– By Dr. Panchali Moitra
Sabudaana khichdi, vada, pancakes or sabudana kheer- the mere mention of these delectable recipes are sure to bring a smile on your face, no matter if you are fasting today or have just polished off a sumptuous meal. Agreed, sago is not the best candidate to pack a strong nutritional punch. But when it comes to replenishing energy stores on fasting days or sprucing up jam packed days and strenuous workout sessions; these starch factories offer the perfect tools.
Sago is basically the starch derived from the pith or centre of sago palm trees. However, in India, it is prepared from extract of ‘cassava’ i.e. tapioca-root, and is popularly known as Tapioca Sago or Sabudana. Native to Indian sub -continent, Africa and South America, sago has been consumed since centuries as an inexpensive source of quick energy. Sago is available commercially in the form of sago ‘pearls’, powder and sago flour.
Sago or sabudaana pearls are similar to tapioca pearls, the starch derived from the cassava tree and consumed extensively in Brazil and other South American countries. Both sago and tapioca are excellent sources of starch and are often used interchangeably as flavorless thickening agents in cooking and baking.
In Indian cuisine, the translucent, soft and spongy balls of sago feature in a variety of traditional and regional dishes and also hold a unique place as a popular infant food. Sago or sabudana is often consumed to break fasts and is considered by Ayurveda as an herbal remedy for fighting digestive troubles and liver ailments.
Preparing Sago Pearls
The preferred way to prepare sago is to wash the sago pearls in running water without applying too much pressure and allowing them to soak in water for an hour. The excess water is then drained off and the pearls are further soaked for 2-3 hours. One may sprinkle little water over sago once in a while to keep the surface moist. The softer sago pearls can then be cooked as per the recipe.
Carb Storehouse– 100 grams of dry sago powder yields approximately 350 calories through a whopping 94 gms of carbohydrates. As it contains very little protein, combining sago with rich protein sources such as milk, pulses and nuts is suggested to perk up the total protein content of the dish and create a complete and balanced meal. Sago pearl based drinks and porridges boost the energy levels without any artificial additives and thus offer a healthier alternative to popular energy drinks and carbonated beverages.
Low in Fat– Sago contains almost negligible amounts of total and saturated fat. A 100-gram serving has only 0.2 gram of total fat and 0.1 gram of saturated fats; qualifying them as a wonderful addition to any heart healthy diet.
Perfect for infants and elderly– Being low in dietary fiber, easy to digest and mildly flavored, sabudaana is often recommended as a healthy energy supplement for infants and elderly people. They are also admired for their inflammation fighting and immunity boosting abilities. Simply boil sago pearls in milk along with jaggery or ‘gur’ for a divine comforting porridge that provides you with enough energy to combat weakness, and aches and pains.
Sago for Pregnant and Lactating women– Calorie dense sabudaana recipes can be included in dietary regimes of pregnant and lactating women to promote healthy weight gain and lower fatigue levels.
Gluten Free Sago– Since sago flour is gluten free, people suffering from wheat intolerance or celiac disease can use it as a safe alternative to wheat flour based recipes.