of India in the preparation of various delicious dishes.This region with different ethnic communities and diverse cultures and religions is considered as a treasure house of bamboos contributing more than 66% of total bamboos resources available in India. Some of the traditional fermented bamboo shoot products likeSoidon, Soibum and Soijim in Manipur, Mesuin Sikkim, Rep in Mizoram, Lung-siej/Syrwa inMeghalaya are traditionally consumed. Though more popularly known for industrial usage, a lesser known fact of bamboos is the utilization of its juvenile shoots as food. Bamboo shoots are considered as one of the useful health foods because of their rich contents of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, fibres, and minerals and very low fat. Though bamboo shoot industry in Northeast India is blooming day by day mainly because of its rich genetic resources. However, habitat destruction and extensive use of bamboos for food, handicraft, and construction purposes have resulted in severe depletion of naturalbamboo resources in the region. Over twomillion tonnes of edible bamboo shoots are consumed in theworld every year.

Bamboo is one kind of vegetable for it being pollution free, low in fat, high in edible fibre and rich in mineral elements mainly potassium, calcium, manganese, zinc, chromium, copper, iron and lower amount of phosphorus and selenium but having a considerable proportion of poly unsaturated fatty acids, thus, indicating its potential as a source of great therapeutic value.  Presence of high quality vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B6 and vitamin E) carbohydrates, proteins and minerals in bamboo shoots and their easy availability to common man may also help in solving nutritional deficiency of rural poor.The presence of these vitamins and minerals improves the immune system. Juvenile bamboo shoots have long been used as food and in traditional medicine since ages, but scientific evidences of its health benefits have been highlighted recently. Nutritional profile of bamboo shoots reveals a number of health benefits. Bamboos are low in calories and high in fibre which aids in prevention of colon cancer and in controlling cholesterol level in blood. It is also a good source of potassium which is a heart healthy mineral. Shoots also contain various flavonoids, phenols and phenolic acids (phytochemicals) which are potent anti-oxidants and may have anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.The low calorie and low carbohydrate content make them a great addition to calorie-free, weight loss diet. Due to the negligible amount of fats and sugar, bamboo shoots have been said to decrease LDL levels of cholesterol, and that also makes it a diet for a healthy heart. Bamboo shoots are an excellent source of protein consisting of the entire essential and semi essential amino acids range for the body. Bamboo shoots are also beneficial in curing respiratory problems such as congestion, cough, and common cold. Due to the presence of phytosterols like chlorophyll, amylase and flavone, bamboo shoots have shown results in controlling mutation and decreasing the risk of cancer. Bamboo shoots possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which in healing wounds and ulcers faster. The juice of bamboo leaves corrects irregular menstrual cycle if taken regularly. Apart from that, they also help with other gynaecological problems such as heavy flow and cramps. Bamboo shoots are listed as an uterotonic plant that increases uterine contractions and they are used as a medicinal supplement for a pending delivery in the last month of pregnancy. Bamboo shoots cure digestive problems such as gastroenteritis and diarrhoea. In rare occasions, bamboo shoots have also been used as a remedy to remove intestinal worms. Due to the high level of potassium content in bamboo shoots, they are recommended for maintaining and reducing blood pressure. They are also known to reduce depression, anxiety and mental alertness. Unfortunately, the common man is not aware of their virtues as a food supplement and bamboos are mainly used for pulping for paper, fuel and fodder purposes. There is an urgent need to exploit the inherent values of bamboos which are rich in all the goodness of nature to be promoted as health foods.Bamboo is not just a poor men’s timber but regarded as delicacy of rich men. China and Taiwan are the leading countries for the export of bamboo shoots.

In recent years, evidences show immense potential of Bamboo as a medicinal plant which is used in various traditional systems like Ayurveda, Unani etc.Ancient ayurveda believes extracts of bamboo to have anti-venomous properties.Many bamboo spp. have been found to have therapeutic potential and are being used since time immemorial. The beneficial therapeutic effect of thesebamboo species have played a significant role in global health care systems. The leaves of Bambusa are used as a folk medicine for the treatment of cough, fever and leprosy. It was reported that the extract of B. arundinacea showed anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, antifertility, antimicrobial and hypoglycaemic activities. Bamboo leaves have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating fever and detoxification for over 1000 years. Flavonoid-rich bamboo leaf extract has multiple biological effects, such as anti-free radical, antioxidation, anti-aging, anti-fatigue, anti-bacterial, antiviral, and prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Hence bamboo can be used as a pharmaceutical intermediate, dietary supplement, cosmetic ingredient, and food additive.Moso bamboo leaves extract were studied in 50 diabetic rats which illustrated hypoglycemic effect.Oral administration of a hot-water extract (Folin) of bamboo grass (Sasaalbomarginata) significantly reduced the incidence of water immersion and restrained stress, ethanol induced and indomethacin induced gastric ulcers in rats.The extracts of Bambusaarundinacea have been used in Indian folk medicine to treat various inflammatory conditions. It is thought the property of anti-inflammatory in the same extractare very much useful in the treatment of inflammatory conditions.When the high cholesterol mice were treated with different concentrations of bamboo leaf extract, there was great reduction in the serum cholesterol.Phyllostachyspubescens leaves were observed to be protective against palmitic acid induced lipoapoptosis. The flavanoids rich bamboo significantly lower the blood triglycerides and cholesterol and elevated HDL cholesterol and reduced LDL- cholesterol in a dose dependant manner. The flavone Cglucosides (Orientin) from the leaves of Phyllostachysnigra was proved to be cardioprotective and inhibited apoptosis by blocking the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway.Aresearch study revealed that the medicinal effects of bamboo leaf extracts can be attributed to its antioxidant phytochemicals, such as phenolic compounds. The antioxidant activity studies on “Moso” (Phyllostachysedulis), which is harvested in China, showed significant inhibitory effects on superoxide radical, hydroxyl radical, DPPH radical, and ferrous metal-chelating capacities. The demand for processed and packaged bamboo shoots in the national and international markets is increasing as consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious and more discerning in their food choices.Being seasonal plants,with high demand throughout the year, especially in China, Japan, USA, Canada, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, Australia and India, there is a need to develop process technologies to preserve the bamboo shoots in consistent and imperishable forms to be used during the off-seasons. People consume fresh bamboo shoots in various forms. Bamboo shoot can be eaten fresh after boiling. The bamboo shoots are eaten with thick coconut milk, spices, with other vegetables in Indonesia, soft drink in China, and People of Philippines make local cuisine called labong from bamboo shoots, coconut milk, and chilieswith dry fish in Manipur, as snacks, fried food stuffs, and curries in Western Ghats of India, as a simple curry in Sikkim. In Singapore, people consume bamboo shoots in form of canned or frozen.It has been reported that there is a 95.1% decrease in the moisture content of dried bamboo shoots. High moisture content of bamboo shoots make themeasily perishable giving space for the growth of undesirable micro-organisms like bacteria, molds and yeasts. Canning has been observed to be effective in abating rancidity and preventing the growth of micro-organisms in bamboo shoots.Ethnic people living in sub Himalayan regions, Nepal and Bhutan prepare and consume a variety of domesticated and wild bamboo shoots and their fermented products.Energy, climate change, food security, and health care are the major challenges in present world. Bamboo grass, which can grow successfully on wasteland with minimal agronomical inputs, would help in meeting these challenges to a significant extent. Few studies reveal its richness in nutritive components like protein and fibre content and thus the bamboo shoot could be helpful in mitigating the problem of malnutrition.Besides, their delicious nature, nutrition value of bamboo shoots make them more popular in the present situation.

They have a vast potential to be developed as a novel, innovative and promising food industry in India. In very near future, Bamboo shoots are going to gain popularity as healthy and nutritionally supplemented edibles among the consumers. A thriving economy revolves around bamboo resource. Bamboo is well placed to address the food security through bamboo-based agro-forestry systems by maintaining the fertility of adjoining agricultural lands, and as a direct food source like edible bamboo shoots. Bamboo shoots hold the prospect of value added economic activities at industrial and society levels through cultivation, processing, packaging and commercialization. However, the preparation of various bamboo shoot-based food products is traditional, local, unorganized and based on the taste of the local people. There is no standardized process technology for preservation of the raw bamboo shoots into various food items in an organized manner. This calls for the development of appropriate technologies for preservation of bamboo shoots in various forms. In India, there is yet neither major approach for promotion of shoots nor is there well thought-out market or supply chain for the raw or processed bamboo shoots. Focus should be directed for following aspects for sustainable development of a bamboo shoot-based food industry.

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