Sago

Sago is basically a starch that is obtained from the sago palm (scientific name Cycas revoluta). Sago palm is known by several other names including sago cycad, king sago and Japanese sago palm. It is a gymnosperm species belonging to the family Cycadaceae. This plant has its origin in the southern regions of Japan counting the Ryukyu Islands. Actually, the sago palm is among the several species that is used to produce sago starch. Aside from yielding sago starch, this species is also grown in the form of an ornamental plant. Similar to several other starches, for instance potato or cornstarch, sago starch is employed in culinary as well as baking in the form of a thickener. In addition, this starch may also be employed for stiffening fabrics.

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These days, sago palm is found growing widely in different regions of Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea. Generally, the sago palm tree matures after 15 years and only then can its starch be used for food and other purposes. The starch is obtained by cutting down the tree and scooping out the pith or material inside the trunk. After scooping out the pith of sago palm, workers beat it manually using sticks or knives to remove the starch. Subsequently, they wet the pith and knead it to take out additional starch.

Having kneaded the wet pitch, the workers push the substance through a strainer, for instance squeezing the starchy water to remove the starch from the pith. The workers keep on squeezing the pith till the entire starch has been taken out. The water seeps away from the starch and it is accumulated in containers and left to dry out completely.

Sago starch has various culinary uses. It is added to soups, puddings or gruel as well as upma dishes. In its gruel form, sago starch is utilized in a variety of carbonated drinks without adding any synthetic sweeteners and chemicals. Drinking such carbonated drinks provides almost instant energy. Sago starch possesses an extremely cooling effect in the body and this food can be digested very easily. In addition, sago starch is also utilized for making breads and cakes. Sago is a very effective substitute for wheat and other similar substances that help in binding dishes and thickens them. Sago starch contains very few calories and is favoured as light meal alternative.

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Usually, sago starch is employed for making a special type of pudding called goula or gula. You can use this starch in puddings in its pulverized form or in the form of small balls made with the substance. One can make gula by blending sago starch with water and subsequently boiling it. After boiling the sago starch and water, it is left to settle for several minutes and the surplus water is strained off. The left over sago starch is then blended with coconut milk. Generally, this pudding or goula is served along with sweet syrup made from palm.

Often people also use the dry sago starch in the form of flour. It can be blended with dough to make a food that is something similar to bread or biscuit. In Papua New Guinea, people usually spread this starch lightly on a frying pan and cook it to prepare a pancake. In addition, this starch can also be used in the basic ingredients used to make noodles.

People in India use sago starch as little beads, often called pearls, which bear close resemblance to the tapioca pearls that are used in bubble tea beverages. The pearl form of sago is called "sabudana" and is usually utilized for making a type of porridge called "khichdi". In many parts of India, people usually consume this khichdi for breakfast.

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Sago starch is safe for consumption and can be utilized for making bread, biscuits and pancakes. You can mix sago starch with boiling water and prepare a paste. Subsequently, the paste can be passed through a sieve under very high pressure to make sago pearls. You can use sago pearls in making desserts. In addition, people across the world use sago powder in the form of a thickening agent in different foods.

In Malaysia, people use sago as a main ingredient in their traditional food called kerepok lekor (a fish sausage). This starch is used with fish and salt to make the sausage.

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Aside from serving as a healthy food, the sago palm tree has other uses. The leaves of this tree are used for thatching roof as well as in construction work. Sago starch is also widely used in the textile industry. It is used to stiffen the fiber in fabric. In addition, sago starch is also used for making ethanol and biodegradable plastic. For this, sago starch needs to be fermented first.

Health benefits

Sago starch contains very low amounts of dietary fiber and, hence, it can be digested easily. Sago has a mild flavour and often physicians and healthcare providers recommend that infants and elderly should take it in the form of a healthy energy supplement. Sago is held in high esteem owing to its ability to boost the immune system and combat inflammation. You can consume sago by boiling it in milk together with jaggery (gur in Hindi) for a delightful soothing porridge, which supplies you with sufficient energy to overcome debility and also deal with aches and pains.

Sago recipes containing this ingredient included in the diet of pregnant women and nursing mothers may help them to gain weight and, at the same time, alleviate fatigue. Since sago does not contain gluten, it is an ideal food for people enduring celiac disease or wheat intolerance. Such people can safely consume sago flour as an effective substitute for recipes containing wheat.

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Sago starch is useful in preventing colds. In addition, this gluten-free food can provide relief from pain in the gut. It is also helpful in preventing flatulence. Sago is also effective in treating abdominal pain and heartburn. Some people also consume sago with a view to lose unwanted body weight.

Aside from being an excellent natural source of calcium, sago can also be used in the form of a prebiotic.

Sago contains elevated levels of the essential mineral calcium, which is beneficial for adults as well as elderly people. Consumption of sago helps to strengthen their bones, teeth and joints, in addition to enhancing the density of calcium. Aside from containing essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus that are highly effective in putting off development of bone loss and osteoporosis, it is also beneficial for infants, as consumption of this food during infancy can speed up the development, growth as well as pack calcium in the bones to help children grow tall quickly and remain healthy.

Sago starch contains some amount of dietary fiber, which can serve as a prebiotic. In this way, sago consumption may create a favourable condition for the survival of micro-flora in the intestine. As a result of this, the intestines will possess the aptitude to always prevent invasion by harmful bacteria and, at the same time, help to make the digestive enzymes stable and keep them healthy. In addition, dietary fiber present in sago can help to enhance the immunity of the body and also speed up the process of healing wounds. Thanks to the dietary fibers, sago can also cure skin infections and alleviate inflammation in the digestive system.

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