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THE PROTEIN – SAPONIN INTERACTION – AN OVERVIEW

“Every coin has two sides” – A popular saying that signifies every positive thing comes with something negative and vice versa. A similar phenomenon can be applied to Intake of “PROTEINS” that we talked about in our last blog.
We have already learned how proteins are in true sense building blocks of our body. Proteins are definitely essential for our body however a gastric discomfort is experienced if consumed a little more than our normal bowl. Lot of food myths are associated with this like people often complaining about gastric problems on eating Soya bean or advising not to eat beans or chana at night since it is difficult to digest it and the list goes on. We fail to understand that the real problem of such myths is not the food itself. It is because of misunderstanding our body’s requirement while cooking the food. One such reason that could be associated with the protein rich diet digestion is interaction of SAPONINS.

SO, WHAT ARE THESE SAPONINS?
In latin, Sapo means “Soap” or “Soap like”. We regularly observe the formation of bubbles while rubbing our hands with soap. Well, our Saponins can be called food bubbles or food foams. Let’s understand this with some science.
Pulses are soaked in water and covered for approx 6 -7 hours prior to cooking. Sometimes white bubbles are formed on its top layer and to add to this, if soaking time is prolonged they start smelling and it has to be discarded. This is in fact a lot of biochemical reaction takes place in soaking the pulses. One of which we are going to understand is the SAPONINS. The glycoside of the plant reacts with water and forms foam. These glycosides are called SAPONINS. Most of the plant families contain Saponins. They are essentially plant defense system against diseases and herbivore animals. They have a bitter taste which is why many animals do not graze all types of grass.

CONTENT OF SAPONIN IN COMMON FOODS
Here is the Saponin content of a few known foods:

Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Summerland, British Columbia, Canada V0H 1Z0

SAPONIN – ADVANTAGES & SIDE EFFECTS
Owing to Saponins being rich source of antioxidant and containing phytochemicals in abundance, they help in lowering cholesterol, reducing risk of heart diseases, building immunity and preventing onslaught of cancer. Much has not been researched upon its disadvantages; however, according to World Health they may cause nausea and diarrhea though a thorough scientific research needs to be done on the side effects.

Here is some basic Q & A for better understanding of Saponin:
Q. Does Saponins denature on boiling or cooking foods?
A. No, it does not.
Q. What is the taste of Saponins like?
A. They have a bitter taste.
Q. What is the commercial use of Saponins?
A. Saponins are used as emulsifiers in beverages & cosmetics. They are also used in pharmaceutical and detergent products.

SUMMARY
Consuming nutritious plant based simple foods that are known to your body since birth shall always make you healthy. Under no circumstances, they can harm your gastric system unless the way of cooking them isn’t proper. Therefore take home a message “NO FOOD IS BAD FOOD. LOVE YOUR FOOD AND JUST EAT IT”.

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