Bamboo shoots are a common ingredient in Asian cuisine. Not only are they great for boosting the flavor and texture of nearly any dish, but they are also highly nutritious, packing a good amount of fiber, potassium, manganese and antioxidants into each serving.
They are also low in carbs, making them a great choice for those following a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Plus, they may even offer several health benefits, ranging from reduced blood pressure to improved regularity and digestive health.
This article takes a closer look at the bamboo shoot, along with some simple strategies that you can use to add it to your diet.
What Are Bamboo Shoots?
Bamboo shoots are the edible shoots of several different types of bamboo plant species, including common bamboo and moso bamboo. Although often confused for bamboo trees due to their height, these plants are actually considered grasses.
Other parts of bamboo grass are also sometimes used in cooking, including bamboo leaves.
Available fresh, dried or even canned, bamboo shoots are used throughout Asian cuisine and featured in stir-fries, salads, curries and side dishes. Bamboo shoots in Chinese food are also often used to add texture to soups and stews.
There are plenty of options for where to buy bamboo shoots, including many health stores and specialty shops. Canned bamboo shoots are more widely available and can even be purchased through some online retailers.
Bamboo shoots are highly nutritious. Besides containing a low amount of bamboo shoots carbs and calories in each serving, they are also high in fiber, potassium and manganese.
One cup (about 120 grams) of cooked bamboo shoots contains the following nutrients:
- 13 calories
- 2 grams carbohydrates
- 2 grams protein
- 0.3 grams fat
- 1.2 grams dietary fiber
- 640 milligrams potassium (18 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams manganese (7 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams copper (5 percent DV)
- 0.6 milligrams zinc (4 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams riboflavin (4 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, the bamboo shoots nutrition profile also contains a small amount of iron, phosphorus, thiamine and niacin.
Rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, there are plenty of reasons you may want to consider incorporating this nutritious ingredient into your diet. Here are a few of the top bamboo uses and benefits.
1. Promote Weight Loss
With just 13 calories in a single cup, bamboo shoots are a great choice if you’re looking to lose weight. Not only are they low in calories, but they’re also high in fiber, a key nutrient that can also support weight loss.
Fiber moves through the body slowly, which can promote satiety between meals to curb cravings. Some research also suggests that upping your intake of fiber could increase weight loss.
For example, a study in the Journal of Nutrition analyzed the diets of 252 women and found that each gram of fiber consumed was linked to half a pound of weight loss and a 0.25 percent percent reduction in body fat over a 20-month period. Another study published in 2019 reported that fiber was effective at promoting weight loss, regardless of calorie consumption or macronutrient intake.
2. Support Digestive Health
In addition to promoting weight loss, the fiber found in the bamboo shoot can help support digestive health as well. In particular, fiber can add bulk to the stool, which can be especially beneficial for those with constipation.
One meta-analysis out of China, for instance, compiled the results of five studies and concluded that eating more fiber was able to increase stool frequency in people with constipation. Another study from Washington State University also showed that consuming bamboo shoots daily for six days improved fecal volume and stool frequency.
Eating more fiber may also improve several other aspects of digestive health as well. In fact, a review conducted by the University of Kentucky demonstrated that fiber can aid in the prevention and treatment of several digestive issues, including acid reflux, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis and stomach ulcers.
3. May Help Lower Blood Pressure
Just one cup of bamboo shoots provides around 18 percent of the recommended daily value for potassium, an important micronutrient that plays a key role in heart health. Research shows that potassium may be especially beneficial for managing blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Increasing your intake of fiber by eating more bamboo shoots may also help lower blood pressure levels. According to one analysis in the Archives of Internal Medicine, supplementing with fiber was effective at significantly reducing levels of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
4. High in Antioxidants
The bamboo shoot is a great source of antioxidants, which are important compounds that can neutralize free radicals to prevent cell damage. In particular, the bamboo shoot is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids such as catechin, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid and p-coumaric acid.
Not only can antioxidants help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, but some research suggests that they could protect against chronic disease as well. In fact, antioxidants may aid in the prevention of conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
5. Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Thanks to their content of fiber and antioxidants, adding bamboo shoots to your diet could potentially help decrease cholesterol levels. In one small study, consuming 12.5 ounces of bamboo shoots for six days led to significant reductions in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels compared to a control group.
Other research has confirmed the cholesterol-lowering effects of fiber as well. Soluble fiber, specifically, has been shown to decrease levels of both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol to support better heart health.
How to Grow Bamboo Shoots
Bamboo is a grass that is easy to grow for novice gardeners and green thumbs alike. Although there are many different types of bamboos that grow edible shoots, some may be more palatable than others.
Moso and Sweetshoot bamboo are two of the most popular varieties grown and harvested for their edible shoots, but there are plenty of other types available as well.
Be sure to plant in rich soil that is sunny or partially shaded. Similar to other types of grass, bamboo grows best with plenty of moisture, so water regularly whenever the top inch of soil becomes dry.
However, it’s important to avoid over-watering, especially if you have poor drainage, as it can make the roots soggy and waterlogged.
You can opt to use an organic fertilizer, which could help the plant produce more shoots. However, if planted in fertile soil, there’s no need to use a fertilizer.
Bamboo shoots generally emerge during early spring and can be harvested soon after they emerge from the ground. Use a spade to cut several inches below the soil level and separate shoots from the roots.
Ideally, you should only harvest around half of shoots each year so new canes can continue to grow.
There are plenty of options for how to cook bamboo shoots when fresh.
Start by cutting the shoot lengthwise, peeling the outer leaves and trimming any tough portions at the base. Then, dice into cubes and boil for at least 20–25 minutes to remove any harmful compounds.
Canned, fresh or dried shoots can be used in a variety of recipes and make a great addition to curries, stews, soups and salads. Here are a few bamboo shoots recipe ideas to help get you started:
- Simmered Bamboo Shoots
- Menma Recipe
- Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
- Bamboo Shoots with Dill Dressing
- Chicken Red Curry with Bamboo Shoots
Risks and Side Effects
Raw bamboo shoots contain toxins known as cyanogenic glycosides, which are also found in other foods, such as cassava. For this reason, the bamboo shoot must be boiled or cooked prior to consumption, which helps destroy the toxins.
Other processing methods, including canning, can break down these harmful compounds as well.
Although rare, some may also be allergic to bamboo shoots. Those who have an allergy to grass pollen, in particular, may be at a higher risk for allergic reactions.
If you notice any side effects like rash, itching or swelling, discontinue consumption immediately and talk to your doctor.
Finally, note that some canned varieties may be high in sodium. If you’re following a low-sodium diet, opt for low-sodium products whenever possible or rinse the shoots off prior to consumption.
- The bamboo shoot is the edible shoots of several different species of bamboo.
- Available in canned, dried and fresh form, the bamboo shoots nutrition profile is low in carbs and calories but high in fiber, antioxidants and potassium.
- Some of the potential bamboo shoots benefits include increased weight loss, decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels and enhanced digestive health.
- Bamboo plants are also easy to grow and can be used in a variety of recipes.
- However, some people may experience an allergic reaction after consumption, especially if allergic to grass pollen. Additionally, it’s important to cook raw plants thoroughly to decrease levels of cyanogenic glycosides.
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