Cassava – Uses, Benefits, Toxicity, and Consumption

Cassava leaves and roots can be eaten as food. Mainly it is a root vegetable. It has a similar nutritional profile to potatoes. It can be eaten whole and grated. Cassava flour is used in bread and crackers. The root is used as both a food source and as medicine. Cassava is used to treat tiredness, dehydration, sepsis, and to induce labor (not enough scientific evidence to support it).

Cassava does contain chemicals known as cyanogenic glycosides. These chemicals can cause the body to release cyanide. Cassava should be properly prepared before it is eaten to avoid cyanide poisoning.

Cassava crop can withstand harsh growing conditions; it is widely grown in tropical areas around the globe. It is actually one of the most drought-tolerant crops.

There are both sweet and bitter cassava varieties, but sweet cassava is more prevalent in the United States, sometimes called yuca, manioc, or Brazilian arrowroot.

Cassava root can be used in baking and cooking by people with food allergies. It is free from gluten, grains, and other nuts. The root must be cooked before eating. It can be fatal if it is consumed uncooked.

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Cassava Leaves

Cassava is grown chiefly for its roots, while leaves are mainly used as a byproduct. Cassava leaves contain many vitamins, minerals, protein, and vitamins. Cassava leaves have major drawbacks. They contain antinutrients as well as cyanogenic sugar sides. Depending on how much cassava leaf is consumed, these toxic compounds and antinutrients can cause various health problems. These anti-nutrients and the toxicity of cassava plants should be addressed before cassava leaf processing (CLP). There are many CLP methods, but each has its limitations. Some CLP methods can detoxify cassava leaves but also destroy nutrients. 

Cassava Nutrients

Cassava is an important source of carbs. It also contains some fiber, vitamins, as well as minerals. These nutrients can be found in 100g of cooked cassava. 

  • Calories – 191
  • Protein – 1.5 grams
  • Vitamin D – 20% Daily Value
  • Vitamin A6 – 6% Daily Value
  • Fat – 3 Grams
  • Carbs – 40 Grams
  • Fiber – 2 Grams
  • Folate – 6%
  • Potassium – 6%
  • Magnesium – 5% of Daily Value
  • Niacin – 5% Daily Value
  • Copper – 12% Daily Value
  • Thiamine – 7% Daily Value

Cassava root contains a high amount of vitamin C. It acts as an antioxidant, boosts collagen production, and improves immunity. It is also rich in copper, essential for energy production, neurotransmitter synthesis, and iron metabolism.

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Cassava Health Benefits

  • Cassava has high levels of resistant starch. This type of starch can bypass digestion and has properties similar to soluble fiber. Resistant starch feeds your beneficial bacteria and reduces inflammation. It also positively affects metabolic health and can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. These benefits may be related to better blood sugar management, higher feelings of fullness, and decreased appetite.
  • Cassava has a high level of vitamin C. Each 3.5-ounce (100 gram) serving contains 20%. Vitamin C is a vital component of many aspects, including immunity. It helps protect your body from oxidative stress and supports your immune system. Moreover, it protects your skin from damage and stimulates collagen production.

Cassava Drawbacks

Cassava can be an excellent addition to your diet. However, there are some downsides.

  1. Raw Cassava Can be Dangerous

Cassava can be hazardous if consumed in large quantities, raw, or improperly prepared.

Raw cassava is rich in chemicals known as cyanogenic glycosides. These chemicals can be consumed and may cause cyanide to be released into the body. Consuming cyanogenic glycosides regularly or in large amounts increases the risk of cyanide poisoning. Cyanide poisoning can cause paralysis, impaired thyroid function, organ damage, and death.

  1. High in Calories

Cassava has 191 calories in a 3.5-ounce (100g) serving. This is a lot more than other root vegetables. Its high-calorie count is why it is a staple crop in many countries. Eating more calories than you burn can lead to weight gain. Cassava is best enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Try to limit your serving size to 70 to 110g.

  1. Reduced Nutrients 

The vitamins, minerals, and fiber present in Cassava get reduced when chopped, peeled, and cooked. To avoid side effects, cooking the root before eating is essential.

Older studies show that boiling cassava root retains more nutrients than other cooking methods such as roasting or frying. So, to maximize nutritional value, it’s better to choose boiled versions of cassava.

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Cassava Recipes

Cassava can be safely prepared and eaten in moderation. While cyanide poisoning associated with this root is rare, it’s still important to cook it properly to prevent adverse side effects.

Cassava can be incorporated in many different ways. You can make side dishes and snacks with it. It is often sliced and baked or roasted in the same way as potatoes. You can also mash it or add it to soups, stir-fries, and omelets. You can also grind cassava into flour to use in bread, crackers, grain-free tortillas, and pancakes.

Cassava root is a wonderful addition to stir-fries, soups, baked goods, and desserts. It is often used in traditional dishes across the globe. Tapioca starch is extracted from the root by washing it and pulping it. Tapioca is used to thicken soups, pies, and puddings.

Cassava is also a popular ingredient in many other dishes, such as:

  • Cassava cake – A Filipino dessert made from grated cassava root.
  • Kabkab – It is a traditional Filipino wafer made of ground cassava
  • Fufu – It is a dough-like food found in many African countries. It is made from fermented cassava.
  • Farofa: This side dish is made with toasted cassava flour in Brazil.
  • Tapai – It is a fermented food that’s popular in Southeast Asia. It is made from cassava, rice, or other starches.

Is It Safe to Consume Cassava?

To avoid any adverse health effects, you must prepare it properly. Avoid eating it raw. Here are some ways you can make cassava safe to eat:

  • Cassava root peel contains most of its cyanide-producing substances, so it is a good idea not to use it.
  • Submerging Cassava in water for at least 48-60 hours before you cook it can reduce the number of harmful chemicals.
  • Since toxic chemicals can be found in raw cassava, preparing it properly before you eat it is important.
  • Combine cassava with protein. This macronutrient can help rid your body of toxic cyanide.
  • Don’t rely solely on cassava for your nutrition. Instead, eat a varied diet to avoid adverse cassava effects. 

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