What is cassava?
Cassava is a plant grown in tropical and subtropical regions, known for its edible roots.
It is slightly less nutritious than the ordinary potato and toxic if not properly cooked.
Cassava is also known by the following names: yuca, manioca, mandioca or manioka, tapioca (actually referring to dried, powdered cassava roots), Brazilian arrowroot (due to its arrow-like appearance), mogo, kappa and so on.
What does cassava look like?
As you can see from the image above, cassava looks like an ordinary root vegetable. It can weight up to several pounds and has an elongated, spear-like shape.
Cassava roots have a brown, rough skin and a white, even yellowish flesh with a woody core lengthwise.
What does cassava taste like?
Cassava (yuca) has a texture reminiscent of a stringy potato or pumpkin flesh.
The reason why it may appear slightly bitter to some people and slightly sweet to others is the roots’ cyanogenic glucoside content.
Taste is believed to be influenced immensely by climatic conditions such as drought. However, cassava roots often have a bland, potato or paste-like taste.
When cooked, they tend to have a slightly softer, more buttery consistency than potatoes.
Health Benefits Of Cassava
1. Digestive Health
Cassava is a digestive resistant starch which means it quite literally resists digestion. Resistant starches are considered to be the most beneficial type of starch because they feed the good bacteria in the gut.
Most starches break down and get absorbed as glucose but resistant starches like cassava travel unimpeded through the intestines to the colon.
They are then converted into beneficial fatty acids by the intestinal bacteria where they help combat inflammation and boost your energy.
These short-chain fatty acids like butyrate are known to help treat several conditions including IBS and colitis.
The fiber content of cassava also contributes to a healthy digestive system and can help combat constipation, bloating and indigestion.
2. Rich in calories
While this may come as a surprise, it is sometimes a good thing for a food to be richer in calories.
With 160 kcal/100 g, cassava helps support normal metabolism by helping reach an appropriate daily caloric intake.
For people with a low income, cassava is both a good source of carbohydrates and protein and a moderately low source of B vitamins, amino acids and ascorbic acid.
3. Good source of vitamin C
Cassava is a pretty decent source of vitamin C, providing 34% of the RDA of the vitamin.
Unfortunately, the cooking heat required to make it safe for consumption will most likely destroy most, if not all of its vitamin C content.
4. For Hair & Skin:
Cassava when consumed internally is great for hair and skin as it has all the important nutrients.
Tapioca starch can be used as a thickener in homemade lotions and also can be used for making homemade bronzer.
For making the bronzer, mix tapioca starch with organic cocoa powder and few drops of pure vanilla.
The ratio can be varied depending on the skin type, an effective, allergy free, cheap bronzer that can be made in a matter of minutes!
5. Weight Control
Despite being so high in carbohydrates, cassava may help people to control their weight or even to shed a few pounds as part of a healthy diet plan.
Because cassava is such a great source of dietary fiber. It may help you feel more sated throughout the day and less likely to snack between meals.
In the long run, this may result in a smaller waistline but do not expect a quick fix.
Cooked cassava has a low glycemic index of 46 which makes it very suitable for including the diet of diabetic patients.
It is a good idea for diabetic patients to substitute white flour with cassava flour as it does not rise the blood sugar levels rapidly.
The way cassava is prepared also makes a difference, I would suggest having it in the form of pancakes or boiled with salt and stir fried.
Cassava Nutrition Facts
Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a type of plant that produces a starchy root crop (often called yuca or yuca root).
Which is one of the most valuable sources of nutrition for more than 500 million people living in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Compared to many other crops, cassava requires a low amount of energy to produce and yields a high amount of edible crop per plant, making it one of the world’s most valuable stable crops.
Nearly every part of the cassava plant can be used in some way.
Cassava plants are highly intolerant to stressful environments and can be grown in regions of the world where fresh food is commonly scarce.
Which is why its considered a sustainable and important security crop for preventing famine.
Other than the starchy roots of cassava shrubs, the leaves and stems of cassava can also be used to make food for both humans and animals.
Some of the ways that cassava is traditionally used around the world include making soups, stews and even livestock feed out of cassava leaves.
The stems are also replanted to help increase mushroom growing, used to make firewood for heating and made into various paper products.
A quarter-cup serving of cassava flour has about:
- 114 calories
- 2 grams of fiber
- less than 1 gram of fat, protein or sugar
- 28 grams of carbohydrates
- about 17 percent of daily vitamin C
In addition, one cup of raw cassava contains about:
- 330 calories
- 78.4 grams carbohydrates
- 2.8 grams protein
- 0.6 gram fat
- 3.7 grams fiber
- 42.4 milligrams vitamin C (71 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligram manganese (40 percent DV)
- 558 milligrams potassium (16 percent DV)
- 55.6 micrograms folate (14 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram thiamine (12 percent DV)
- 43.3 milligrams magnesium (11 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram copper (10 percent DV)
- 1.8 milligrams niacin (9 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram vitamin B6 (9 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram riboflavin (6 percent DV)
- 55.6 milligrams phosphorus (6 percent DV)
- 3.9 micrograms vitamin K (5 percent DV)
- 0.7 milligram zinc (5 percent DV)
Although it’s not very high in fiber, protein, healthy fats or other essential nutrients (aside from vitamin C), cassava is low in calories and allows you to enjoy some of your favorites recipes without the use of processed, bleached or gluten-containing flours.
Cassava root contains natural toxic cyanogenic glycoside compounds linamarin and methyl-linamarin.
Injury to tuber releases linamarase enzyme from the ruptured cells. Which then converts linamarin to poisonous hydrocyanic acid (HCN).
Therefore, consumption of raw cassava root results in cyanide poisoning with symptoms of vomiting, nausea, dizziness, stomach pains, headache, and death.
In general, cyanide content is substantially higher in its outer part and peel.
While peeling lessens the cyanide content, sun drying, and soaking followed by boiling in salt-vinegar water results in evaporation of this compound and makes it safe for human consumption.
Prolong use of monotonous cassava diet may lead to chronic illness like tropical ataxic neuropathy (TAN) and Diabetes. Especially among rural and tribal inhabitants who purely engaged in processing and consumption of cassava products.