Skip to content

Cassava (Yuca) – What is it, Properties, Benefits, Origin, Types, Characteristics

February 3, 2023
Cassava (Yuca) - Properties & Benefits

If you are a lover of tubers, you will surely be interested in knowing about cassava. I invite you to continue reading to learn what yuca is; its characteristics, nutritional properties, health benefits, consumption options, possible contraindications, as well as the most frequently asked questions about this delicious root.

What is cassava?

What is cassava

Cassava, also known as cassava or tapioca, is an edible root tuber native to South America. They have tough, scaly, brown skin, while their starchy flesh is white. It is considered the third-largest source of carbohydrates in tropical Africa, Asia, and Latin America, after rice and corn.

Fun facts and features

  • In some regions, yuca leaves are widely used to treat hypertension, headache, and body pain. It is also used to make kaschiri, a kind of beer.
  • The yuca plant provides the highest carbohydrate yield per acreage, second only to sugar cane and sugar beets.
  • In several countries, its roots are ground to obtain a mealy substance that is then used to produce tapioca or cassava.
  • In the West African Ewe language, this plant is known locally by the name ‘agbeli, which in Spanish translates as “there is life.”
  • Never eat raw cassava! This tuber contains harmful toxins concentrated on its outer skin. To eat cassava, it is necessary to remove its brown skin and cook it properly (until it softens).
  • Cassava flour (dried and ground cassava) is an excellent thickening agent due to its high starch levels; It is also a completely gluten-free food. Hence it is a healthy alternative for people with celiac disease who cannot consume wheat flour.

Types of yuca or tapioca

There are two types of cassava, and although they show some differences, both are used similarly.

  • Sweet cassava. Sweet cassava is less toxic than its bitter counterpart (cassava contains cyanide compounds). This type of cassava has lower levels of these compounds and therefore does not require as much cooking. Sweet varieties also produce higher yields.
  • Bitter yuca. The bitter cassava is very similar to the sweet cassava culture in form and general appearance. However, it produces higher amounts of cyanides. Sweet cassava contains only 40 parts of cyanide per million, while bitter varieties can reach 490 parts per million. See; Bitter Yuca – Characteristics, How to Differentiate It, Antidote, Symptoms.

To remove cyanide from cassava, methods such as drying, fermentation, or any cooking (roasted, boiled) can be used; All of these reduce the toxic content of the tuber to levels safe for human consumption.

Nutritional value of cassava

Nutritional value of cassava

A 100-gram serving of boiled tapioca root (3.5 ounces) contains 112 calories. 98% of these calories correspond to carbohydrates, and the rest provide a small amount of protein and fat. It is also a food that provides fiber, as well as some vitamins and minerals.

Nutritional information of 100 grams of boiled cassava:

  • Calories: 112
  • Carbohydrates: 27 g
  • Grease: 03 g
  • Sodium: 14 g
  • Fibra: 1 g
  • Thiamine (Vitamin B1): 20%
  • Phosphorus: 5%
  • Calcium: 2%
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 2%
  • Vitamin B6: 5%
  • Magnesium: 5%

Boiled cassava root contains small amounts of iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, and niacin (vitamin B3).

Properties, benefits, and uses of cassava

Cassava is a tuber recognized for its many properties and benefits. Let’s review some of them!

  • Provides abundant energy. 100 grams of raw cassava contain 38 grams of carbohydrates and about 160 kcal. Although these values ​​decrease a bit during cooking, cassava is still an excellent source of energy, ideal for people who do strenuous physical activities.
  • Protects and repairs body tissue. Cassava contains amino acids such as lysine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, and abundant arginine, which play an important role in protecting and repairing body tissues.
  • Help reduce blood cholesterol. study in the Philippines (a country where cassava is one of the most important crops) evaluated the effects of root crops, especially cassava, in reducing cholesterol levels in humans. Cassava was found to significantly lower total cholesterol levels by reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol and reducing triglyceride levels thanks to its dietary fiber content. Cassava is also a good source of saponins, phytochemicals that can help the body reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease. By reducing cholesterol levels, its regular consumption prevents the risk of developing heart disease.
  • Supports the health of bones and teeth. Cassava contains calcium, a mineral necessary to maintain healthy bones and teeth, and vitamin K, which has a potential role in building bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in bones and preventing loss of minerals, especially calcium.
  • Helps regulate metabolism. Cassava is a moderate source of some B-complex vitamins, such as folates, pyridoxine, thiamine, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid, which are important for producing metabolic hormones and regulating metabolism in the body.
  • Helps regulate blood pressure. The potassium present in cassava (271 mg per 100 g) is an important component of the body and cellular fluids, which helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. One study showed that consuming foods high in potassium can help lower systolic blood pressure in people with hypertension.
  • Prevents constipation. This tuber is rich in resistant starch, a type of starch that is not digestible and has properties similar to soluble fiber. In this way, cassava can prevent constipation by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestine. As a general benefit, it helps reduce inflammation and promotes good digestive health.
  • It is gluten-free food for people with celiac disease. Cassava does not contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, among other cereals, responsible for causing allergies in some susceptible people (celiac).
  • Helps lower blood sugar levels. The fiber and resistant starch found in cassava slow down absorbing sugar into the bloodstream, helping to control blood glucose levels. It is a good option for people with diabetes or other metabolic diseases.
  • Strengthens the immune system. The fiber in cassava, especially its leaves, promotes probiotic bacteria or “good bacteria” in the intestine. This contributes helps to increase our immunity by controlling the number of pathogenic microorganisms in the body.
  • Limits neuronal damage in the brain and helps prevent Alzheimer’s. It has been shown that vitamin K, abundant in the young leaves Yuca plant, has an important role in treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease, limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
  • Helps prevent anemia. Regular consumption of cassava can prevent iron deficiency in the body and, therefore anemia, since the constant intake of this mineral promotes the renewal process of red blood cells.
  • Other uses. The indigenous Amazonians have always used yuca for various healing purposes. The plant’s leaves can be used as an astringent, while its starch mixed with rum helps them treat skin problems, especially in children. Other medicinal uses include preparations for fever and chills, female infertility, and sore muscles. Cassava starch is widely used as an adhesive, cosmetic ingredient, and even material to make paper. Interestingly, indigenous peoples also use it as a fish poison.

How to consume cassava healthily?

How to consume cassava healthily

Cassava can be dangerous if eaten raw or prepared incorrectly. However, when cooked, it is a totally safe and nutrient-rich food for human consumption. The most important thing is to peel it since the shell of the cassava root contains most of the cyanide-producing compounds.

Cassava can be consumed in many ways; it is usually cut into chunks and boiled in water, baked or roasted, similar to cooking potatoes.

It can also be mashed or mixed into stir-fries, tortillas, and soups. In some regions, cassava is subjected to a drying and crushing process to create later a type of flour used to manufacture pieces of bread and cookies.

Side effects and contraindications

Cassava is a safe edible tuber for most people, as long as it is eaten occasionally, in moderate amounts, and cooked properly. The biggest danger to be aware of is its content of cyanogenic glycosides, a class of substances that convert to cyanide and can lead to poisoning, paralysis, and even death.1 . Eating raw or partially cooked cassava and maintaining excessive or daily consumption is absolutely contraindicated in all people. Otherwise, there is a high risk of cyanide poisoning.2 3

Note: the cyanogenic glycoside content is even higher in the bitter cassava variety.

Regardless of how well cassava is cooked, those who eat it very frequently may experience the following side effects 4:

  • Stomach ache
  • Bitter taste and irritation in the mouth
  • Sickness
  • Vomiting
  • Loose stools (large portions)

Although tapioca is known to have significant benefits for our health and nutrition, researchers recommend that the following people refrain from regularly including it in their diet:

  • Pregnant women. It can cause congenital disabilities and other pregnancy complications.
  • Women in lactation. Eating cassava can expose your baby to chemicals that affect thyroid function.
  • Children, especially young children. Children are more susceptible to the toxic compounds in cassava than adults.
  • People with iodine deficiency. People who have low iodine levels should not consume cassava, as it can make the condition worse.
  • People with thyroid disease. Eating yuca can lower thyroid hormone levels and exacerbate the problem. Continued exposure to insufficiently processed cassava can lead to goiter and cretinism.

General precautions

  • Eat cassava sporadically, always controlling the size of the portions.
  • Cook very well, preferably until very soft.
  • Avoid the consumption of bitter cassava; sweet cassava varieties are a better option (less toxic).
  • Always accompanied by a source of protein.

Eating cooked cassava in a dream seems strange. This, in fact, is not one of the most common themes when we talk about the universe of dreams.

However, this delicious Brazilian vegetable, so rich in fiber and an important source of carbohydrates, has a very curious symbolism within dreams and there is also a representation that we cannot ignore.

Frequent questions

What is the origin of cassava? What is its history?

Apparently, the origin of cassava is located in Brazil and Paraguay. It is said that this tuber had already spread throughout the tropical areas of South America and Central America long before the arrival of Columbus. Today it is one of the most important food crops in tropical countries and is considered the sixth most important food crop globally; Despite this, cassava is little known or used in developed western countries.

In mythological history, yuca is presented as a saving food that protects against hunger. According to a Brazilian legend, Tupi was devastated to see her daughter die of hunger. She buried the girl’s body under the floor of her hut, and that same night, she was visited by the wood spirit, known as ‘mani,’ who turned the girl’s body into the root of a plant. Later this root was named ‘mani oca,’ which means ‘root of the wood spirit.’

What is the tapioca plant like?

The cassava or tapioca plant (Manihot esculenta) is a perennial shrub in the Euphorbiaceae family grown mainly for its edible tuberous roots. It is a woody plant with erect stems and simple lobed leaves, arranged in a spiral and with petioles (leaf stems) up to 30 cm in length. The edible roots of cassava are usually cylindrical, conical, brown, or reddish on the outside and white on the inside. This plant, which can reach 4 m in height, produces cluster-shaped flowers without petals.

How is cassava grown?

Cassava grows in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world since it needs at least 8 months of warm climate for its optimal growth; It thrives very well in hot, humid areas with regular rainfall. It should be planted in full sun. In fact, it is susceptible to shade (which leads to low yields).

Cassava is grown from stem cuttings (approximately 20 cm long); Unlike other foods, cassava tubers do not produce sprouts. The pieces of stems should be planted horizontally, leaving a distance of 10 cm between each other. It should be watered with water immediately after sowing and regularly thereafter so that the soil remains moist but not wet. Stems usually start to sprout 7-10 days after planting.

Cassava will be ready for harvest about 1 year after planting. To harvest these tubers, it is necessary to dig and dig up all the roots, taking great care not to damage them.

Does cassava make you fat?

Cassava contains 112 calories per 100-gram serving, which is quite high compared to other tubers. If your goal is to lose weight, you should consume cassava in moderation, as excess can make you fat.

How to freeze cassava?

The roots must be peeled, cut into pieces, stored in a bag, and placed in the refrigerator to freeze cassava. By following these tips, yuca can last for several months in your freezer.

Cassava is a vegetable? What kind of food is cassava?

Cassava is a vegetable, specifically a root tuber, but not a vegetable; the term vegetable strictly refers to foods with tender leaves and stem, while the term vegetable refers to the leaves, roots, stems, fruits, seeds, bulbs, inflorescences, tubers, etc … of vegetables.

Cassava is a fruit?

Definitely not. Cassava is a vegetable, and more specifically, a root tuber. The fruits are born from the seeds (an avocado, a mango), while vegetables, such as yuca, can be obtained from another part of the plant, in this case, the root.

Why does the yuca turn black?

When we peel/cut certain fresh fruits and vegetables, there is a reaction between oxygen in the air and the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (also called tyrosinase); This is the cause of the black or brown color that these foods acquire, including cassava.

Does cassava have gluten?

Gluten is a protein generally found in wheat, barley, and rye. Many people cannot digest it or are sensitive to it. Hence they need to base their diet on gluten-free foods. This may be a good option for them since cassava does not contain gluten.

What does it taste like?

Cassava has a very characteristic flavor, resembling a mixture of potato, taro (taro), and sweet potato.

What other names does it have?

Yuca has other common names depending on the region, for example aipim, aipi, manioc, Maneca, Tapioca, Guacamota, Guaraní, Casamento, Casabe or Casava. Its scientific name is Manihot esculenta.

References:

  1. https://www.echocommunity.org/resources/4c48a10c-5cdb-4a4c-a941-48ed134db1e0
  2. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1473/cassava
  3. https://books.google.com/books?id=HFJWD9bwm9oC&pg=PA94&lpg=PA94&dq=cassava+contraindications&source=bl&ots=Sa4afXKLHo&sig=_2fSj6_QReykyj7l_PsfyUm_m4E&hl=es&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwibnvGBsvXeAhXHwFMKHbwMBzQQ6AEwA3oECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=cassava%20contraindications&f=false
  4. https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_yuca/drugs-condition.htm

My name is Louise Hammond, and I am the creator of this website, a place to find information about tubers, bulbs and medicinal roots. In Dreamsship.com I show the properties, benefits, characteristics, photos and images, ways of growing and how to make delicious meals from starchy vegetables.