Why Cassava is Good for You

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There is an extensive list of reasons why cassava is good for you to eat, as a balanced part of your overall diet.

Traditional dishes in many Asian, African and Caribbean countries include cassava as one of the more common vegetables used in their cuisines. In these regions, cassava is in high demand, and, much like plantains, it is grown in mass quantities on large plantations. This provides not only locally favored foods ingredients, but a healthy export business to help fuel the economies.

Cassava Plantation (Photo Attributed to Author: Judgefloro)

Cassava Plantation (Photo Attributed to Author: Judgefloro)

Cassava Plant (Photo Attributed to Author: Willy Ochayaus)

Cassava Plant (Photo Attributed to Author: Willy Ochayaus)

Cassava (also called Yucca) is in the same family as other tropical root vegetables, like yams and taro, and is also related to the potato. Cassava thrives in fertile, moist, well-drained tropical soils. A perennial plant, it will, when mature, achieve heights ranging from about 3 to 5 feet.

Much like growing sugar cane, cut-stem sections are planted just under the surface of the cultivation fields. Newly planted cassava plants will produce the first harvest after about 8 to 10 months. Its elongated, globular roots (tubers) grow downward and deep (anywhere from 2 to 4 feet) in a radial pattern from the bottom end of the stem.

Cassava Tubers (Photo Attributed to Author: Thamizhpparithi Maari)

Cassava Tubers (Photo Attributed to Author: Thamizhpparithi Maari)

Depending on the type of cultivar, each mature tuber will weigh anywhere from one to several pounds. The tubers are brown-gray and have rough, woody-textured, tough skins. The inside of the tuber is bright white. This white “flesh” is a starchy, slightly sweet substance, and is what you eat. However, the cassava should only be eaten after cooking – for reasons that will be explained a little later on in this article.

But enough on background. Let’s get into the main topic at hand, and find out-

Why Cassava is Good For You

Health benefits of Why Cassava is Good for You:

  • Cassava is one of the best sources of several important minerals, such as copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and manganese. Also, it has beneficial amounts of potassium, which is an important component of body and cell fluids which assist in helping to regulate blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Cassava is extremely low in fats. While its protein content is less than found in cereals and grains, it nevertheless has more protein than other tropical food sources, such as plantains, yams and potatoes.
  • The tubers, as with other roots and tubers foods, are free from gluten.
  • Tender young leaves of the cassava (yucca) plant are a very good source of dietary proteins, as well as vitamin K. Vitamin-K has been shown to play a significant role in bone mass building. Additionally, vitamin K is considered beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients – it does so by minimizing neuronal damage in the brain.
  • Cassava also provides moderate sources of some of the valuable B-complex group. Vitamins like thiamine, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), folates, pantothenic acid and riboflavin.

Nutritional Facts About Why Cassava is Good for You:

Why Cassava is Good For You

Some notes on purchasing, storing, and preparing cassava-

Cassava tubers are by now usually readily available in most major markets all around the world, in any season. Here in the USA, cassava tubers are generally imported from Central America. They are waxed, keeping them fresh during transportation, and also making them appear shiny and bright in the grocery stores. Waxed tubers also will have a longer shelf life for staying fresh.

The best tubers are those that are well-formed, very hard, cylindrical in shape, and they feel heavy for their size. Check on how fresh they are, since the older stocks lose their flavor and will be less appetizing. Avoid tubers that have cuts or breaks in the skin. Also stay away from those with blemishes, soft spots, and/or mold. If you do not have a local market that carries good quality, fresh cassava tubers, you can purchase excellent cassava on our online store. Just click here.

You can store fresh roots at room temperature usually for about 5 to 7 days (even longer if they have been waxed). One they are peeled and cut into sections, however, they should be submerged in cold water and stored in the refrigerator – where they will keep well for up to three days.

When you are ready to prepare your yucca roots for use in recipes, you should first wash the whole root in cold water, then pat them dry and trim the ends off. To peel them, you will need a sharp, strong paring knife. A vegetable peeler simply will not “cut it” (pardon the pun), as the skins are too thick and tough. Peel away the outer skins until you are left with just the pure white, soft inside flesh.

(Photo Attributed to Author: Maxencia Namata)

(Photo Attributed to Author: Maxencia Namata)

Depending on the recipe and/or use you are preparing for, you will chop the flesh in various ways. But you will always be boiling the root for health and safety reasons (see below, under “One Parting Admonition”), so normally you will be chopping the roots into small chunks, for easier and faster results. When you chop, there will be “strings” running along the inner core – cut those off and discard.

Much like the potato, cut yucca sections will quickly discolor and turn a brownish color, so right away place the chunks fully submerged in a container of cold water. When you boil the chopped cassava, add a little salt and vinegar to the water. This not only adds to the flavor of the cooked flesh, it is important for health and safety reasons as well. (see below for details)

If you are not familiar with cooking with cassava, and can now see why cassava is good for you, we have lots of recipes for you here at Ethnic Foods R Us.

A search of the site for recipes using cassava root will take you here, which is a good place to start perusing for the recipe(s) of your interest.

One parting admonition-

As you have seen, the reasons for why cassava is good for you are many. But you should also be aware of the following:

Cassava root does contain the natural toxic cyanogenic glycoside compounds, linamarin and methyl-linamarin. Injured, bruised, and/or cut tubers will release a linamarase enzyme from the ruptured cells, which will then convert the linamarin to a poisonous hydrocyanic acid (HCN). For these reasons, never eat raw cassava (yucca) root! Doing so can result in cyanide poisoning. You could experience symptoms of headache, nausea, dizziness, stomach pains, vomiting, and, if not treated, even death.

In general, the concentration of cyanide is substantially higher in the outer part and peel of the tubers. Therefore, peeling does lessens the cyanide content. But soaking the flesh, followed by boiling in salt/vinegar water thoroughly, evaporates the toxic compound and makes it completely safe for human consumption.

So keep these things in mind, but certainly feel good about the proper and balanced inclusion of cassava in your regular diet. The why cassava is good for you far outweighs the why not.

Chow y’all, and have fun while you prepare your yucca! Please do leave a comment, ask a question, share your experience with why cassava is good for you, offer suggestions, whatever … it’s all good, here at Ethnic Foods R Us.

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7 thoughts on “Why Cassava is Good for You

  1. Very interesting and compelling information, and much appreciated. I’ve seen cassava for sale in my local markets, but always passed them by. Now I have good reason to try some. Thanks.

  2. Good stuff to know. I like yams, potatoes, sweet potatoes, so hey – if yucca is even better for you, why not give it a try?

  3. Never tried yucca, or cassava, but this article certainly presents a strong argument for including it in a healthy, rounded diet. Thanks also for the heads-up on possible side effects and how to make sure it is prepared for safe consumption.

  4. I can see LOTS of uses for cassava! Thanks for all this info, Old Silly – I’m definitely going to try out some of those recipes, too. 🙂

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