Cassava Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

cassava nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Cassava is a nutrient-dense, starchy root vegetable consumed in developing countries around the world. It's also known as yucca, manioc, or mandioca. Because cassava produces a natural toxin, some people are wary of eating it. However, the right preparation methods prevent this from being an issue. When cooked, cassava has a similar texture to potatoes. Its tuberous roots are used to make cassava flours, breads, and tapioca.

Cassava Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (103g) of raw cassava.

  • Calories: 165
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 14.4mg
  • Carbohydrates: 39g
  • Fiber: 1.9g
  • Sugars: 1.8g
  • Protein: 1.4g

Carbs

Cassava is high in carbohydrates, with 39 grams per 1/2 cup. There are just under 2 grams of both fiber and natural sugars in a serving of cassava. The majority of carbohydrates are from starch.

Cassava is a staple food in many cultures. When compared to wheat, cassava may contribute four times less digestible sugar and offer 16 times more fiber, giving it a lower glycemic than many other staple grains.

Fats

Cassava naturally contains minimal fat, with less than 1 gram per cup. If you cook cassava in oil or top it with butter, the fat content of your meal will increase proportionately.

Protein

Cassava is not particularly high in protein, with less than 2 grams per 1/2-cup serving. However, cassava leaves are edible and a good source of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cassava is very high in potassium and vitamin C. It also contains most of the B-vitamins (except B12), vitamin A, magnesium, selenium, calcium, and iron.

Health Benefits

Cassava has been used in alternative medicine to treat a range of conditions. Here are some of the benefits supported by current science.

Lowers Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of health markers that indicate a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. It's characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and waist circumference, among other factors.

Cassava is rich in flavonoids and fiber that protect against the development of metabolic syndrome and it's associated complications. This claim is especially true when cassava replaces wheat as a staple food.

Promotes Wound Healing

Cassava is rich in vitamin C. With 42.4 milligrams per cup, cassava provides about 50% of the daily vitamin C needs for most adults. Vitamin C is an essential precursor to collagen, a structural component in skin tissues. Getting enough vitamin C from food supports the body's ability to repair itself, especially since vitamin C is not something our bodies are able to produce.

Prevents Malnutrition

Although not as big of a concern in the Western world, cassava serves as an essential safeguard against malnutrition in the tropical and African communities where it's most popular.

Cassava is tolerant to drought, pests, and difficult growing conditions. The root vegetable produces a high yield and can be kept in the ground for several growing seasons as a reserve food when other crops are scarce. Both cassava leaves and roots have nutritional benefits that help keep the developing world fed.

Reduces Blood Pressure

Similar to potatoes, cassava is exceptionally high in potassium. A cup of cassava has 558 milligrams, providing 16% to 21% of the daily recommendation (which range between 2600–3400 milligrams per day depending on age and sex).

Potassium lowers blood pressure levels and can help balance out sodium intake which raises blood pressure. Choosing a cassava-based side dish instead of a grain-based one boosts the potassium intake of your meal.

Supports Healthy Weight Maintenance

Although cassava is high in calories, it provides fiber and resistant starch that promotes healthy gut bacteria. Studies suggested that the fiber from root vegetables reduces cravings for salty, sweet, and high-fat foods. The fiber in cassava positively impacts the gut microbiome, promoting feelings of satiety. Choosing a meal plan based around whole foods provides ample nutrition without empty calories.

Allergies

Case studies on patients with allergic reactions to cassava have been associated with latex allergies. As with other allergies, symptoms of a cassava allergy may include hives, swelling, vomiting, or difficulty breathing. If you suspect an allergy to cassava, see an allergist for a full evaluation.

Adverse Effects

Raw cassava contains a natural toxin, hydrocyanic acid, which is a cyanide-producing sugar derivative. Processing cassava through grating, pressing, and cooking removes the hydrocyanic acid. Since cooked cassava is much more palatable than raw cassava, chances are this is not a major concern for most people who consume it in moderation.

Varieties

Most cassava farmers grow between one to four varieties of cassava at a given time, with some growing as many as 14 different varieties. Varieties of cassava are typically named based on the person who introduced the variant to the community, its attributes, or its origin.

In Uganda, the variety "Welobediyo" means "relax" because it cooks quickly and is ready to eat in no time. "Gilgil" is named after the village where it originated. Different types of cassava vary in their bitterness and palatability. Variants have also been introduced that are higher in vitamin A and beta carotene to better support the nutritional needs of those who rely on it as a staple crop.

When It's Best

Cassava is typically harvested as its foliage begins to dry out. You're likely to find cassava at any time of the year, if not in your local supermarket, then in an Asian, South American, or African grocer. Cassava flour is also sold, along with products made from it like bread and chips.

Storage and Food Safety

Cassava roots tend to deteriorate rapidly after being picked, making them notoriously difficult to transport and store. Removing the leaves two weeks prior to harvest has been shown to increase shelf-life of cassava roots to about two weeks. Some additional methods for preserving cassava include curing, freezing, or waxing.

As with most root vegetables, raw cassava should be scrubbed with a vegetable brush and rinsed under running water to remove dirt and bacteria prior to preparation. Store in cold, dark conditions and use within a few days.

How to Prepare

Cassava can be cooked in a variety of ways. You can boil and mash it with garlic and butter to make a side dish similar to mashed potatoes. Roast cassava to make chips dipped in chimichurri sauce, a South American recipe with parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and red wine vinegar. Use cassava flour in baked goods and snacks. Try new recipes from around the world to learn how to bring out the best of cassava.

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Article Sources
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