Cassava is a rather sweet, starchy and nut-flavored tuber that might become a staple in your pantry. It is also known as manioc or yucca and belongs to the spurge family of plants called Euphorbiaceae. Originally from the South American forest regions, it is also grown very inexpensively in parts of Asia, Africa and the Southern U.S. It has been a food mainstay for millions for centuries now. Cassava contains more than one form of cyanogenic glycosides, according to Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety. This plant is a perennial and usually grown in tropical climates.

You can purchase the cassava roots (or flour) at large grocery stores and store them at room temperature for a week. You can peel them and boil, bake or fry, and cook and dry them for later use.

Leaves of the cassava are used for food and contain 100 times more protein than the root, but you must cook them and then discard the water. This plant is close to our white potatoes but contain almost twice the calories and might be the highest-calorie tuber known. One cup of boiled cassava will contain 330 calories, 75 grams of carbs, 3 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber and sugar. This is naturally gluten-free and extremely useful for celiac patients, and those avoiding gluten. It is one of several root foods as having a low glycemic index and good for diabetics, as defined by the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology.

Cassava can help improve physical endurance because blood glucose levels are moderated instead of dropping when insulin is produced. This low-GI food might also help control triglyceride and lipid levels in your blood. A number of minerals from cassava that perform important functions throughout your body are:

  • Iron helps form the two proteins responsible for transporting oxygen to your tissues

  • Zinc helps your immune system fight bacteria and aids cell growth and division

  • Calcium helps form strong bones and teeth

  • Magnesium optimizes mitochondrial function and helps regulate blood sugar

  • Potassium synthesizes proteins and helps break down carbs

  • Manganese is vital for connective tissue and sex hormones, and repairing joints

It also contains saponins that can ease inflammation, break down organic body wastes like uric acid, cleanse mineral deposits from your joints and helps balance your gut flora.

Tapioca contains a form of cassava. The starchy liquid extracted from the root itself is used in Tapioca. One cup of dry pearl tapioca contains 544 calories, 135 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of sugar. There are virtually no vitamins to speak of except a small amount of folate and pantothenic acid, but yields 13% of the recommended daily value in iron and 8% of the manganese. Moisture is removed from the root by evaporation or squeezing it out after being ground, leaving a white, fine powder, and often sold as flour or flakes “pearls” that should be boiled before you eat them.

Cassava is a digestive-resistant starch and can be very beneficial as it feeds gut bacteria and reduces inflammations and harmful bacteria. It may lower your blood glucose levels after meals.

Other uses may be using in a simple paste with water as a peel or scrub on your skin, as a mask made from a paste, soften your hair with the paste to nourish and soften your hair and use to boost immunity, energy and brain function.

Improper cooking of cassava root is associated with cyanide poisoning. If peeled and cooked, these toxic substances are removed. Tapioca from the store and prepared from a package, does NOT contain harmful cyanide levels and is perfectly safe to eat.

-Dr Fredda Branyon


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