Bamboo may be a ‘new health food’, says review

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Young bamboo shoots are a rich source of nutrients which may offer health benefits including antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, according to a new review suggesting bamboo use ‘as a new health food’.

The review, published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety​ explores the use of bamboo as a potential health food, emphasizing the health benefits of bamboo shoots and their potential for utilization as a health food.

The authors, led by researchers from Panjab University in India, noted that although bamboo is well known for its industrial uses, lesser known is the use of young bamboo shoots as a food. They explained that that the increasing number of health consciousness consumers has stimulated growth in ingredients for functional foods, adding that “bamboo shoots can be one of them.”

“The juvenile shoots are not only delicious but are rich in nutrient components, mainly proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, and fibre and are low in fat and sugar,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Nirmala Chongtham, Professor in the department of botany at Panjab University.

“In addition, they contain phytosterols and a high amount of fibre that can be labelled as nutraceuticals […] that are attracting the attention of health advocates and scientists alike,”​ they added

Market data

Though more popularly known for industrial usage, a lesser known fact of bamboos is the utilization of its juvenile shoots as food.

A traditional forest vegetable in China for more than 2500 years, bamboo shoots are rich in nutrients and rank among the 5 most popular health foods in the world.

The authors explained that whilst the popularity of Chinese restaurants worldwide gives an opportunity for people in many countries to taste this bamboo vegetable, the consumption of bamboo shoots is mainly concentrated in Southeast Asia.

Worldwide, more than 2 million tons of bamboo shoots are consumed annually of which about 1.3 million tons are produced in China alone.

Health benefits

Prof. Chongtham and colleagues explained that modern research has suggested that the nutrient rich young bamboo shoots have a number of health benefits, “from cancer prevention and weight loss to lowering cholesterol level, improving appetite and digestion.”

The shoots are also reported to have antibacterial and antiviral activity, in addition to a high antioxidant capacity – due to the presence of phenolic compounds.

“The shoots also contain anti-carcinogenic agents, and making them a regular part of a diet effectively reduces the free radicals that can produce harmful carcinogens,”​ added the reviewers.

“Furthermore, bamboo-derived pyrolysates have been proposed to have antimicrobial and antifungal activities and to protect neurons from oxidative stress,”​ they said.

Nutritional value

Chongtham noted that bamboo shoots are low in calories, high in dietary fibre, and rich in nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, amino acids, minerals, fat, sugar, fibre, and inorganic salts.

“The shoots have a good profile of minerals, consisting mainly of potassium, calcium, manganese, zinc, chromium, copper, iron, plus lower amounts of phosphorus, and selenium,”​ said the reviewers.

Fresh shoots have also been shown to be a good source of thiamine, niacin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin E; and are known to contain 17 different amino acids, eight of which are essential for the human body, said the reviewers.

Source: Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety

Volume 10, Issue 3​, Pages 153–168, doi: 10.1111/j.1541-4337.2011.00147.x

“Nutritional Properties of Bamboo Shoots: Potential and Prospects for Utilization as a Health Food”

Authors: N. Chongtham, M. Singh Bisht, S. Haorongbam

Related topics Research

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