Bird's Nest Drink - Is it really healthy?

Bird's Nest Drink sugar free drink

Also known as Birds Nest Drink, I recently got some from family, who bought it from Costco. It's by Golden Nest and claims to have 100% genuine swallow bird nest. I tried a pre-chilled bottle and it tasted fine with some soft chunks of what I assumed to be the actual bird's nest. Regarding the drink itself, I felt it was a bit sweet, and there is 14 grams of sugar.

I've heard a lot about Bird's Nest drinks, especially the supposed health benefits. But I've never really done my own research, so here's everything that I've read and learned so far:

What is it?

  • It's the saliva of the nest of the swiflets.
  • Male swiftlets build the nest with the saliva, which forms a type of salivary glue (imagine a cement) for their nest.
  • Different varieties and grades of bird's nest are available.
  • Harvested bird's nest can be cooked into a soup or drink.

Harvesting and Cleaning Process:

  • Traditionally harvested in limestone caves by climbing up tall ladders... quite dangerous!
  • Cleaned by removing twigs and feathers that are also part of the bird's nest.
  • The popularity has created "farms" of concrete builds designed to breed and harvest bird's nest.
  • Popularity has attracted counterfeits: even China has banned some imports of Bird's Nest.
  • Cleaning fresh Bird's Nest is best done with cold water, as opposed chemicals that deplete nutritional value.
  • Not considered (by me) to be unethical to swallow because it's harvested after the bird's leave and abandon the nest.

Pricing:

  • Bird's Nest can cost up to $4,500/lb.
  • Costco Sells Bird's Nest Drink: 8 x 8oz bottles for $20.
  • Different grades of bird's nest can fetch different prices.

Reasons for Bird's Nest

  • Health benefit reasons, discussed in more details below.
  • A sign of luxury, similar to shark fin soup.
  • At a restaurant during a business meeting, bird's nest soup is ordered a sign of good faith.

At Home Preparation and Consumption:

  • Suggested best time to consume is on an empty stomach: either in the morning or right before bedtime.
  • Experts recommend 3 grams for those between 1 to 12 years. 5-10 grams for everyone else.
  • Don't cook over 100C, which would destroy nutritional value.
  • Soup should be prepared in a double boiler for 20 minutes max.
  • Can be prepared with rock sugar, ginseng, red dried dates, dried longans, fresh ginger, egg white, pandan leaves.
  • Soak dried bird's nest overnight in cold water to soften and expand.

Health Benefits:

  • Little research has been performed on biological function of Bird's Nest.
  • Saliva has high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
  • High in Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF), beneficial for skin.
  • Has all the essential amino acids
  • Used in traditional Chinese medicine
  • Believed to have anti-aging (remove wrinkles) and anti-cancer properties
  • Believed to improve concentration and raise libido.
  • Good for Pregnant Women: helps with stretch marks due to collagen, can help reduce risk of pre-eclampsia.

Risks:

  • Not recommended for pregnant women during the first trimester.
  • Some people have negative reactions: anaphylaxic.
  • Try a small amount first, to test for allergies!

Research Papers:

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