Jack of all Seasons, King of Fasting – Sabudana

The month of shravan has begun and so has the season of fasting. Fasting that brings us closer to our customs, traditions and food practices. In Indian culture, it is a way to de-stress, unwind and relax the mind and body. It is not about starving ourselves. It never was. The restrictions on food and the specific timings are a means to work at bring back the discipline of eating right that we often loose in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Upvas (Sanskrit for fasting) means sitting close to the reality of self. In practice, it means to slow down and dwell on our actions towards of life, love and what we love.

One food that we all love, fasting or not, is sabudana. Tastes amazing as a wada, papad, khichdi, thalipeeth, khichiya as well as in sweet preparations like kheer, halwa, payassam, phirni and many more. Such is its diversity.

Sabudana or sago is the starch of cassava tuber or tapioca made into small pearls. Native to Southern Asia, it was introduced to India in the 19th century. Since then it has been incorporated into our cuisine and has become our own. Today, Tamil Nadu produces 90% of India’s sabudana and has the highest yield of tapioca in the world. 

Health Benefits of Sabudana

Immunity – The nutrient profile of simple “vrat ka khana” or fasting dishes like sabudana khichdi is extremely diverse and versatile. Ensuring that we get the needed amino acids (protein), simple to digest starches (carbohydrates) and all the essential fatty acids. Sago is also an excellent prebiotic. It keeps the gut strong by feeding the good bacteria in the intestinal tract. Hence, protecting us against seasonal allergies and boosting our immunity.

Digestion – The starchy water that is leftover on boiling sago is in many households used to prepare kanjee/ konjee/ pej (a light gruel) and served to kids and elderly. The idea behind this is not to overload them with “empty calories”. Kids and elderly often have weak digestion. The kanjee is full of (water soluble) vitamins and minerals. It is very light on the stomach and digested easily. At the same time, its richness helps in smoother digestion, improved hair strength and volume, soft-clear skin and easier bowel movement.

Cardiovascular health – Sabudana is a staple for good blood circulation. Armed with ghee, peanuts, coconut and spices, it is the perfect blend of Omega 3, 6, & 9. Potassium content in sabudana keeps the blood pressure under control. It becomes an ideal meal to regulate blood glucose response and reduce (risk of) heart disease and diabetes.

Musculo-skeletal strength – Another health benefit of sabudana is its ability to strengthen bones and maintain flexibility. Calcium, iron and vitamin K in tapioca make sure we stay charged up and not fatigued even after high intensity activities. If you are vegan, this is the source of protein for you. Besides building muscles, it is a way to gain physical strength.

Fertility – Being a good source of B vitamins, especially B6 and folate, it is excellent for a good hormonal balance and fertility. In fact, cassava supplements are now being sold as “fertility pills” taken by women who want to conceive twins. They claim a success rate of about 30%. Well, what would you rather? Pop a pill or relish the crispy-crunchy sabudana wadas & garma-garam cutlets with spicy flavourful chutneys.

It really is time that we start looking at food beyond calories. If you are someone who has been avoiding sabudana because you feel it is only “empty calories”, I hope I have been able to convince you otherwise.  

Global Spotlight

Scientific research now tells us that sabudana is best paired with legumes. The west is going gaga trying to incorporate it in #vegan cookies and #glutenfree bread. “Fasting biscuits” fortified with sabudana and peanuts is a going to be a thing soon. Well, our khichadi and wadas with the goodness of peanuts, chana dal, coconut and a great mix of spices are no less only because we haven’t hashtagged them yet. Now, are they?

Tried Boba Tea yet?

The other day, while scrolling on Instagram, I chanced upon a friend’s post from Singapore. She was enjoying a tall glass of bubble tea. Curious about what the “bubbles” really are, I did what my google brain does best. Only to discover that the squishy gummy bubbles in bubble tea are nothing but “tapioca pearls” AKA sabudana. The brownish colour that it has comes from brown sugar being added in the process. 

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