When it comes to natural health remedies, some ingredients tend to fall into the preventive category, making them an easy choice to add to your everyday diet. Bamboo is definitely one of those types of ingredients. While bamboo may still be on the newer side of things here in Western herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine has long known of the many health benefits of bamboo. Its usage as a medical remedy can be traced back to ancient Chinese times. In fact, the Chinese have uses for every part of the bamboo plant. However, here, we’ll focus on a more popular aspect of the bamboo - the shoot.
While it does wonders for adding an Asian-inspired low calorie ingredient to your meals, there are also a number of health benefits to these nutritious stalks. First, they are low in fat and calories. One cup of half-inch long slices contains just fourteen calories and half a gram of fat while at the same time providing 18% of your RDI for potassium, which is essential for heart health. The potassium content may indicate another health benefit - lowering blood pressure.
Bamboo for the Digestive System
The shoots are also a good source of fiber. One cup provides about 10% of the recommended amount of fiber needed in a day. Bamboo fiber consists of more than 90% water insoluble fiber that cannot be broken down by the human body, so it bulks in the stomach, removes undesired metabolic by-products, and shortens intestinal transit time. Jon Barron was one of the first people in the world to use concentrated bamboo fiber as a dietary ingredient when he incorporated it into his Private Reserve Superfood some ten years ago. Since then, it has become much more common in other foods thanks to its ability to improve viscosity when liquids are added and provide better consistency and density, not to mention its anti-caking effects. The shoots are useful in helping treat stomach disorders, and studies have shown that consuming bamboo shoots may offer relief in constipation symptoms in healthy women.
Bamboo as an Antioxidant, Antimicrobial, Antifungal and Anti-Inflammatory
Beyond the basic nutrients, researchers have found that bamboo also contains antioxidants which help fight against cancer. An article published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety pointed out that bamboo shoots "contain anti-carcinogenic agents" and that "bamboo-derived pyrolysates have been proposed to have antimicrobial and antifungal activities and to protect neurons from oxidative stress." In addition, bamboo has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Bamboo for Heart Health
The stalks can also improve cholesterol levels. In a study published in Nutrition, women who consumed bamboo shoots for six days experienced an average reduction of 16.1 mg/dl in their LDL level (the "bad" cholesterol) when compared to controls that didn't consume them. Since, as we’ve already discussed, the stalks are a good source of fiber and fiber is known to help keep cholesterol levels in check, this may not be a complete surprise.
Bamboo for Wounds & Sores
Other research has shown that bamboo shoots have pain-killing properties. They may also be an effective cure for poison. In Ayurvedic medicine, bamboo extracts are believed to be anti-venomous and are used to help treat snake and scorpion bites—effectively drawing the poison out of the bite. They are also used for cleaning wounds and sores.
Bamboo as an Immune Booster
The shoots have also been shown to have some positive effects on the immune system and strengthening the body from within. This is mainly due to the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in bamboo.
How to Use Bamboo
As you can see, there are many reasons why you’d want to consider adding bamboo to your diet, beyond its use in Jon’s Superfood Formula. You can find it fresh seasonally or in canned form in grocery stores or Asian markets when not in season. The shoots make a delicious ingredient in soups, stews, stir-fries, curries and even salads.