Health & Wellness, Nutrition

Meet Your New Favorite Tuber! (6 Health Benefits of Cassava)

Similar to a potato, a tuber known as cassava is a largely overlooked vegetable that deserves a place in your rotation of plant-based foods. And that’s largely because of the many health benefits of cassava.

While it’s known for being very filling and even higher in calories than your standard potato, cassava offers some interesting health benefits that warrant a closer look.

So, let’s discuss what cassava is, how it differs from other tubers, and the many health benefits of cassava that you can take advantage of!

 

What is Cassava?

As I mentioned above, cassava (also known as yuca) is a tuber vegetable, similar to potatoes, yams, Japanese artichokes, and more. Tubers have high starch content and tend to be higher in calories than other vegetables.

Cassava has a unique nutty, slightly sweet flavor. And it’s important to note that it must always be peeled and thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Raw cassava actually contains a chemical known as cyanogenic glycosides—the very chemical that can result in cyanide poisoning. The good news is that once it’s fully cooked, all of the harmful chemicals disappear.

Cassava also has an impressive mineral profile, with a particularly high amount of magnesium. And with over 800 different essential roles within the body, magnesium is one mineral you want to make sure you’re consuming every day.

It’s necessary for everything from regulating blood pressure to supporting blood sugar control and even building proteins in your body.

Considering that 45 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium, it stands to reason that we need to get more mineral-rich foods into our daily diets.

After all, magnesium deficiency symptoms are associated with many chronic medical conditions, including:  [1234]

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Asthma
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Migraine headaches
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
  • And more!

Cassava is also rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. This makes it not only filling but a great way to help support your immune system health. After all, studies have shown that vitamin C is critical for helping you battle and/or catch everyday viral infections.

In fact, a 2013 meta-analysis of 30 trials involving 11,350 participants reported that consuming 200 mg of vitamin C each day can reduce someone’s risk of getting a cold by 50 percent. [5]

As you can see, cassava is a solid source of nutrients. That said, it also does contain anti-nutrients, so it’s important to make sure you don’t eat too much of it.

Now that you know a bit more about this vegetable, let’s take a look at some of the top health benefits of cassava.

6 Health Benefits of Cassava

Here are six of the top health benefits of cassava.

1. Supports healthy gut bacteria

One of the top health benefits of cassava is its ability to support digestion and healthy gut bacteria. This is due to its high fiber content.

According to a review published in 2020, consuming fiber has the potential to positively change gut bacteria and even alter metabolic regulation in humans. [6]

Another study published in 2015 found that fiber actually feeds healthy good bacteria. In the study, 21 adults consumed an extra 21 grams of fiber daily for three weeks and were found to significantly increase the number of beneficial bacteria in their guts. [7]

Interestingly, they also decreased the number of harmful gut bacteria, showing that fibrous foods such as cassava are incredibly beneficial for maintaining healthy gut bacteria.

2. Helps fight inflammation

Another one of the health benefits of cassava is that it helps to fight inflammation in the body.

In fact, a 2018 study revealed that people who ate more fiber each day had higher levels of indolepropionic acid, an anti-inflammatory chemical produced by healthy gut bacteria. [8]

Given what we know about how inflammation is at the root of many of our modern illnesses, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and more, this is one of the more important health benefits of cassava.

3. Supports healthy blood sugar levels

Cassava is also high in resistant starch, which means it passes through your digestive tract unchanged—much like soluble fiber.

Interestingly, resistant starch has been shown to not only improve insulin sensitivity but also help to support blood sugar levels and even help reduce appetite!

One study showed that consuming a drink high in resistant starch lowered insulin responses and post-meal blood sugar levels—a particular concern of those with diabetes. [9]

Additionally, according to the 2018 study mentioned above on levels of indolepropionic acid, people who ate more fibrous foods, such as cassava, each day were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. [10]

4. Boosts energy

When it comes to the health benefits of cassava, you may be surprised to learn that this food is one of the most important sources of energy in the tropics. And that’s largely because of its low cost and high calorie content.

In fact, when compared to the calories in other root vegetables, cassava typically contains anywhere from 50 to 100 percent more calories. [11]

The takeaway here? If you’re in need of a quick source of energy, cooked cassava is a great alternative to sugar-laden sodas and other sweets. But use caution in consuming it too frequently, as it could lead to unintentional weight gain.

5. Supports healthy weight management

Given what we just discussed about cassava leading to unintentional weight gain, of all the health benefits of cassava, this one may be the most surprising. But if you think about it, it does make sense.

Because cassava is a great source of fiber, it only makes sense that this tuber could help support healthy weight management. After all, fiber is known to support satiety, which helps reduce appetite—leading to less snacking and cravings for unhealthy foods.

Studies have confirmed a link between consuming fiber on a regular basis and reduced risk of obesity. In fact, researchers have gone so far as to hypothesize that the high rates of obesity in the U.S. could be tied to American’s low fiber intake. [12]

6. Helps maintain hair and skin health

Finally, the health benefits of cassava also extend to your appearance. And, once again, it’s thanks to its vitamin C content.

Vitamin C is a cofactor in the synthesis of collagen, meaning it’s required for your body to make the collagen needed to maintain the structure of your bones, muscles, tendons, skin, and more.

Without the proper amount of collagen in your body, you’ll begin to experience joint pain and discomfort, signs of aging in your skin, and more.

According to a 2015 study, applying vitamin C topically significantly induced collagen synthesis in women of all ages, but especially in those under age 50. [13]

Vitamin C is also known to make your hair stronger by strengthening your hair follicles. This is because collagen helps to strengthen your hair as well as promote the health of your scalp. [14]

Health benefits of cassava - Dr. Pingel

How to Use Cassava

There are many ways to tap into the health benefits of cassava. Some of my favorites include:

  • Making French bread with cassava flour.
  • Grilling my famous vegan burger and eating it on the cassava French bread.
  • Cooking Cassava Fries. They’re delicious and something the whole family will love. (Bonus: They taste amazing with the vegan burger!)

However you choose to use it, take advantage of the health benefits of cassava by incorporating it into your diet. You’ll love the taste and versatility of this vegetable.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Similar to a potato, a tuber known as cassava is a largely overlooked vegetable that deserves a place in your rotation of plant-based foods.
  • Cassava is rich in magnesium, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. This makes it not only filling but a great way to help support your immune system health.
  • Some of the health benefits of cassava include: supporting healthy gut bacteria, fighting inflammation, supporting healthy blood sugar levels, boosting energy, supporting weight management, and helping to maintain hair and skin health.

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