Whether you are a fitness freak looking for an energy-boosting pre-workout/post-workout food rich in vitamins and minerals, or an inherently petite person aiming to gain some body weight but in a healthy manner, Sabudana is the ultimate solution. Wondering how these tiny, white, spherical balls – sabudana, being very high on starch content, can actually work as a healthy wholesome food option in regular diet? Well, while sabudana is primarily renowned for being a calorie-dense food with ample carbohydrates, it also contains vital essential nutrients including fibers, proteins, calcium, for promoting digestion, building powerful muscles, strengthening bones and joints.
Commonly called tapioca pearls in English, as they are the small, desiccated, translucent white balls of tapioca, extracted from the roots of the cassava plant, sabudana or Indian sago is packed with calories and carbohydrates – simple sugars and starch. Not surprisingly then, it is a staple food eaten widely in India, in the form of a khichdi, thalipeeth, dosa, vada and even a sweet kheer, to break a prolonged fasting period. Moreover, a porridge made from sabudana is often fed to babies 1 year of age and older, to aid in their physical development and ensure the optimal height, weight, growth of tissues, organs in the body.
Although it is high on starch content, sabudana as a food confers a plethora of health benefits, including improving digestion, strengthening muscles, uplifting heart functions, preventing birth defects and is ideal for restricted diets, being naturally gluten-free. This wholesome food, extracted from the cassava root, is also an excellent organic beauty ingredient, possessing a treasure trove of tannin, flavonoid antioxidants, moisturising qualities, for use as an effective home remedy to rectify skin and hair woes, such as acne, dandruff, dark spots.
The Cassava Plant:
The Cassava plant, bearing the scientific name Manihot esculenta and belonging to the Euphorbiaceae botanical family, is basically a timbered woody shrub that is native to hot tropical Brazil in South America. Grown as an annual crop for its edible tuberous root - tapioca, that is packed with starch, cassava was introduced to the warmer parts of Africa and Asia by early European traders and since then, is extensively cultivated in those regions as well. These include several countries in South-East Asia namely Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia. Since cassava can be planted even in drought-resistant soils and is an inexpensive edible source of energy-dense starches, it is the third-largest resource of food carbohydrates in the tropical nations across the world, with the first two food crops being rice and maize.
The root of the cassava shrub i.e. raw tapioca vegetable, is elongated with tapered ends, possessing a fleshy interior that is usually white or pale yellow, encompassed within a thick, brown, rough outer skin or rind, that can be easily removed. A distinct hardened vascular cluster of wood is present along the roots of the cassava shrub. The leaves of the cassava plant are palmate i.e. having the shape of a hand and are dark green. These cassava shrubs do not bear any flowers or fruits and are grown vegetatively from the stems for their edible roots called tapioca.
Commercial Preparation Of Tapioca Pearls/Sabudana:
Tapioca pearls or sabudana are essentially the dried, globular particles obtained from the tapioca root vegetable by an intense manufacturing procedure. The roots of the cassava plant – tapioca, are isolated and thoroughly ground, to derive a liquid with great starch content. This liquid is parched of all its intrinsic water content, leaving behind a refined white powder. In the manufacturing plant, under high temperature and pressure, this white powder is put through a sieving process, to finally form bright white spherical balls of sabudana, which appear like pearls and are hence given the name tapioca pearls.
Tapioca pearls are called by many vernacular names in the regional languages of India, as “Sabudana” in Hindi, “Sabu” in Bengali, “Javvarisi” in Tamil, “Saggubiyyam” in Telugu and “Chavvari” In Malayalam. They are commonly used in preparing staple desi recipes such as khichdi, thalipeeth, upma, kheer or payasam and vada, aside from crispy snacks of papad and javvarisi vadaam. Moreover, on traditional Indian festivals like Navratri, Diwali and Varalakshmi Vrat, subtly flavoured desi dishes made using sabudana are consumed following a fast. Even the ancient Indian system of medicine – Ayurveda highlights the amazing cooling potential of sabudana, as a natural remedy to lower body heat.
Nutrition Content In Sabudana:
As per the well-researched data supplied by the U.S.D.A (United States Department Of Agriculture), the nutrition content present in a one cup serving of sabudana is:
Water: 14 g
Carbohydrates: 135 g
Fiber: 1.37 g
Protein: 0.29 g
Fat: 0.03 g
Calcium: 30.4 mg
Iron: 2.4 mg
Magnesium: 1.52 mg
Potassium: 16.7 mg
Sodium: 2 mg
Thiamin: 1 mg
Vitamin B5: 2 mg
Vitamin B6: 1 mg
Folate: 1 mg
Choline: 1.2 mg
Health Benefits Of Sabudana:
Provides Ample Energy
Sabudana is laden with starches and simple sugars that are easily metabolized in the body, to generate glucose for the energy needs and biochemical functions of the cells and tissues. It is an ideal food to have post fasting for a prolonged period and even after an arduous workout, as it replenishes the body with loads of energy and prevents fatigue, dizziness, headaches.
Supports Gluten-Free Diet
A significant number of young adults and older people tend to develop an intolerance towards the gluten proteins in cereals like wheat, that, unfortunately, is a regular ingredient in Indian dishes. Sabudana being organically gluten-free, can easily be substituted for wheat, to prepare chapathis, dosas and sweets or mithais, and is often recommended for patients with celiac disease.
Fortifies Bone Density
Sabudana, being a fantastic source of natural calcium, strengthens bones in growing children. It also restore optimum bone density in older people, assisting in alleviating osteoporosis symptoms. While younger people can consume sabudana daily, middle-aged and older adults need to eat measured servings, to augment bone health, while steering clear of gastrointestinal and kidney disorders.
Supplies Essential Amino Acids
Sabudana is composed of certain key amino acids, making it a unique plant-based source of high quality proteins. It offers methionine, a sulphur-based amino acid to revive skin and hair health, valine and isoleucine which repair injured muscle tissues and threonine, to enable proper formation of teeth and enamel.
Keeps Blood Sugar Levels In Check
Although sabudana is high in calories and carbohydrates for instant energy, also comprises a plethora of phytates, tannins, polyphenols – plant chemicals that slow down the digestion process. This lowers high blood sugar in those with diabetes mellitus. Also, owing to its ease of digestibility and rich fiber content, sabudana in small servings taken occasionally helps in managing lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity.
Iron deficiency anemia affects countless Indian men, women and children every year, leading to excessive fatigue and low productivity levels. Sabudana is a powerhouse of iron, serving as a boon for people who experience low hemoglobin levels in blood, thus effectively treating anemia.
Boosts Nervous System Function
Eating sabudana in controlled portions on a daily basis assists in enhancing nerve impulse conduction, activating memory centers in the brain and relaxing the mind, due to elevated levels of the amino acid tryptophan. As the tryptophan brings about an equilibrium in the levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter, sabudana helps in treating anxiety and insomnia, by maintaining good moods and promoting sound sleep.
Augments Heart Health
Sabudana is completely devoid of cholesterol, so recipes made with tapioca pearls can safely be consumed by those with heart ailments. Furthermore, the abundance of dietary fibers and B vitamins help to enhance good HDL levels and diminish bad LDL levels. This averts plaque and fatty deposits in heart vessels, easing cardiac muscle function and improving heart health.
Ensures Healthy Pregnancy
Soaking some sabudana overnight and consuming it next morning has massive benefits for the health of pregnancy and lactating women. Due to the immense iron and calcium content in sabudana, it is ideal to stimulate milk production and balance hormonal activities in expecting women and young mothers.
Nourishment For Babies
The comprehensive nutritional content in sabudana makes it a perfect food for meeting a growing child’s ever-expanding nutrient requirements. Owing to its starchy content, sabudana ensures healthy weight gain in young children, assisting in their routine development and is a wholesome food option as a weaning food for babies after completion of one year of age.
Sabudana is blessed with the goodness of dietary fibers. Eating foods with increased fiber content positively influences bowel movement, regulating fecal bulk and promotes optimal passage of food and other materials within the intestines. In this manner, consuming a meal with sabudana for breakfast stimulates healthy metabolism, remedies diarrhea and even assists in averting the risk of colon cancer.
Sabudana Uses For Skin And Hair:
Aside from being a panacea for practically every illness bothering the internal organs in the body, the powdered form of sabudana or the soaked, mashed paste enhances external appearance by revitalizing skin and strengthening hair. This is chiefly owing to its amazingly high amino acid content and potent antioxidants.
Bestows Even Skin Tone
Applying an herbal mask of soaked sabudana with some milk and honey or other natural infusions is a superb solution to get rid of sun tan, UV ray damage and irregular skin complexion, due to the skin-tightening, protective and rejuvenating traits of sabudana.
Supplies Anti-Aging Benefits
Sabudana comprises phenolic acids and flavonoids - two classes of antioxidants that are excellent free radical terminators. This promotes new skin cell formation, concealing fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, the vast reserves of amino acids in sabudana help boost collagen, maintaining suppleness and smoothness of skin.
Sabudana is imbued with tannins, which are plant compounds with anti-inflammatory qualities. Thus, applying a sabudana face pack with honey aids in decreasing acne, pimples and boils, besides brushing away dark spots and scars.
Prevents Hair Fall
Consisting of a plethora of amino acids a sabudana hair mask with coconut oil enriches hair growth and renews texture of tresses. This controls hair fall and averts premature greying and balding.
Sabudana possesses innumerable essential amino acids and carotenoids that confer useful hair growth, antifungal and antimicrobial characteristics, when applied as an herbal paste to dandruff-prone scalp. It soothes the hair roots or follicles, thereby repairing damaged scalp as well as dry and brittle hair, besides guaranteeing relief from incessant itching.
Cooking sabudana or sago needs a little bit of practice and perfect timing. These are few simple, easy steps while cooking Tapioca pearls that prevents them from getting sticky and starchy.
- Do not wash sabudana pearls before cooking. If you wash them under tap water, the water makes the sago to get sticky and even dissolve.
- Always bring water to the boiling point, before putting sabudana into the pan. This cooks the outer layer immediately and prevents it from getting gluey.
- Do not cook sabudana for more than 12 minutes ever. Always cover the vessel half.
- Switch off the stove and let it rest for 30 minutes, allowing the central part of the pearls to cook completely. Rinse it under cold water to avoid stickiness.
- Cook your favourite dish with these completely boiled sabudana pearls.
This is a popular breakfast served widely in many regions of India and is even ideal as a Satvik food for consuming post fasting, being prepared without onion and garlic.
1 cup sabudana
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp jeera
2 green chillies, slit vertically
1 boiled potato, cut
3 tbsp peanuts, roasted
1 tsp sugar
Salt, as per taste
2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
In a large bowl soak the sabudana in water for 3 hours, so it can be mashed well.
In a pan, heat a bit of ghee, add jeera and saute until they emanate a pleasant aroma.
Transfer the cut green chillies and boiled potatoes and cook for another 3 minutes on medium flame.
Pour in the soaked sabudana, with the roasted peanuts, sugar and salt.
Stir well, cover the pan and simmer for 2 minutes so the sabudana gets cooked completely.
Add the chopped coriander leaves and squeeze the juice from half a lemon.
Turn off the stovetop and serve the sabudana khichdi hot for a healthy breakfast.
Sabudana is jam-packed with calories for instant energy, as well as dietary fibers that facilitate smooth digestion. Ghee is rich in healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin E for augmenting heart functions. Coriander leaves supply vitamin A for improved eyesight.
A sweetened dish made on festivals and occasions in India, sabudana kheer is an irresistible desi dessert seasoned with nuts and can be relished warm or chilled.
1 cup sabudana
2 cups water, for soaking
3 cups milk
½ cup sugar
10 cashews, halved
2 tbsp raisins
½ tsp cardamom powder
Allow the sabudana to soak thoroughly in water for 2 hours.
In a vessel, boil milk on medium flame and add sabudana, stirring continuously so it does not stick to the bottom.
Cook for 5 – 7 minutes, so the sabudana becomes soft, then add sugar, cashews, raisins, cardamom powder.
Stir well so the flavours blend in and simmer for 15 minutes on low flame, gently mixing the contents of the vessel, so the milk becomes a little thick in texture.
Switch off the stove and serve the delicious sabudana kheer warm or refrigerate for 30 minutes and enjoy it chilled.
Possessing vast quantities of calcium, iron and folate, sabudana supplies strong bones, ensures synthesis of healthy red blood cells and promotes nervous system functions, blood circulation. Cashews provide profuse amounts of protein, for muscle growth and cardamom powder comprises decongestant antioxidants, to aid in lung function, respiratory health.
Sabudana Side Effects:
In most healthy people, sabudana does not present any harmful side effects. It is nor advised to consume sabudana regularly for those on a weight loss diet, as it rich in calories and starches. Also, intake of too much sabudana may result in digestive disorders like bloating, constipation, particularly in those with chronic conditions of diabetes and heart disease.
Sabudana or tapioca pearls might be well-known solely for their high calorie and starch content, but they are in fact, a wholesome food supplying numerous essential nutrients including B vitamins, calcium, iron and other minerals, as well as flavonoid, tannin antioxidants. These tiny white spheres aid in digestion, supply instant energy, improve heart health, besides preventing neural tube defects in pregnancy and enhancing nervous system operations. Add sabudana to your regular diet today and consume it in measured portions, to reap its spectacular benefits for overall health.