At the time of closing on the purchase of my first home, I was reminded by my real estate agent that the previous owners had planted bamboo along the backyard fence. My agent was a motherly figure, whose commission was moments away, selflessly paused and reminded me of the work involved in controlling the bamboo I was about to acquire.
Confidently, I reassured her that I did my homework and had thoroughly researched bamboo, weighing its pros and cons. I signed along the dotted line, purchased the home and everything that came with it.
For the past 7 years, I have taken advantage of all the things I listed that favored owning a home with bamboo in the yard. Fencing, fishing rods, kindling for the fireplace, shot glasses, a pole that hangs strands of Christmas lights up atop trees in my front yard, even a flute (well, more like a whistle) was produced from the bamboo in my yard. But at the top of my list – the thing which I enjoy most – is eating the bamboo that grows in my backyard.
How to Eat Bamboo
Only the shoots of bamboo are edible. The shoot is the part of the bamboo pole early in its growth. Shoots are harvested about 2 weeks after they appear from the ground’s surface or just under 1 foot tall.
If you weren’t lucky enough to buy a house that already had bamboo growing in the backyard, you can easily search online for or drive to your local Asian food, select farmer’s or specialty food markets to purchase fresh bamboo shoots. Prices range from $2 to $5 per pound1.
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After obtaining the shoots, the next step would be preparation. The shoot has a tightly packed outer husk, similar to an ear of corn, that needs to be removed. Inside lies a tender core that needs to be boiled. Raw shoots are difficult to digest and have a bitter taste. Boiling for 20-30 minutes in an uncovered pot is sufficient to remove the bitterness while remaining crunchy2.
Reasons Why You Should Eat Bamboo Shoots
1. Low in Calories
One cup of bamboo shoots contains about 13 calories and half a gram of fat. They are low in sugar and hold 2 grams of protein per serving2,3. So, don’t feel bad if you get seconds or thirds.
2. High in Dietary Fiber
A serving of bamboo shoots provides about 10% of your daily requirements of dietary fiber, which has been shown to lower cholesterol2,3. Dietary fiber also aids digestion and enhances satiety or the sensation of feeling full.
So if you’re looking to lose weight, eating bamboo could help.
3. Excellent source of Potassium
Bamboo has 640 milligrams of potassium per serving, an important mineral that studies suggest may help to lower blood pressure. A well-studied diet utilizing natural sources of potassium called the DASH diet, lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by several points4.
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4. Good source of Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals are natural substances that are found in plants. In particular, bamboo shoots contain lignans which may fight cancer, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Phenolic acids are also found in bamboo shoots which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This phytochemical is also believed to prevent cancer and reduce the risk of hardening of the arteries5,6.
So, if you’re interested in adding a new vegetable to your diet, consider bamboo shoots. This superfood is low in calories, high in fiber, an excellent source of potassium, and a good source of phytochemicals. You will satisfy your taste buds and improve your health in the process. And, well, if it’s good enough for pandas….
M.A. Caromano, M.S., PA-C works currently as a physician assistant practicing internal medicine in Brigantine, NJ. He is also employed as adjunct professor teaching anatomy and physiology at a community college in Atlantic County, NJ. His background also includes bachelor’s degrees in Exercise Science and Health Sciences.
1. Bamboo Farming USA; Bamboo Shoots
2. Washington State University; Bamboo Shoots
3. Self Nutrition Data; Bamboo Shoots
4. American Heart Association; Potassium and High Blood Pressure
5. Cancer.org; Phytochemicals
6. American Heart Association; Phytochemicals and Cardiovascular Disease
Photo by Pjan Vandaele