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Sabudana (Sago Pearls): Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & More!

By Dr Siddharth Gupta +2 more

Introduction: 

Sago, also known as sabudana in Hindi, which is sold in the market in the form of small bead-like balls, is a processed and easily digestible food made up of starch and also a rich source of carbohydrates. The sago pearls (sabudana) are small; their size usually varies from 2 to 4.5 mm.1 To ensure national food security, especially at the time of natural disasters, indigenous crops like sabudana make a great choice due to their resilience against harsh environmental changes.2 

The process of traditional production of sabudana includes leaving the extract (mixture of wet sago, grated coconut, and rice bran) overnight, allowing time for certain microorganisms, yeast and lactobacilli to give a little acidic flavour and add carbon dioxide to the extract. This mixture is wrapped in pandanus leaves and processed to form small balls, which may require adding dried starch.3 We’ll take a look at the sabudana benefits, side effects and more in this blog.

sabudana benefits

Did You Know?

Nutritional Value of Sabudana: 

Sabudana comprises of high carbohydrate content and is low in protein, minerals, vitamins, calcium, iron and fibre. Sabudana nutrition per 100 gm is given in the table below.4,5 

Nutrient Content 
Protein 0.2 gm 
Fat  0.2 gm 
Carbohydrate  87 gm 
Energy 351 kcal 
Table 1. Nutrients per 100 gm of sabudana.5 

Did you know that many cycads, including this one, are often referred to as “palms” due to their palm tree-like appearance? Additionally, the term “sago” is used to describe the edible starch that can be obtained from these plants.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Properties of Sabudana:  

Sabudana in English is called sago pearls and is a preferred food option for sick people, as it is easy to digest property and provides rapid energy. It is also established that sabudana may have cooling properties for our digestive system, and hence sabudana-gruel is recommended for people having excess bile secretion.5  

Potential Uses of Sabudana:  

Potential Uses of Sabudana in Gluten-free Diet  

Sabudana has low protein content and it is free from casein and gluten. Thus, it is consumed as non-allergic food.3  Globally, people may want to switch to a healthier diet without changing their eating habits. People decide to go gluten-free for a few different reasons:4  

  • Gluten-free foods are a substitute for those having coeliac disease or those who show gluten sensitivity.    
  • Gluten-free food has health benefits.4  

Furthermore, every person may respond differently to these herbs. Therefore, it is important to consult a nutritionist before replacing gluten products with sabudana.

Potential Uses of Sabudana for Diabetic Patients  

Sugar (glucose) absorbed from sabudana may have numerous health benefits when compared with cane sugar (sucrose).6 In addition, sabudana may be considered reasonably safe for diabetic people because it doesn’t elevate blood glucose levels immediately due to its low glycemic index.3  

Diabetes is a major health condition and requires appropriate diagnosis and treatment from a professional doctor. Therefore, human trials of sabudana are necessary to provide its potential usage for managing blood sugar levels in humans.

Also Read: Glycemic Index Food Chart For Indian Diabetes Patient

Properties of Sabudana in Metabolic Disorders  

Resistant starch present in sabudana can help the risk of colon cancer and constipation.3  Further studies are needed to establish the claim of effect of sabudana on metabolic disorder.

Potential Uses of Sabudana Because of its Longer Shelf Life  

The sago benefits due to its longer shelf life are:  Sabudana can be preserved for long periods of time due to its low moisture content (1-2%).3  According to research, for boosting the growth of lactic acid bacteria in homemade yogurt, sago starch oligosaccharides were utilised. This can likely be developed as a prebiotic health food in the future.6  

Although studies show the benefits of sabudana in different health conditions, this information is insufficient. Hence, there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of sabudana on human health. Furthermore, every person may respond differently to these herbs. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor before using sabudana for any medical condition.

Also Read: Sarpagandha – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

Based on my experience, I have seen positive results suggesting that incorporating sago starch into your daily meals may be beneficial for controlling obesity and overweightness. It has been observed to promote a feeling of fullness, reduce visceral fat and lower liver fat content. Considering these potential benefits, I recommend considering the addition of sago starch to your diet as part of your efforts to manage weight effectively.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

How to Use Sabudana? 

We can use sabudana starch by mixing it with boiling water to form a paste or baking it to make bread, biscuits and pancakes.4 

  • It is a traditional food of India used in various festive recipes in western and central India. It is also used as baby food in West Bengal.  
  • In south India, sabudana is used as a food thickener.  
  • It is also popularly used to prepare kheer by cooking it with milk.1 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.

Also Read: Lavender – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

Side Effects of Sabudana: 

The most common side effects of sabudana are related to the cyanide glucosides present in cassava detected by aquacyanocobyrinic acid sensor.7 

  • Sabudana derived from cassava may have various compounds such as cyanogenic glucosides, which can affect the iodine utilisation in the body and disrupt the thyroid function leading to hypothyroidism.8,9 
  • Chronic intoxication of cyanide may lead to neurological disorders.  
  • Due to smaller body sizes and less weight, children are more at risk of hydrogen cyanide toxicity.9 
  • Patients allergic to latex may also exhibit allergic reactions to sabudana.10 

Also Read: What to Avoid When Taking Glutathione: Expert Recommendations for Safe Use

Precautions to Take With Sabudana 

  • We should ensure to purchase sabudana from dependable suppliers. 
  • Sabudana needs to be soaked in water and cooked carefully in boiling water before eating it to reduce cyanogenic toxicity.9 
  • We should maintain a balanced diet to avoid deficiency of proteins, vitamins and minerals and also to reduce the impact of harmful chemicals when taking a small range of food items.5,9 

Also Read: Ber Fruit – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) Can we eat sabudana while fasting? 

Yes, we can eat sabudana while fasting as it is a non-grain food rich in carbohydrates. It may also be used to break the fast during festivals. Sabudana is the preferred choice of food for dieting since it gives energy and lacks synthetic sweeteners or chemicals.11 

2) Can we consider sabudana as a complete food? 

No, sabudana cannot be considered as a complete food. Sabudana provides a large quantity of starch but low amounts of iron, vitamins, calcium, and fibre. However, you can overcome these deficiencies by combining it with other ingredients such as dairy products, vegetables and nuts to make sabudana preparations.5,11 

3) Does sabudana cause constipation? 

No, sabudana is light to digest. It helps to reduce the symptoms of weak digestion, and it rather prevents constipation.3,12  More studies are needed to explore the effect.

4) Does sabudana help to lose weight? 

Yes, sabudana has low-fat content. Thus, it is good for people who are on a diet and trying to lose weight.3  However no scientific evidence is available to validate this benefit of sabudana.

5) Can we eat sabudana khichdi during pregnancy? 

Yes, sabudana is a good source of energy, easy to digest, and prevents constipation. It is a rich source of carbohydrates and has a cooling effect on the body. Sabudana khichdi with vegetables and peanuts makes it a good health food option for pregnant women. However, several compounds present in sabudana may result in hypothyroidism, so one must take advice from the doctor before including it in the diet during pregnancy.3,5,8,11  Consult your gynecologist before adding anything into your diet.

6) Can we add sabudana to weaning diets?  

Yes, we can add sabudana to weaning diets. Sabudana does not interfere with the digestion of proteins and fats present in weaning diets, and it is a remarkably efficient source of energy. It is important to process it properly before use for safe consumption and be sure to buy from a reliable source so as to ensure that industrial processing may have eliminated its possible hydrocyanic acid content. Sabudana is a poor source of proteins, vitamins and minerals. Hence, ensure to regularly add these nutrients in the weaning diet in nutritionally adequate amounts.5,12   Consult your doctor before adding anything into diet for weaning babies.

Also Read: Kaunch Beej – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

References: 

  1. Krishnakumar, T., Sajeev, M. S., Raju, S., A. Giri, N., Pradeepika, C., Kumaran, V. S., &Bansode, V. (2019). Engineering Properties of Different Commercial Grades of Sago (Sabudana). Current Journal of Applied Science and Technology, October, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.9734/cjast/2019/v38i330358 
  1. Sidiq, F. F., Coles, D., Hubbard, C., Clark, B., &Frewer, L. J. (2021). Sago and the indigenous peoples of Papua, Indonesia: A review. Journal of Agriculture and Applied Biology, 2(2), 138–149. https://doi.org/10.11594/jaab.02.02.08 
  1. Metaragakusuma, A. P., Katsuya, O., & Bai, H. (2016). An Overview of The Traditional Use of Sago for Sago-based Food Industry in Indonesia. KnE Life Sciences, 3(3), 119. https://doi.org/10.18502/kls.v3i3.382 
  1. Kumari, S., Suwan Singh, S., & Yadav, K. (2019). Development and quality assessment of Gluten-free Bread prepared by using Rice flour, Corn starch and Sago flour. ~ 39 ~ The Pharma Innovation Journal, 8(9), 39–43. https://www.thepharmajournal.com/archives/2019/vol8issue9/PartA/8-7-122-422.pdf 
  1. A, K. K., V, T. A., A, K. V, Scholar, R., & Professor, A. (2013). Effect of Fortification with Shingada, Sabudana, and Rajgira Flour on Quality of Fasting Biscuits. International Journal of Science and Research, 4(10), 2319–7064. www.ijsr.net 
  1. Kit Lim, L. W., Chung, H. H., Hussain, H., &Bujang, K. (2019). Sago Palm (MetroxylonsaguRottb.): Now and beyond. Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, 42(2), 435–451. 
  1. Tivana LD, Da Cruz Francisco J, Zelder F, BergenstÃ¥hl B, Dejmek P. Straightforward rapid spectrophotometric quantification of total cyanogenic glycosides in fresh and processed cassava products. Food Chem. 2014;158:20-27. doi:10.1016/J.FOODCHEM.2014.02.066 
  1. Magnúsdóttir E V. [Phytoestrogens and Human Health.]. Vol 88.; 2002. 
  1. Expo P, Wade-kudla C. Food Safety Focus on Packaging ? 2013:44-46. http://search.proquest.com.ez.uamerica.edu.co/docview/1462997066/76872E7428084D4CPQ/2?accountid=146034 
  1. Ibero M, Castillo MJ, Pineda F. Allergy to cassava: A new allergenic food with cross-reactivity to latex. J InvestigAllergol Clin Immunol. 2007;17(6):409-412. 
  1. Yenkar DD, Sakkalkar SR, Patil ND, Joshi RP, Khod RN. Quality evaluation of fasting biscuit prepared from Rajgira and Sabudana. J ready to eat food. 2014;1(4):145-151. 
  1. Enrique Morales, George G. Graham, Digestibility of Boiled and Oven-Dried Cassava in Infants and Small Children, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 117, Issue 1, January 1987, Pages 129–132, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/117.1.129 

Also Read: Kachnar: Uses, Benefits & Nutritional Value

Disclaimer:

The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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