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We are all familiar with China grass, the jelly-like substance used in desserts and as a vegetarian substitute for gelatin. However, did you know that China grass, also known as agar-agar has certain health benefits?
What Is China Grass Or Agar-Agar | What Are The Uses Of China Grass?
An active ingredient used in desserts, thickener in soups, fruit preservative in ice creams, a clarifying agent in brewing and sizing paper and fabrics, agar-agar or China grass is a plant (seaweed) and is colourless, odourless and flavourless as well.
The gelatinous substance is also known as gelosa, agar-weed, agaropectin, Chinese gelatin, kanten, seaweed gelatin or vegetable gelatin. Agar-agar is a mixture of agarose and agaropectin, which are indigestible polysaccharide polymer compounds (a chemical compound with molecules bonded together in long, repeating chains) .
Agar-agar or China grass is considered indigestible as our body cannot digest agar directly. The bacteria present in the large intestine can break it down to short-chain fatty acids through fermentation, which is then absorbed by the body .
Nutritional Information Of China Grass Or Agar-Agar
- 26 cal calories
- 0 g fat
- 0 g cholesterol
- 9 mg sodium
- 226 mg potassium
- 7 g carbohydrates
- 0.5 g dietary fibre
- 5 mg calcium
- 10 mg iron
- 17 mg magnesium
Health Benefits Of China Grass Or Agar-Agar
Here is a list of health benefits China grass has been shown to possess.
1. Treats Chronic Constipation
China grass absorbs the water in the gut and forms bulk, which stimulates the intestine for a bowel movement . Agar is especially effective in cases of painful constipation, helping in the smooth release of the waste without causing pressure on the rectum and fissures.
2. Aids Weight Loss
China grass, when consumed reduces hunger by developing satiety (feeling of fullness). It is this property that studies take into consideration, as the gelatinous substance could help in limiting excessive eating and help lose weight .
Note: A low-calorie diet will naturally reduce weight. As soon as one stops agar and start taking diet as per his/her previous dietary habits and lifestyle, they can regain the lost weight.
3. May Treat Hypercholesterolemia
Hypercholesterolemia or high cholesterol is when there are high levels of cholesterol present in the blood . Agar-agar may help reduce the high level of total cholesterol in the blood. A 12 weeks study on people with type-2 diabetes pointed out that China grass helped in reducing high cholesterol levels when taken along with traditional Japanese diet .
A traditional Japanese diet is well balanced, has more fish than red meat, plenty of vegetables, pickled and fermented foods, and small portions of rice .
4. May Treat Infant Jaundice
Agar-gar has been used since ages for treating infant jaundice. It is said that the gelatinous substance help reduces bilirubin levels in infants by absorbing bile . Some books show that it is also used in place of light therapy for infantile jaundice as agar increases bilirubin lowering effects of light therapy and reduces the time required by light therapy to cure jaundice .
5. Manages Diabetes
Although more studies are required on this topic, China grass has been shown to manage the symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes. Agar may help by managing insulin resistance and promotes the absorption of glucose from the stomach and passes through the digestive system quickly .
6. May Improve Bone And Joint Mobility
Some reports point out that agar may help support bone and joint mobility by bringing traction into joints and boosts joint recovery after injuries .
The other possible health benefits of China grass or agar-agar are mentioned below. Researchers assert that the below-mentioned need extensive and further studies.
How To Use China Grass Or Agar-Agar
First, agar needs to be first dissolved in water (or another liquid like milk, fruit juices, tea, stock) and then brought to a boil.
- Dissolve 1 tbsp agar flakes or 1 tsp agar powder in 4 tbsp hot water.
- Bring water to a boil.
- Simmer for 1 to 5 minutes for powder and 10 to 15 minutes for flakes.
- Let it cool to set.
How Much China Grass Can You Consume?
- Children (above age 10 years) - 250 to 500 mg
- Adults - 500 mg to 1.5 g
One study points out that the maximum possible dosage of agar-agar per day is 5 g .
What Are The Side Effects Of China Grass Or Agar-Agar?
- Children with allergies should not consume China grass as it may increase the risk of itchiness and skin redness.
- Avoid consuming agar-agar when it is cold, as it may increase the risk of fever.
- If China grass is consumed with an inadequate amount of fluid it can cause choking by obstructing the throat or food pipe .
- In some people, it may cause loss of appetite, weak digestion and loose stools.
Note: While consuming China grass, make sure to consume plenty of fluids because the gelatinous substance expands in the alimentary canal and may cause blockage in the throat or oesophagus, resulting choking.
Seek immediate medical attention, if you face any of the following :
- Difficulty swallowing
- Trouble breathing
On A Final Note…
China grass or agar-agar is not a meal replacement. Pregnant women and breastfeeding women should refrain from using agar in their diet. Some sources claim that excessive consumption of agar may increase the chances of colon cancer.