The root comes from Manihot esculenta, also known as manioc or yucca in addition to cassava. The perennial shrub was first domesticated in Central America, where it has been grown for centuries, and cultivation spread to Africa with the discovery of the New World. In addition to the starchy tubers, the leaves of the plant are also edible.
Despite the fact that it often plays an important role in people's diets, cassava root is actually not that nutritious. The leaves of the plant have far more protein and nutritional value than cassava root does, in fact. Cassava root can actually be highly toxic, since it contains cyanide, and it needs to be carefully handled and treated before it can be consumed. It does have the advantage of growing well in poor soil, and being filling when little else is available.
There are two types of cassava. So-called “bitter cassava” has a high level of cyanide, and it must be grated and soaked or left out in the sun to allow the cyanide to disperse before it can be eaten. Once treated, the cassava root can be ground into flour, kept whole in flakes for various dishes, or processed to extract tapioca. “Sweet” cassava has lower levels of cyanide, and it can be peeled and used like a conventional root vegetable.
Dried cassava and cassava flour are used in a wide assortment of dishes such as soups and stews. The starchy vegetable often acts as a thickener and stretcher, making a dish seem more filling than it really is. People who rely heavily on cassava as a source of food may experience nutritional deficiencies, and they are at higher risk of neurological illness as a result of the toxins in the root.
Tapioca is the third largest source of carbohydrates in the world and is a staple food for more than 500 million people. Among crop plants, the cassava plant provides the highest yield of food energy per cultivated area per day, next to sugarcane.
The good of Cassava Roots
Cassava root is very rich in starch and contains significant amounts of calcium, dietary fiber (that has been associated with lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, and helping control diabetes), iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin b6 and vitamin C. A recent study conducted in the Philippines (one of the countries where cassava is an important crop) looked into the effects of root crops and legumes in lowering cholesterol levels among humans with moderately-raised cholesterol levels.
The study showed that cassava significantly decreased total cholesterol levels, decreased low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (considered as “bad” cholesterol), and may help lower triglyceride levels due to its high total dietary fiber content.
Other studies show that cassava may help support the nervous system and help alleviate stress, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome.
Cassava flour does not contain gluten, an allergenic protein found in wheat, barley, oats and rye. It can be used by gluten intolerant people to replace wheat flour.
Cassava can also be used for French fries instead of potatoes". This made me thinking why we opt for fibreless, nutritional deficient, chemical laden fries when we could always go for a fresher ubi kayu fries!