Can Pregnant Women Eat Bamboo Shoots or Sprouts? Are They Safe?

Bamboo shoots are popular in Asian and Chinese style dishes, but they’re not often talked about when it comes to pregnancy safety. How many bamboo shoots should you eat during pregnancy, and are they all safe?

Bamboo shoots or sprouts are safe during pregnancy provided they are peeled, thoroughly washed, and cooked. Canned bamboo shoots are likely safe during pregnancy, but fresh ones need careful preparation and should be eaten in moderation.

Given that the safety varies, how much can you eat, what benefits can you get, and what dishes can you prepare with bamboo shoots? Find out more below!

Are Bamboo Shoots Safe to Eat When Pregnant?

If you are craving bamboo shoots or sprouts, or if you’ve come across them in an Asian style dish, you can safely eat bamboo shoots when pregnant as long as they have been thoroughly prepared and cooked.

Canned Bamboo Shoots

This is the most common type of bamboo shoot that you’ll find in grocery stores in the West. Canned bamboo shoots are safe to eat during pregnancy as they’ve already been thoroughly cooked and sterilized.

As with other canned foods, avoid any dented, damaged or bloated cans.

Fresh Bamboo Shoots

Fresh bamboo shoots are more common in Eastern countries, and these are the ones that need a bit more care and attention, safety-wise, when you’re pregnant.

This is because bamboo shoots contain cyanide, particularly cyanogenic glycosides as taxiphyllin. Some species have low cynanide content while others have a high concentration. 

In some parts of the world, pregnant women are told to avoid eating bamboo shoots during the first trimester, as they are thought to cause miscarriage. However, this has not been scientifically proven (source: International Scholarly Research Notices). 

A research study conducted in India studied 15 different species of bamboo shoots. The different parts of the shoots were studied such as the basal, middle, and top or tip parts. 

pile of bamboo shoots in the market

In general, bamboos that are grown at low altitudes have high concentrations of Total Cyanide Content (TCC). In the study, it was discovered that all the species contained cyanide which was more concentrated at the tips. 

Only M. baccifera and B. manipureana grown at low altitudes had lower TCC. The species C. callosal grown at high altitudes had low TCC levels on the base, middle, and tip parts of the shoots. 

To be on the safer side, consume only species with low TCC (source: BioMed Research International) if you’re preparing and eating fresh bamboo shoots.

Bamboo shoots also contain thiocyanate. It is an antithyroid and goitrogenic compound that can negatively affect maternal thyroid functions. 

The good news is that cooking removes 97% of the cyanide content (source: Cyanogenic Glycosides in Cassava and Bamboo Shoots). This means that only around 7 mg will be left in a cup of cooked bamboo shoots which is within the limit of 10 mg/kilogram HCN (source: 10th World Congress Korea).

Cyanide can be eliminated when you peel, wash, ferment, or treat with heat or chemicals, a food item that contains it. HCN compounds will also dissolve and evaporate when you cook the food (source: International Conference on Green Agro-industry and Bioeconomy). This is why canned bamboo shoots are likely to be safe to eat during pregnancy.

If eating fresh shoots, then peeling, thoroughly washing, and cooking the bamboo shoots will drastically reduce the cyanide content and make them less hazardous to health. 

However, pregnant women (and many other people) should avoid eating bamboo shoots raw. Fermented bamboo shoots, stir-fries, and canned versions are also okay as long as they have been duly processed.

Are Bamboo Shoots Good for Pregnant Women?

Bamboo shoots are jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. They are rich in protein and amino acids, phosphorus, calcium and other minerals, fiber, phytosterol, and phenols (antioxidants) to name a few (source: International Scholarly Research Notices).

Protein and amino acids are in great demand during pregnancy. Amino acids help create proteins and enzymes. Tissues needed by the mother during pregnancy as well as blood volume expansion require high amounts of protein.

Growth and development of both the placenta and the fetus also call for great amounts of protein (source: Nutrition During Pregnancy).

fried bamboo shoots with chicken and spicy ingredient

Out of the 4–5% body weight, a quarter of that is phosphorus. Phosphorus and calcium work together to help with bone health. Calcium also helps with cell signaling in babies inside the womb (Source: Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research). 

Fiber is also during pregnancy because it can help with a good gut microbiome, prevent pre-eclampsia, glucose intolerance, and constipation, and attain the right gestational weight (source: Nutrients). 

Can Pregnant Women Eat Bamboo Sprouts?

Bamboo shoots and sprouts are one and the same. The only difference between them is that in the US, the term used is “bamboo sprouts”, while in Asia the term used is “bamboo shoots” is more commonly used (source: Delighted Cooking). 

The same principles and caution are applied to bamboo sprouts.

Enjoy your bamboo shoots or bamboo sprouts in braised recipes, stir-fries, dim sums, Siu Mai, meatballs, skewers with meat or seafood, noodles, or soups. If they’re canned or cooked, they’re safe – and nutritious! We hope this article helps.

This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.

Gina Waggott

Gina is the owner and founder of Pregnancy Food Checker. She holds a Certification on Nutrition and Lifestyle during Pregnancy from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a Diploma in Human Nutrition.

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