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Beyond the Roots: What Are The Benefits Of Consuming Cassava?

Medically reviewed by Sue Kua, MD · Dermatology


Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Oct 12, 2022

Beyond the Roots: What Are The Benefits Of Consuming Cassava?

Cassava, a calorie-rich vegetable, is a nutty-flavored, starchy root or tuber native to South America. In the Philippines,  we most often associate it with the dessert dish that is cassava cake.  However, because cassava cake has been reported to cause upset stomachs due to improper preparation or slight spoilage, many people still link it to food poisoning. To help change perspectives, let’s discuss the different cassava benefits. What can you get out of this filling vegetable? 

Benefits in cassava roots

People grow cassava in tropical regions around the world (like the Philippines) because it can withstand difficult growing conditions. From South America, cassava cultivation has expanded widely and is most consumed in regions of South America, Africa, and Asia. The root of the cassava plant is the most consumed part because of its many uses. People can consume cassava root whole, grated, or ground into flour. 

Cassava has bitter and sweet varieties. Raw cassava root has more carbohydrate than potatoes and less carbohydrate than wheat, rice, yellow corn, and sorghum on a 100-g basis. The fiber content in cassava roots depends on the age and variety of the root.

Cassava roots have calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and manganese contents comparable to those of many legumes. Cassava also contains a hearty dose of vitamin C, which plays a key role in enhancing immunity and collagen production.

Benefits of cassava leaves

On the other hand, cassava leaves are rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins. The presence of antinutrients and cyanogenic glucosides are the major drawbacks in cassava leaves, which limit its human consumption. 

Some cassava leaf processing methods successfully detoxify cassava leaves but simultaneously destroy the nutrients. Efforts have also been made for cassava leaf protein extraction in the form of cassava leaf protein concentrate but protein recovery was very low.

Cassava benefits: It’s versatile

Cassava cakes may be popular, but please remember that you can make so many more foods from cassava. Online, you’ll see recipes for puto, pie, puffs, and even cookies. This means there are many ways people can enjoy the benefits of this starchy vegetable.

Just a reminder, though: the ingredients you add in making cassava products matter. For example, adding too much sugar or salt can negate the cassava benefits.

Warnings about cassava

Although there are many cassava benefits we can take advantage of, there are some warnings that should be heeded before eating it. Cassava roots contain potentially toxic hydrocyanic acid. High concentration of hydrocyanic acid can be fatal. 

Important

In lower concentrations, take note of the following signs and symptoms you need to watch out for and go to the nearest hospital:
  • Weakness
  • Decrease in sensation,
  • Dizziness,
  • Vomiting,
  • Increase in heart rate,
  • Increase in rate of breathing followed by decreasing breathing rate and gasping for air.

In addition, cassava can also absorb pollutants as it is currently cultivated near roads or factories and generally without consideration for potential sources of soil, water, or atmospheric pollution.

These are perhaps some of the reasons behind the previously reported cases of food poisoning resulting from eating cassava cake. It might not have been something as simple as eating fresh cassava cake, but rather the preparation of the cassava, as well as the quality of the cassava used in the dessert.

Important

It is therefore important to observe careful washing, peeling, and adequate preparation before eating cassava. These are big steps for reducing human exposure to both environmental pollutants and natural hydrocyanic acid.

Key takeaways

Cassava benefits can largely be found in the root of the plant. A calorie-rich tuber, we can eat cassava root  in a variety of ways including whole, grated, or ground into flour. While the cassava root is the most versatile and rich in nutrients, studies have also been made regarding the cassava leaves with some promising results. While cassava has proven to contain vitamins and minerals, careful washing and peeling on top of adequate preparation is still necessary before cassava should be consumed by humans.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

Disclaimer

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Sue Kua, MD

Dermatology


Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Oct 12, 2022

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