What Are the Health Benefits of Sago?

Sago, a starch common in Southeast Asia, commonly likened to tapioca balls with its gummy texture and often-spherical form, touts important health benefits. It provides a few essential nutrients, as well as antioxidants, and can enhance exercise performance.

Sago makes for a viable exercise food, and contains disease-fighting antioxidants.
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Sago makes for a viable exercise food and contains disease-fighting antioxidants.

What Is Sago?

Sago, referred to as javvarisi in Tamil and Sabudana in Hindi, two languages common to India, is a carbohydrate-based starch, and dietary staple of Southeast Asia and Oceania. According to a January 2018 article in Sago Palm, it's one of the oldest crops in that region, along with taro and yam, all of which were later eclipsed by rice as the primary starch.

The starch is derived from the stem or trunk of the sago palm, explains a July 2016 review in Temperature, and then consumed as a food ingredient with a variety of applications. It can be used, for instance, as a texturizer, gelling agent and thickener. In Western products, it's commonly used in vermicelli and certain kinds of breads, biscuits and crackers. In Southeast Asia, it may be used to make sago jelly — in pudding, porridge or dumpling form — or baked as a pancake.

Recently, sago has been used as an ingredient in maltodextrins and cyclodextrins, sports drinks, infant formulas and as carriers in pharmaceuticals. The starch is easily digestible and quickly absorbed. And those aren't the only javvarisi benefits. It contains disease-fighting antioxidants and boasts properties that make it suitable as a pre and post-exercise supplement.

Read more: 6 Thickening Agents for Cooking and Baking That Aren't Flour

Sago Benefits for Exercise

Among sago's benefits is its effectiveness as an exercise food that can maximize performance and recovery. The review from Temperature observed the starch as an exercise supplement, specifically in warm and humid environments. The review explained that carbohydrate supplementation can improve workout output and capacity.

One particular April 2016 study in Temperature with a very small sample size of eight well-trained male cyclists/triathletes, determined whether sago porridge consumed immediately after exercise in warm and humid weather, led to more rapid recovery.

The study found that the group that consumed sago during exercise, improved exercise recovery during the following exercise bout, as compared to the water-only control group. This is to say that sago should be considered as a viable food to have before or after exercise, especially in hot or humid temperatures. Moreover, the starch makes for an affordable and easily accessible option in most corners of the world.

Read more: The 5 Best Preworkout Supplements and 4 to Avoid

Antioxidants and Nutritional Value

When it comes to sago or sabudana nutritional value, it doesn't have much in the way of vitamins, though it does contain high energy supplementation, at 754 kilocalories per cup.

According to a food chart on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website sago flour contains 20 milligrams of calcium, 11 milligrams of potassium and 7 milligrams of potassium per cup, though it lacks in other vitamins such as B12, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.

One November 2016 study by Molekul, found that sago starch contains antioxidants. According to Victoria, Australia's Better Health Channel, a diet high in antioxidants may reduce the risk of many diseases, such as heart disease and certain cancers.

Mainly, antioxidants may prevent some of the damage caused by free radicals. That damage can include inflammation of the joints, aging acceleration, damage to nerve cells in the brain, increased risk of coronary heart disease and deterioration on the eye lens.

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