Health Benefits and Risks of Cassava

Cassava can be defined as a root vegetable that is used to be widely consumed in developing countries. It contains some health benefits such as resistant starch and important nutrients.

Contrary, Cassava may has dangerous effects if one eats it raw and in large amounts.

To determine whether cassava is a healthy food or not, we will explore the unique properties of cassava in this following article.

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What Is Cassava?

Cassava grows in South America natively; it is a nutty-flavoured, starchy root vegetable. It is used to provide calories and carbs in developing countries.

It is well known with his great ability to withstand difficult growing conditions i.e., it is drought-tolerant crops that’s why it is grown in tropical regions.

In the United States (U.S), people call the cassava ” yucca” or “manioc” or “Brazilian arrowroot”.

The root of cassava is the most commonly consumed part in the plant, it is very versatile. 

There are many different ways to eat cassava; grated or ground into flour for using it to make bread and crackers or it can be eaten whole.

Cassava root is well known by his raw material that is used in producing tapioca and garri, which is similar to tapioca.

People who are suffering from food allergies use cassava root in cooking and baking since it contains no gluten, no grain and no nut.

There is one more important matter worth to be mentioned about cassava, which is that it must be cooked before eating since raw cassava can be poisonous.

Cassava contains a Few Key Nutrients

Eating 3.5 ounces (about 100 grams) of boiled cassava root guarantees for the body 112 calories, 98 % of these calories are from carbs and 14 % are protein and fat.

Cassava serving also provides fibre, vitamins and minerals.

7 ounces (200 grams) of boiled cassava contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 224
  • Fiber: 2 gram
  • Phosphorus: 10 % of the RDI
  • Riboflavin: 4 % of the RDI
  • Thiamine: 40 % of the RDI
  • Carbs: 54 grams
  • Calcium: 4 % of the RDI

RDI: Recommended Daily Intake 

Additionally,  boiled cassava root contains iron, vitamin C and niacin but in a small amount.

However, the nutrition profile of cassava is unnoticeable since it contains some vitamins and minerals, with minimal amounts.

Beets and sweet potatoes are root vegetables can provide more nutrients. Cassava can be considered as a source of crabs significantly, it also contains a small amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

The Nutritional Value of Cassava Are Reduced by Processing

The nutritional value of the cassava is reduced by processing it via boiling, chopping and cooking since processing it destroy vitamins and minerals in cassava also the resistant starch and fibre.

Therefore, tapioca which is considered as the more popular processed forms of cassava usually has limited nutritional value.

1 ounce (28 grams) of tapioca pearls contains calories and a small number of minerals.

Boiling cassava root proved to be a good method to retain most nutrients except vitamin c which easily leaches into the water because it is sensitive to heat.

Cassava contains high calories

3.5-ounce (100-gram) of cassava serving contains 122 calories and that is considered as quite high value compared to the other vegetable roots.

To illustrate, the same serving of sweet potatoes contains 76 calories, and the same amount of beets contains only 44 calories.

The appropriate serving size of cassava is 1/3–1/2 cup (73–113 grams). Thus, cassava must be consumed in moderation.

Contains High Resistant Starch

Cassava contains high amounts of resistant starch, and that sort of starch bypasses the digestion process and similar to soluble fibre in features.

There are several health benefits for consuming foods containing high in resistant starch:

1.   Resistant starch promotes digestive health and reduces the inflammation since resistant starch feeds the beneficial bacteria inside the gut.

2.   Resistant starch has been proved to be able to contribute better metabolic health and reduces obesity risk and type 2 diabetes.

3.   It improves blood sugar, promotes fullness and reduces the appetite.

It is important to refer to the benefits of resistant starch which are promising but remember, there are some processing methods that may lower cassava’s resistant starch content.

The Products which are made from cassava, such as flour, are lower in resistant starch than cassava root which on the cooled form after cooking.

Cassava contains Anti-nutrients

One drawback of cassava is that it contains anti-nutrients which may interfere with digestion and prevent the vitamin and minerals absorption.  

Let us show the most important anti-nutrients in cassava:

·       Saponins: Antioxidants that exist in cassava may have drawback which is reducing the absorption of some kinds of vitamins and minerals.

·       Phytate: the anti-nutrients in cassava may cause interfering with magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc absorption process.

·       Tannins: and that is well known for its reducing protein’s digestibility and may interfere with iron, zinc, copper and thiamine absorption.

Anti-nutrients that are in cassava should be prominent if they are frequently consumed as part of a nutritionally inadequate diet, but if you consume cassava on occasion and in moderate amounts, the anti-nutrients in the cassava will not be a major concern.

This doesn’t mean that consuming antinutrients such as tannins and saponins doesn’t have health benefits, in some circumstances it does.

In Some Circumstances It May Be Dangerous

Consuming raw cassava in large amounts may be dangerous or if it is improperly prepared. Since cassava contains chemicals which are called cyanogenic glycosides and that is known by releasing cyanide in the body.

If cassava is consumed frequently, the risk of cyanide poisoning is increased and that would impair thyroid and nerve function.  It may also cause paralysis and organ damage.

People who have poor nutrition status and low protein intake are more likely to have this experience and this is because protein helps get rid of cyanide.

People in developing countries are more likely to get poisoned from cassava cyanide since these people are suffering from protein deficiencies and consume cassava significantly in their food.

To make cassava safer, consume it occasionally and in moderate amounts.