Bamboo is one of the most versatile and sustainable plants grown today. When you think of bamboo, you might think of bamboo cutlery, flooring, or any one of the products that commonly use bamboo, but what you probably aren’t thinking of is food. Bamboo is delicious food that is eaten in many Asian countries and considered a delicacy.
But what are the health benefits of bamboo shoots? As well as being delicious, bamboo shoots are nutrient dense and have many properties that help improve your overall health, aid in weight loss, help improve digestion, lower cholesterol, and help prevent cancer.
The benefits of adding bamboo to your diet might sound too good to be true, but nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading to learn about all the ways bamboo shoots are great for your health, the common ailments they can help prevent, and how to introduce them into your regular diet.
What are bamboo shoots?
Bamboo is the largest member of the grass family and the fastest growing plant in the world. After the bamboo plant reaches maturity, usually between 5 and 7 years after it is planted, the plant begins to send shoots up by the base of its stem.
These are bamboo shoots. They are sometimes called bamboo sprouts. Bamboo shoots are similar in some ways to asparagus. They have a tight-knit layer of tough outer leaves, but beneath these leaves is a tender white heart. This is the part of the plant commonly used in cooking.
Bamboo shoots have been used for cooking as well as medicinal uses for centuries in many Asian countries like China, Japan, Taiwan, and some parts of India and South-East Asia. In many areas, bamboo shoots are considered a seasonal delicacy as they are only available during certain seasons.
Bamboo shoots have a unique taste on their own, but they are often compared to an artichoke. They are mild in flavor, but they can shine on their own or pair with a flavorful sauce.
Bamboo shoots can be cooked from fresh or frozen, but they are typically easier to find canned or pickled in the United States. Sometimes you can also find them precooked and vacuum sealed. These bamboo shoots have already been prepared, and they are ready to use in any recipe.
You can find canned bamboo shoots in most grocery stores. Look in the international section in the same area where you would find rice noodles or in the section with canned vegetables. For other varieties, you may need to check with a specialty store.
Fresh bamboo shoots are far more flavorful than the canned types, but unless you live near a bamboo farm, you’ll have a hard time finding them. Check with your local Asian specialty store as they may have them or know how to source them in your area.
The health benefits of bamboo shoots
The nutritional benefits of bamboo shoots are vast. They are a great low calorie, high fiber, and high protein vegetable packed with vitamins and minerals. The information below refers to the amount of nutrition available in 1 cup of bamboo shoots that have been cut into ½ inch pieces. This is a reasonable serving size if you are trying to boost your nutrition.
Nutritional facts for 1 cup of bamboo shoots (151 g):
|Total Carbohydrate||7.9 g|
|Dietary Fiber||3.3 g|
|Total Fat||.5 g|
|Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids||30 mg|
|Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids||172 mg|
1. Bamboo shoots can help with weight loss
Adding bamboo shoots into your diet can help you lose weight. With only 41 calories per cup, they are considered a very low-calorie vegetable. Bamboo shoots can add bulk to a meal without adding a substantial number of calories. This can make you feel fuller without giving you extra calories.
2. Bamboo shoots can improve your digestion
The amount of fiber in bamboo shoots may not seem much, but it has a similar amount of fiber per gram and fiber per calorie as an apple, which is significant. Most people do not have enough fiber in the diet, and bamboo shoots can help with this.
Fiber is well known for having a positive effect on the health of those who get enough of it. Getting enough fiber is truly one of the best things you can do for your health.
Fiber helps with digestion by normalizing bowel movements, lowers the risk of colon cancer and diverticular disease, helps lower cholesterol, helps control blood sugar, and helps you maintain a healthy weight by providing a sense of fullness.
By increasing your fiber intake with bamboo, you are sure to see improvements in your digestion.
3. Bamboo shoots have heart-healthy Omega-3s
Bamboo shoots do not have a whole lot of fat, but the fat that is there is beneficial.
The main benefit of the fat in bamboo shoots is that it offers omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these fatty acids are essential to have in a well-balanced diet as the human body cannot produce them on its own.
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important as they are linked to improved cardiovascular health because they can lower triglycerides, or fat, in the blood.
Most people consume more than enough omega-6 fatty acids, but our omega-3s are sorely lacking. It is recommended that we eat at least 250 mg per day. The 30 mg in bamboo shoots would get you on your way!
4. Bamboo shoots can help you meet your protein goals
Even though a cup of bamboo shoots only has 3.9 grams of protein, bamboo shoots are actually considered a high protein food. This is because you have to take into account that those 3.9 grams of protein come from very few calories.
To put it simply, 100 calories of bamboo shoots will have 10 grams of protein which is more protein per calorie than black beans, broccoli, and eggs. It doesn’t quite hit the same numbers as egg whites and chicken breast, but it is one of the best plant-based options if you want to increase your protein intake without increasing your calories or cholesterol.
Grams of protein per calorie of high protein foods:
|High protein food||Approx. protein per calorie|
|Egg whites||0.21 g|
|Chicken breast||0.18 g|
|Bamboo shoots||0.10 g|
|Black beans||0.07 g|
5. Bamboo shoots are packed with vitamins and minerals to support your overall health and longevity
The macronutrients in bamboo shoots make it a great choice for everyday eating, but the micronutrient profile of bamboo shoots is just as good.
Vitamins and minerals are essential to keep our bodies functioning properly. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause an array of problems including fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, hair loss, and many other issues.
Bamboo shoots contain a number of very important vitamins and will get you on your way to meeting your daily requirements.
The number of vitamins in 1 cup of bamboo shoots:
|Vitamin A||1.5 micrograms||0%|
|Vitamin C||6 mg||7%|
|Thiamin (B1)||0.2 mg||19%|
|Riboflavin (B2)||0.1 mg||8%|
|Niacin (B3)||0.9 mg||6%|
|Vitamin B5||0.2 mg||5%|
|Vitamin B6||0.4 mg||21%|
|Folate (B9)||7 micrograms||3%|
|Beta Carotene||18.1 micrograms||—|
|Vitamin E||2.5 mg||10%|
You’ve probably heard of how vitamin C can help prevent you from catching a cold, but vitamin C has many health benefits. Vitamin C has been shown to help boost the immune system and prenatal health, and it helps prevent cardiovascular disease, eye problems, cancer, and stroke.
The 6 mg of vitamin C in bamboo shoots will provide 7% of your recommended amount. This will give you a good start to meeting your daily vitamin C intake.
Bamboo shoots also offer a variety of B vitamins. B vitamins are extremely important to your daily health as they directly impact your brain function and energy levels.
For example, vitamin B6 is associated with a lower risk of cancer, helps prevent heart disease, and can even help with morning sickness.
Folate, or vitamin B9, is also thought to reduce the risk of cancer, helps prevent heart disease, and it is essential during periods of rapid growth like in childhood or pregnancy.
Vitamin E also offers a whole lot of health benefits, and one cup of bamboo offers 10% of your daily recommended intake. Vitamin E is used to help prevent cardiovascular disease, treating diabetes and its complications, preventing cancer, and helping with diseases of the brain or nervous system.
The amount of minerals in bamboo shoots:
Bamboo shoots offer a number of health benefits through the vitamins present in them, but they also offer a variety of health benefits through the variety of minerals they contain.
For example, bamboo shoots are a good source of zinc. One cup of bamboo shoots contains a similar amount of zinc as 100 grams of lentils or an ounce of nuts. This is especially significant if you are a vegetarian or vegan as meat is the primary source of zinc in most people’s diets.
Small amounts of zinc are an important part of the human diet. We do not store the excess amount of zinc, so a little must be consumed every day to maintain health. Zinc is most well known for its ability to boost the immune system, and it is in fact essential to a properly functioning immune system.
The 0.3 mg of copper in bamboo shoots cover 32% of your daily copper needs. Copper helps with the absorption of iron as well as the creation of red blood cells. A copper deficiency can lead to frequent illness, memory problems, fatigue, and brittle bones.
Bamboo shoots are also a good source of potassium. A cup of bamboo shoots has twice the amount of potassium as a banana. Potassium is another essential mineral that helps prevent cardiovascular disease. It is also essential for healthy bones and building muscle strength.
Medicinal uses of bamboo shoots
The first mention of bamboo being used for medicinal purposes appeared in the 6th century, and it has been used since for a variety of medicinal purposes. All parts of bamboo have been used to create a remedy for various health issues including the culm, shoots, and leaves.
Traditional uses of bamboo include helping cure respiratory diseases, inducing labor in the final weeks of pregnancy, cleaning wounds and sores, treating gallbladder problems, and curing ulcers.
More recent research supports many of these uses. When it comes to bamboo shoots, in particular, research suggests that bamboo shoots have the ability to help prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, and improve gut microbiome.
6. Bamboo shoots lower cholesterol
Bamboo shoots can actually help solve a health problem that over 102 million American face – high cholesterol.
This is because a single cup of bamboo contains 28.69 mg off phytosterols, which is a significant amount. It is almost as much as olive oil, but with far fewer calories, less fat, and more fiber. Bamboo shoots are considered a good source, and a healthy source of phytosterols.
But how do these phytosterols help lower cholesterol? Recent research supports the idea that phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, help lower cholesterol.
Here is how it works. Phytosterols are chemical compounds found in the membranes of plants, and they look a lot like the cholesterol found in the human body.
Because phytosterols look similar to cholesterol, they compete for absorption with cholesterol. The result is that less cholesterol is absorbed by the body because phytosterols are being absorbed in its place.
Including bamboo shoots into your diet will help lower your cholesterol in an optimally healthy and natural way.
7. Bamboo shoots help prevent cancer
Those phytosterols don’t just help lower cholesterol, however. Research suggests that phytosterols can also help prevent cancer of the lung, stomach, ovaries, and estrogen-dependent breast cancer.
In addition to helping prevent these types of cancer, phytosterols also help inhibit cancer cell growth and promote apoptosis in cancer cells.
The phytosterols in bamboo paired with cancer-preventing fiber, vitamins, and minerals, makes bamboo a great food for helping prevent many different types of cancer.
8. Bamboo shoots can help balance the bacteria in your gut and prevent obesity
However, research suggests that bamboo shoots can help prevent obesity caused by a high-fat diet by helping to modulate gut bacteria and boosting metabolism. Research on how the gut microbiome is still in its infancy, but so far, it seems that bamboo shoots can play an important role in increasing the health of your gut.
A note on bamboo remedies and decoctions
The bamboo shoots are not the only part of the bamboo plant that can be used for medicinal purposes. In fact, it is much more common to see the leaves of the bamboo plant used for remedies than it is to see bamboo shoots used for the same purposes.
Decoctions made from the leaves of bamboo have been known to help respiratory disease and help induce labor when past due the due date.
In my research, I have found many who suggest that bamboo shoots can be used for the same medicinal purposes, but this is not the case.
The confusion comes from the fact that the shoots of bamboo leaves are used for some of these remedies, but they are not referring to the bamboo shoots that we know, eat, and love.
A decoction should never be made from bamboo shoots because uncooked bamboo shoots contain a high level of a cyanogenic glycoside which is called taxiphyllin. This chemical can lead to cyanide poisoning.
Before eating bamboo shoots, they must be properly prepared. Processing the fresh bamboo shoots through boiling removes 97% of the poisonous chemicals by leaching these chemicals into the water.
A decoction of bamboo shoots would be made from this water that is now laced with cyanogenic glycosides. You definitely don’t want to put that water into your body. It won’t cure anything, and it would likely lead to cyanide poisoning.
How to prepare bamboo shoots
Bamboo shoots can be prepared in a variety of different ways. Their mild flavor can fit easily into many different styles of cuisine, and they are generally easy to work with.
Bamboo shoots can be fermented, boiled, put into a soup, or tossed into a stir fry. Below you will find several methods of preparing bamboo shoots so that you can add this beneficial food into your diet.
Selecting, preparing, and storing fresh bamboo shoots
Finding fresh bamboo shoots in the United States can be very difficult, but not impossible. Maybe you are even growing your own bamboo plants that have edible shoots. When selecting fresh bamboo shoots, you’ll want to pick out one that is short with a wide base and heavy for its size. Avoid any bamboo shoots that are soft, moldy, or smell off.
Unpeeled fresh bamboo shoots can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and peeled fresh bamboo shoots will last 1-2 days.
Fresh bamboo shoots contain the chemical taxiphyllin which can cause cyanide poisoning if the shoot is not properly prepared beforehand. The best way to remove the taxiphyllin from the bamboo is to boil them. Fermentation can also be used, but it is not as effective.
Here is how you prepare fresh bamboo shoots:
- Fill a pot with water and put it on your stove to boil.
- Cut off the tip of the bamboo shoot and the part of the bottom that seems hard.
- Peel the bamboo shoot by slicing it down the middle deep enough to cut through the tough exterior, but not through the heart of the shoot, and then peel away the tough exterior.
- Slice the bamboo shoot into the desired sized pieces or leave whole.
- Put the cut bamboo shoots into the pot of boiling water.
- Turn the stovetop down so that the water is at a medium boil. Boil the bamboo shoots for about an hour.
- If any piece of the tough outer layer remains, it should easily peel off now.
At this point, the bamboo shoot is properly cooked and perfectly safe to eat! You can add it to stir-fries, soups, or any other dish.
If you purchased canned or precooked bamboo shoots, you do not need to worry about doing any of this because the canning and precooking processes involved boiling the bamboo shoots.
5 Healthy & yummy recipes with bamboo shoots
Bamboo shoots are especially important to a vegetarian or vegan diet because they are a good source of plant-based protein as well as a good source of zinc. This Bamboo Shoot, Mushroom, and Long Bean Stir-Fry is a vegan dish that brings together delicious Asian flavors with a hint of spice.
If you frequently make Asian inspired dishes, you probably have the ingredients for this dish in your kitchen already, or you will have an appropriate substitute. If you don’t have the fancier Oyster mushrooms for example, you can substitute for any type of mushroom without an issue.
The directions are exceedingly simple. If you’ve ever made a stir-fry before, you can make this dish.
This recipe is especially nice because it is not heavily sauced. The vegetables are allowed to shine with only soy sauce and sesame oil providing extra flavoring. Each serving is only 92 calories, so there is no need to feel guilty about loading up your bowl and enjoying this dish.
You can add tofu to make this dish heartier and serve with rice for a balanced and filling meal.
Hot and Sour Chicken Soup
This Hot and Sour Chicken Soup uses simple ingredients for big flavor including creamy coconut milk and robust shiitake mushrooms.
This soup isn’t vegetarian, but it could easily be adapted if you’re looking for a vegetarian option. To adapt it, simply swap the chicken broth with vegetable broth, chicken with tofu, and forgo the fish sauce. It is an easy recipe to alter in order to fit your needs.
This rich and creamy soup only has 147 calories per cup, and it is surely satisfying. It is the perfect meal for a cold autumn or winter day.
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall Hotpot
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall Hotpot is a high protein hot pot full of spice and bold flavors. It is a traditional Fujian dish altered slightly to make the ingredient list more accessible to North Americans. Some of the protein in this hot pot includes beef, fish, prawns, tofu, scallops, and squid. A meat lover’s delight!
Despite the large number of ingredients in this hearty dish, the directions are easy to follow and don’t involve much more work than a typical stir-fry. If you are looking for a filling protein-packed meal that incorporates bamboo shoots, this would be a great one to try.
Slender Bamboo Shoots with Ground Pork
This recipe pulls together a few simple ingredients to create a delicious and flavorful meal. This dish is special because the bamboo shoots really take center stage.
The primary ingredient is bamboo shoots which are flavored using red chili, sherry, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The bamboo shoots are irreplaceable in this recipe, but if you can’t access ground pork or don’t like it, it can be substituted with any sort of ground meat or crumbled plant-based option.
This is the dish for you if you’re looking for a simple recipe that allows you to begin to work with the flavors of bamboo.
Clear Soup with Bamboo and Tofu
Soup is the best. You throw together some broth, veggies, and protein, and let it cook, and you’ve got a meal. This Clear Soup with Bamboo and Tofu is no different.
The best thing about this soup is that it is very easy to customize. If tofu isn’t your thing, you can swap it out for chicken breast or even strips of pork.
The broth is a bonito dashi, a fish-based broth, which adds a distinctively Asian flavor to the soup. If you cannot find bonito dashi or do not enjoy it, you can substitute any of your favorite broths.
To turn this soup into a filling meal that needs no accompaniments, you can add udon noodles or soba noodles and some thinly sliced snow peas. This will turn this clear soup appetizer into a filling and hearty meal.