Rich in calories, carbohydrates and vitamin C, in addition to being highly versatile and full of flavor, cassava root is an important component of the diet of millions of people worldwide. You can puree, boil, bake or fry and change it for potatoes in almost any recipe. It is also used to make a variety of gluten-free flour and food thickeners, such as arrowroot, tapioca and cassava flour. With its wide range of micronutrients and antioxidants, adding cassava root to your diet can come with a long list of potential health benefits. This is what you need to know about this tasty root vegetable and how it can affect your health.
What is Cassava Root?
Cassava, also known as manioc, cassava, Brazilian arrowroot or Manihot esculenta, is a type of shrub native to South America. It is often grown in tropical regions for its starchy root, which is considered a staple food for some 500 million people worldwide. In fact, after corn and corn, cassava root is considered the third largest source of carbohydrates in the tropics. Available in bitter and sweet varieties, the flavor of cassava root is often compared to that of potatoes, and also has a fibrous texture reminiscent of pumpkin. It is usually boiled, fried or ground in different flours and powders used for baking. Keep in mind that cassava root is not related to the cassava plant, which is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees that produces clusters of white cassava flowers, as well as cassava fruit. Many of these plants are used medicinally and are also consumed in many different dishes. Some of the common types of cassava plants include Yucca filamentosa, Yucca gloriosa, Yucca elephantipes, Yucca brevifolia and Yucca schidigera.
Benefits of Cassava Root:
- Protects against oxidative stress
- Supports immune function
- Promotes skin health
- Relieves the pain of arthritis
- It has a low glycemic index
1. Protects Against Oxidative Stress:
- Cassava has a high antioxidant content, which are beneficial compounds that neutralize free radicals to prevent oxidative stress and damage to your cells.
- Research suggests that antioxidants play a central role in overall health and may protect against many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
- Cassava root also contains a concentrated dose of vitamin C and manganese, two micronutrients that can also help minimize oxidative stress.
- A study published by the Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening National Cancer Center, for example, showed that supplementing with vitamin C for five years significantly reduced oxidative stress and radical formation free.
- Another in vitro study conducted in Italy found that manganese was significantly more effective than other nutrients in eliminating free radicals and preventing oxidative stress.
2. Supports Immune Function:
- There is no doubt that maintaining a strong immune system is key to overall health. Your immune system is responsible for protecting against foreign invaders and keeping harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi out of the body to protect against diseases and infections.
- Loaded with beneficial antioxidants and vitamin C, adding cassava to your diet is a simple way to give your immune system a healthy boost. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism showed that getting enough vitamin C was able to reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory infections such as the common cold.
- It has also been shown to improve the results of conditions such as pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea infections. Antioxidants, on the other hand, help fight free radicals and protect against oxidative stress to prevent damage to your immune cells.
3. Promotes Skin Health:
- Cassava root is a common ingredient found in many natural skin care routines.
- Exfoliation can be used to exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells, while the roots can be mixed with honey or olive oil and applied as a skin mask to lighten the complexion.
- Even consuming cassava root in your favorite recipes can help keep your skin shiny.
- It is full of vitamin C, a nutrient involved in the synthesis of collagen that is believed to have anti-aging properties.
- Vitamin C can also protect against sun damage by eliminating harmful free radicals and has even been shown to suppress melanin production to help prevent dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
4. Relieves the Symptoms of Arthritis:
- Arthritis is a condition characterized by painful inflammation and stiffness in the joints.
- Thanks to its rich content of antioxidants and manganese, the incorporation of cassava root into your diet can be especially useful for relieving the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Manganese is often recommended as a natural remedy for arthritis, and a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology even showed that manganese supplementation was associated with a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis in older women.
- Similarly, the antioxidants in cassava root could also be especially beneficial in relieving inflammation and reducing arthritis symptoms, with a study from India reporting that people with rheumatoid arthritis had significantly lower serum concentrations of antioxidants than those without arthritis
5. It Has a Low Glycemic Index:
- The glycemic index is a measure of how much a given food can raise your blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a high glycemic index can quickly raise blood sugar levels, which can cause symptoms of diabetes such as fatigue and involuntary weight loss.
- Compared to many other starches, cassava has a fairly low glycemic index of only 46.
- In contrast, boiled potatoes have a glycemic index of 78, and white rice has a glycemic index of 73.
- For this reason, cassava is often considered a “good carbohydrate” and may be a better alternative to many other carbohydrates when it comes to controlling blood sugar.
- Of course, keep in mind that cassava is still high in carbohydrates.
- If you have diabetes or are on a carbohydrate-controlled diet, it is best to include this starchy vegetable only in moderation and combine it with many healthy fats and proteins to help maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Cassava Root Nutrition Facts:
Cassava root is high in calories and carbohydrates, but it also contains a good piece of fiber, vitamin C and manganese that you need in a day. One cup (approximately 206 grams) of cassava root contains approximately:
- 330 calories
- 4 grams of carbohydrates
- 8 grams of protein
- 6 grams of fat
- 7 grams of dietary fiber
- 4 milligrams of vitamin C (71 percent DV)
- 8 milligrams of manganese (40 percent DV)
- 558 milligrams of potassium (16 percent DV)
- 6 micrograms folate (14 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams of thiamine (12 percent DV)
- 3 milligrams of magnesium (11 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams of copper (10 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams of vitamin B6 (9 percent DV)
- 8 milligrams of niacin (9 percent DV)
- 1 milligrams riboflavin (6 percent DV)
- 6 milligrams phosphorus (6 percent DV)
- 9 micrograms of vitamin K (5 percent DV)
- 7 milligrams of zinc (5 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients mentioned above, cassava root also contains a small amount of vitamin E, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron and selenium.
Cassava Root in Ayurveda:
Although not commonly used in holistic medicine, cassava root fits perfectly in an Ayurvedic diet, which encourages you to eat with the seasons and fill your diet with many fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain better health. Cooked tubers such as cassava work especially well for those with vata doshas, as they are considered heavier and anchored. Historically, cassava was also used by indigenous people to help treat fever and chills, promote female fertility and relieve muscle aches.
Cassava Root vs. Yam vs. Yucca:
- So what is the difference between these common tubers? Cassava root and cassava are actually the same plant, but the terms “cassava root” or “cassava” are most commonly used in the United States and in Spanish. Yam, on the other hand, is another type of edible tuber, but in reality it belongs to a completely different genus of plants.
- While cassava is native to South America, yam is actually widely cultivated in Asia, Africa and the Americas. They have a rough skin that softens when heated, and can vary in color from dark brown to pink. They can be prepared similarly to cassava and can be exchanged instead of potatoes and boiled, crushed or baked in a variety of recipes.
- Gram per gram in terms of nutrition, yams are lower in calories and carbohydrates, but also contain almost twice as much fiber as cassava. They are slightly lower in vitamin C, but contain a greater amount of other nutrients such as vitamin B6 and potassium.
Where to Find and How to Use Cassava?
You can usually find cassava in the products section of your local supermarket, right next to other tubers, such as sweet potatoes and yams. In some cases, you may have to expand your search and visit some specialized Latin or Asian markets to find it. It can also be found sometimes pre-peeled and cut in the freezer section as well. Be sure to look for it under other names, such as yucca or yucca. Wondering how to cook cassava to take advantage of the multitude of health benefits it offers? There are a lot of delicious cassava recipes out there, from soups and stews to custard and cakes. It can be used in many of the same ways as normal potatoes. Fried cassava is often used to make french fries, french fries or cassava fritters, but it can also be boiled and mashed to give a more healthy touch to mashed potatoes. In addition to fresh cassava, you can also easily find cassava flour, which is made from cassava root powder, in the baking section of most grocery stores.
“This popular gluten-free alternative to regular flour works great for baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, brownies and crepes”.
Tapioca flour (or tapioca starch) is another type of cassava flour, but it is made from root starch while cassava flour is made from the whole root. Tapioca flour works well to thicken liquids and make homemade puddings. The arrowroot is another popular ingredient made from a mixture of cassava with other roots, which is usually added to cookies, jellies and broths.
Cassava Root Recipes:
Looking for some creative ways to enjoy the many nutrients and health benefits that this starchy vegetable has to offer? Here are some cassava root recipe ideas that you can start experimenting with:
- Crispy Baked Yucca Potato Chips
- Vegetable-based Cassava Pizza Crust
- Root Cassava
- Yucca with bacon
- Cassava and sweet potato soup
Cassava Root History:
Originally from South America, it is believed that cassava root was originally domesticated no more than 10,000 years ago, around the origins of human agriculture. However, the oldest evidence of cassava food is approximately 1,400 years ago in Joya de Cerén, a Mayan agricultural community in El Salvador. By 1492, cassava root was already a staple in the diets of the indigenous peoples of South America, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, and often appears in many forms of indigenous art, from paintings to ceramics. After the European occupation of these regions, cassava root consumption became widespread and even Cuba began producing cassava bread in bulk. It was subsequently introduced in other areas, such as Africa and Asia, by European merchants and since then it has become an important ingredient worldwide. Today, Nigeria tops the charts as one of the largest cassava root producers, followed by Nigeria, Thailand and Brazil.
Although cassava root offers many nutrients and health benefits, it is also high in calories and carbohydrates and should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Add cassava root to your meals as starch instead of potatoes or grains, but be sure to accompany it with many non-starchy vegetables and healthy protein foods to balance your meal. In addition, proper preparation is key when cassava root is consumed. The roots of the cassava plant contain a substance that can trigger the production of toxins, such as cyanide, when not processed correctly. Cooking incorrectly can cause side effects on cassava root, such as vomiting, stomach ache, dizziness and headaches. Opt for sweet varieties instead of bitter ones whenever possible, and be sure to peel the cassava, cut it and cook it well before enjoying it. Some research also shows that soaking for 48 to 60 hours before cooking can significantly reduce the potential for toxicity. Cassava root also contains anti nutrients, which are compounds that can interfere with the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. For most people who eat cassava root in moderation, this should not be a major concern, but it can increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies for populations that use it as a staple food.
- Cassava, or cassava, is a type of shrub native to South America that is widely cultivated for its starchy edible root.
- Although it is rich in calories and carbohydrates, cassava root also has a good amount of important nutrients, such as vitamin C, manganese and potassium.
- Adding cassava root to your diet can help strengthen your immune system, improve skin health, reduce arthritis symptoms, protect against oxidative stress and keep blood sugar constant.
- It can be fried, boiled or crushed and added to any different types of recipes, from soups to stews, to fried potatoes and much more.
- To make the most of the health benefits of cassava, be sure to cook well, soak it before preparing it and combine it with a well-balanced and healthy diet.