In Asia, there’s a treasure trove of rare and unique delicacies that are highly prized for their amazing nutritional benefits. One of them is bird’s nest. Known as the “caviar of the East”, bird’s nest has been sought after by the Chinese dating back to the ancient dynasties – during which it was served as a royal offering.
What is Bird’s Nest?
What exactly is bird’s nest? Made from swiftlets’ saliva secretion, these birds build their nests in caves when it’s breeding season and do this over a duration of 35 days. To harvest the nests, they are hand-collected. After harvesting, the nests are cleansed thoroughly. As acquiring the nests is a difficult and dangerous process (harvesters need to scale high cave walls to get them), only the affluent were able to afford this delicacy back in the day. Even to this day, it’s rather expensive, but still and affordable luxury.
Not all bird’s nests have the same quality though. There are different types of bird’s nest, and the grade and quality of each can be determined by its colors. The lowest grade are nests with black or brown tinges as these mean that there are still feathers and particles embedded in the nest. The highest quality is white bird’s nest which is obtained from the first harvest – that is before the swiftlets have the chance to lay their eggs. (Personally, I think this is animal-cruelty, so getting the second-harvested nests is better as the swiftlets don’t need their nests anymore; even though it is of slightly lower quality, it still has many of its revered benefits.)
Bird’s Nests Benefits
Nutrition of bird’s nests comes from the swiftlets’ saliva which is said to contain amino acids, carbohydrates, and mineral salts. Used for centuries whether as a tonic or a health food, bird’s nests benefit many different areas of health. In traditional Chinese medicine, bird’s nest is recommended for nourishing the kidneys, lungs, heart and the stomach; it also regulates blood circulation, making it a great source of food to revitalise the body.
Along with being an excellent remedy for treating asthma and bronchitis, it is also prescribed to those with digestive issues as it helps to stimulate appetite, aid digestion and provides a unique pre-digested form of protein and nutrients to speed up recovery from chronic illnesses. It is particularly helpful for brain development and as an anti-aging remedy due to its cell regeneration properties. It is also highly recommended for pregnant ladies as bird’s nest can strengthen the immune system and aid with post-natal recovery.
Bird’s Nest and Weight Loss
With its hosts of healthy nutrients, how do bird’s nest contribute to weight loss? As bird’s nest contains many important amino acids which would help with fat burn, this delicacy indirectly aids with weight loss. Moreover, as it is good for maintaining general health, it also strengthens your body and vitality to smooth out the weight loss process as well.
Our body needs amino acids to function properly as they are the foundation to building protein molecules. Amino acids play an important part in our internal processes, which contribute to more vitality, energy and good health – all crucial elements to aid with weight loss. Additionally, there are specific amino acid compounds that can stimulate weight loss hormones, thus speeding up the fat or calorie burn process.
Amino Acids in Bird’s Nests
Bird’s nests are high in protein – there are studies that confirm edible bird nest contains all eighteen types of amino acids that are required by the human body. This includes the eight essential amino acids, namely, phenylalanine, valine, thronine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, lysine and leucine. The nests also contain reasonable amounts of calcium, iron, riboflavin and includes minerals like zinc, copper, sodium, calcium and potassium.
Let’s look at three types of fat-burning acid aminos that are available in bird’s nest and how they contribute to weight loss.
Many studies have been done on lysine’s role in fat metabolism. In one study, rats with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease were fed supplemental lysine – they lost weight, and their blood levels of triglycerides decreased (Biomed Research International in May 2014). In another study, individuals with obesity were given an amino acid mixture containing lysine. They consequently burned more fat during physical work outs compared to others who did not take the supplement (2010 study by Michishita published in the “Journal of International Medical Research). According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lysine stimulates the production of carnitine, a component essential for converting fats into energy.
Your body uses methionine to make the substance called creatine, another type of amino acid which is essential in boosting metabolism and thus serving as a fat-burn catalyst. Methionine is known as a lipotropic which makes sure fat tissue is utilized as a source of energy, leaving you with a more vitality. It is also a good liver cleanser as it helps to dispose of layers of fat from the liver.
An essential amino acid that regulates emotions to help us feel happy and relaxed, tryptophan is important in any weight loss plan, as it promotes a feeling of general well-being. It can also help maintain glucose metabolism, which plays an indirect role in controlling hunger pangs. It also helps with better sleep.
While there aren’t many studies done yet on edible bird’s nest as a weight loss supplement, it’s still worthwhile to give this delicacy a try. It’s actually delicious and very light on the palate. Many Chinese have this as a dessert to end their meals with a sweet note.