Cassava: Benefits, Nutrition and Risks
Cassava: Benefits, Nutrition and Risks

cassava (Manihot esculenta), known as yucca, is a root vegetable that is used as an important food source in many parts of the world, including Africa and the Caribbean. The cassava plant is drought, pest and disease resistant, making it a popular carbohydrate and energy source in tropical and arid regions.

Cassava is high in calories and carbohydrates and provides several essential nutrients, including vitamin C and potassium. However, it is important to take precautions when preparing cassava, as the raw root contains toxic compounds that can be harmful to health.

Cassava is concentrated in several vitamins and minerals that tend to be few in modern diets.

For example, a cup of cooked cassava provides 10% of your daily needs for potassium, a mineral essential for fluid balance, cellular function and blood pressure regulation.

Since potassium is needed to regulate blood pressure, it is critical to maintaining the health of the heart, kidneys, and more. However, research shows that the average American falls short of the adequate intake (AI) of potassium, which is currently set at 3,400 milligrams (mg) per day for adult men and 2,600 mg per day for adult women.

People who follow diets low in potassium-rich foods are more likely to develop high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney disease, so choosing potassium-rich foods is important for health.

Cassava is also high in vitamin C and folate. Vitamin C functions as a powerful antioxidant in the body, protecting cells from oxidative damage that could otherwise lead to disease. Due to its cell-protective effects, consuming a vitamin C-rich diet may reduce the risk of certain health conditions, such as cancer.

For example, a review of 57 studies found that a higher intake of vitamin C was associated with a lower incidence of several types of cancer, including breast cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.

In addition to its role as an antioxidant, vitamin C is necessary for immune function and the production of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body.

Cassava is also a good source of folate, a B vitamin that is needed for red blood cell production, growth, development and the regulation of an amino acid called homocysteine. Although homocysteine ​​occurs naturally in your body in small amounts, high levels are associated with inflammation and oxidative stress and can increase your risk of heart disease. Maintaining optimal folate levels helps keep homocysteine ​​in check, which is why consuming folate-rich foods like cassava is essential to keeping your heart healthy.

Cassava contains resistant starch, which is a type of carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine. Resistant starch passes into the colon, where it is broken down or fermented by gut bacteria. This fermentation process leads to the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, acetate and propionate.

SCFAs promote gut health in several ways. They act as a fuel source for the cells lining the colon, maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier, regulate inflammation and produce mucus. Adding sources of resistant starch to your diet can support digestive health.

Additionally, a cup of cooked cassava provides 3.04 grams (g) of fiber, which can help support healthy bowel movements, keep you feeling full, and promote overall gut health and function.

Cassava is very high in carbohydrates and relatively high in calories. However, it is a good source of potassium, folate, vitamin C and several other nutrients.

One cup serving of cooked cassava contains:

  • Calories: 306
  • Protein: 2.27 g
  • Thickness: 4.85 gr
  • Carbohydrates: 63.4 g
  • Fibers: 3.04g
  • Vitamin C: 29.1 mg or 32% of the daily value (DV)
  • Honey: 0.166 mg or 18% of the DV
  • Folate: 38.4 micrograms (mcg) or 16% of the DV
  • potassium: 451 mg or 10% of the DV

Just one cup of cooked cassava contains over 60 grams of carbohydrates, making cassava a high-carb food. One serving of carbohydrates equals 15 grams, so one cup of cassava provides four servings of carbohydrates.

Although this does not make cassava unhealthy, people following low-carb diets and people with problems regulating blood sugar, such as those with type 2 diabetes, should avoid consuming large amounts of cassava.

Cassava is a good source of several nutrients, including vitamin C, potassium, folate and copper. Cassava also contains smaller amounts of nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and fiber.

Raw cassava contains compounds called cyanogenic glycosides, which break down into hydrogen cyanide, a chemical that is toxic to humans. Consuming raw or improperly cooked cassava can lead to cyanide poisoning and contribute to neurological disorders that cause irreversible spastic paralysis.

Although all types of cassava contain toxic compounds, bitter cassava, which is not recommended for human consumption, contains much higher levels of cyanogenic glycosides than sweet cassava, which is the type most commonly used for food. Most cases of cyanide poisoning from cassava consumption are associated with ingestion of improperly cooked bitter cassava, which is sometimes grown as a food source in some areas of the world because of its drought tolerance and high productivity.

Although sweet cassava contains cyanogenic glycosides, these compounds can be reduced to safe levels by peeling the roots and then soaking for an extended period of time or boiling.

As long as cassava products are properly prepared, they are safe to eat. However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should talk to your healthcare provider before consuming cassava to be sure.

Cassava is also high in carbohydrates and low in fiber, fat and protein. Because cassava is a high-carb food, it is not suitable for people following low-carb diets, such as keto diets.

When properly prepared and cooked, cassava is safe to eat and can be used in the same way as other starchy vegetables. Cassava can be made into mashed potatoes, stir-fries and chips and can be added to dishes such as soups, baked goods and salads.

If you are interested in cooking with whole cassava, you should take the following steps to ensure it is safe to eat:

  1. Rinse the cassava and cut off both ends.
  2. Use a sharp knife to remove the thick skin from the cassava.
  3. Cut the cassava in half lengthwise and remove the inner core, similar to how you would remove the center of a pineapple.
  4. Cut the cassava into small pieces and place them in a pot of salted water.
  5. Bring the water to a boil and then let the cassava simmer for about 30 minutes.
  6. Drain the cassava thoroughly and discard the water.
  7. Cooked cassava can now be mashed, fried, baked or made into chips.

Cooked cassava has a mild, slightly nutty flavor and soft texture and can be used in place of other starches such as potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Because cassava products, such as cassava flour, are naturally gluten-free, they can be used to make gluten-free baked goods such as bread and muffins.

Cassava is a starchy vegetable that is an important food source in many parts of the world, including Africa and the Caribbean. It is a good source of calories, carbohydrates and several vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and vitamin C.

However, raw cassava contains toxic compounds, so it must be properly prepared and thoroughly cooked before consumption. If you’re interested in trying cassava, it’s important to learn how to prepare and cook this starchy vegetable to ensure it’s safe to eat.

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