Cassava, the tuber rich in good carbohydrates
BENEFITS OF CASSAVA
- Good source of carbohydrates
- It has an antioxidant action
- Relieves skin problems
- Reduces levels of bad cholesterol
- Improves digestive health and transit
What is cassava?
Cassava, scientifically called Manihot esculenta, is a shrub native to the tropical regions of Central and South America.
Like the castor oil plant or the gum tree, it belongs to the great family of the Euphorbiaceae which includes nearly 6,000 species, among them a hundred species of the genus Manihot. If there are many cultivars and hybrids today, the typical variety is the Manihot esculenta Crantz.
Sometimes considered as a root vegetable, cassava is a perennial plant that can grow up to 5 m high.
It is distinguished by its very long tuber that can measure 50 cm long by 10 cm in diameter and weigh up to 5 kg! It has a rough brown skin and whitish flesh. Produces large leaves, which are also edible, and yellow flowers in capsules.
Originally, the bush grows mainly in the Amazon regions, Guyana and Brazil. Its tuber was eaten fried, prepared as broth or ground to obtain flour.
Cassava was introduced to Africa in the 16th century, where it is now widely consumed.
It is mainly used in the preparation of manioc bread, attiéké, a traditional dish from the Ivory Coast, and “fufu”, a pasta consumed as a staple in West Africa. It is also grown in Asia.
In addition to its taste qualities, the tuber and the leaves of the cassava have undeniable nutritional assets.
Thanks to this composition, cassava has a satiating and antioxidant action. Its consumption is also indicated to alleviate skin problems, improve transit and reduce bad cholesterol levels.
- 9 amino acids
- Vitamins: provitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, E, K
- Minerals and trace elements: magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, zinc
- Carotenoids: lutein, beta-carotene
The benefits of cassava
Good source of carbohydrates
The manioc tuber is composed of 70% carbohydrates or carbohydrates. So much so that today about 500 million people depend on it as their main source of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates, essential for providing energy to the body, are used in the composition of certain proteins, ensure glycogen stores and improve sleep by increasing tryptophan production.
It contains mainly complex carbohydrates in the form of starch (amylose and amylopectin). These have a satiating role and regulate the appetite. Once in the stomach, the starch swells, which accelerates the feeling of satiety.
Although it is relatively high in calories (159 kcal per 100 g), it can be consumed to lose weight because of its high satiating power and its fiber content.
This journal from the University of New England (Australia) focused on the nutritional composition of cassava and in particular on its high carbohydrate content in animal feeds.
It has an antioxidant action
The cassava is an interesting plant to limit the damages in the organism induced by the action of the free radicals. Its leaves contain polyphenols, vitamin C and carotenoids (lutein and beta-carotene). All these nutrients and active ingredients are involved in the fight against free radicals.
In some studies, cassava has been shown to protect the liver and limit liver damage through its antioxidant activity. In fact, it contains 2 flavonols: quercetin and kaempferol. The latter have reduced the level of malondialdehyde, a marker of lipid oxidation by free radicals.
This study from the National Research Center in Cairo, Egypt, conducted on rats, shows how the aqueous extract of cassava sprouts reduces liver damage by exerting antioxidant activity.
Relieves skin problems
When used externally, cassava leaves have a particularly interesting antibacterial action to improve skin problems.
They act in particular on Staphylococcus epidermidis, a bacterium of the skin flora that can become pathogenic, and on Propionibacterium acnes, responsible for acne.
The leaves are also rich in beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A which is involved in skin cell renewal. The tuber also contains several B vitamins that contribute to the maintenance of healthy skin.
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This study from Padjadjaran University (Indonesia), conducted directly on clinical isolates of bacteria, shows the antibacterial activity of cassava leaves.
Reduces levels of bad cholesterol
Cassava appears to be effective in reducing the level of bad cholesterol (or “LDL cholesterol”) in the blood and increasing the level of good cholesterol (or “HDL cholesterol”).
This action is due to its dietary fiber content and the presence of L-fucose, a monosaccharide that performs many functions.
It also contains interesting amino acids. Lysine, for example, participates in the creation of carnitine, which reduces cholesterol levels. Not to mention calcium and magnesium, which combat excess LDL cholesterol.
This human study from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute in Taguig, Philippines, shows the beneficial effect of cassava on bad cholesterol levels.
Improves digestive health and transit
Cassava starch and fiber are indicated to improve transit, prevent and alleviate intestinal disorders such as constipation.
The anti-inflammatory action of cassava also helps reduce colon inflammation and chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
In addition, it is highly digestible and naturally gluten-free. Therefore, it can be consumed in case of intolerance or celiac disease.
However, studies are still needed to evaluate the effectiveness of cassava in improving traffic.
How do you eat cassava?
The fresh yucca tuber
Fresh cassava tubers can be found in specialty stores and grocery stores in Africa and Asia. A quality cassava must be firm, free of mold or viscous parts and without a strong odor.
The cassava tuber can be cooked in many ways: fried, steamed, mashed, in fritters… Its flavor, close to that of a potato, goes very well with fish or meat. It is even possible to integrate it in desserts (cakes, pancakes…) to obtain original and tasty recipes.
Tender cassava leaves are also interesting for cooking. In particular, they are used in the preparation of ravitoto, a traditional Malagasy recipe based on chopped leaves.
You can cook them like spinach, but make sure you cook them well. Its leaves go wonderfully well with meat, fish and starchy dishes.
After harvest, the cassava tubers are first washed and then soaked in water (retting) for several days. They are then dried and crushed to obtain the precious flour.
Naturally gluten-free, manioc flour is suitable for coeliacs and is an advantageous substitute for wheat flour. It is ideal in confectionery to give softness to the culinary preparations: cookies, cakes, pancakes…
In the salty version, it can be eaten as “pão de queijo”, a Brazilian cheese roll, vegetable pancakes or “farofa”, a typical Brazilian accompaniment.
Sweet or bitter manioc?
There are two types of cassava: sweet and bitter. The sweet cassava is the one that we find more often in the stalls and it is cooked like a vegetable.
The latter, on the other hand, is toxic when raw (because it contains hydrocyanic acid) and therefore must be prepared. This is why it is mainly used in the manufacture of tapioca flour or starch.
Cassava flour or tapioca starch?
Be careful not to confuse cassava flour with tapioca starch. In fact, the starch comes from the starch contained in the bitter cassava tuber. The starch is cooked and crushed to obtain small tapioca beads.
Tapioca starch is used for its thickening action. It gives consistency to dishes, sauces, desserts…
Cassava and superfoods
To alleviate digestive disorders, cassava goes well with fiber-rich superfoods like carob and root vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes.
To keep your figure in shape or lose weight, you can combine it with other natural appetite suppressants such as cocoa, which increases the feeling of fullness.
Sustainable consumption: promoting organic cassava and fair trade
Today, 70% of the world’s cassava is produced in Nigeria, Brazil, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Thailand.
It is grown mainly by small, low-income farmers. For them, cassava is an important financial and food security resource.
That is why we advise you to choose a fair trade product that guarantees fair prices and values the work of these producers.
In several countries it is grown in certain overseas departments and regions, such as Réunion and the West Indies. But the production is rarely exported to the continent.
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✓ Finally, preference will be given to organically grown cassava, free from chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.
There is not really a recommended dose for cassava consumption. Just make sure you don’t overdo it, as it is quite caloric compared to other root vegetables.
Fresh tuber: 250 g/person/day
Leaves: 500 g for 1 to 2 liters of water
In the flour: replace the same amount of cassava flour with wheat flour.
Contraindications and side effects
The consumption of yucca has certain contraindications. In particular, it is not recommended for people suffering from iodine deficiency or thyroid problems.
In addition, the tuber contains cyanogenic glycosides (linamarin and lotaustralin) that can convert to hydrocyanic acid and cause poisoning with the following side effects:
If you experience side effects, stop taking the medication and consult a physician.
History, cultivation and market of the cassava
With 250 million tons produced each year, cassava is the fifth most cultivated food plant in the world, after corn, rice, wheat and potatoes.
Africa accounts for 47% of world production. It has become the continent’s main source of food and a staple for a large number of populations.
But global warming is weighing heavily on this crop. It favors populations of insect pests and the development of viral diseases (African Mosaic and brown stripe of cassava) that cause significant damage to fields.
An international partnership has even been established to respond to the threat of cassava diseases in Africa (Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century).
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