Cassava Root – Why Aren’t You Eating It?
When trying to eat healthy, you may find that one of your biggest challenges is getting a wide variety of foods in your diet, which is why you might want to try some cassava. This is an edible plant or tube that is something like a cross between a potato and a root vegetable. It’s even called a cassava root, and when it’s peeled and prepared, it’s often then sold as cassava fruit. The cassava plant has many health benefits and is a very tasty dish when prepared properly, and it can offer some great variety in your diet for those trying to stay healthy. If you’re ready to try this somewhat exotic tube in your diet, consider some cassava benefits and then some suggestions for how to prepare and serve it every day.
1. What is cassava?
First let’s take a closer look at the cassava root, as this can help you better understand the best way to prepare and serve it. The cassava plant is cultivated from a woody shrub that is native to South America. The root is pulled and then chopped, and some indigenous tribes simply cook and then chew or suck on the fruity or starchy center of the root. It can also be peeled, dried, and otherwise prepared as a side dish or snack. Other common names for cassava are manioc root, the tapioca plant, or yucca.
2. The cassava root for energy
The cassava fruit or center of the root is very high in starch content and complex carbohydrates, and has about twice the number of calories as potatoes, so it’s good for an energy booster. Some indigenous tribes may have actually kept the cooked root on them while working in the fields or fishing, as a quick energy-rich snack. You may want to try some of the cassava fruit on its own and see if you enjoy the flavor, and then use it when you want a quick pick-me-up throughout the day.
3. Cassava for vitamin K
The cassava plant is very high in vitamin K, which is needed to build strong bones. Vitamin K is also thought to help reduce the damage of brain cells as a person ages, so it may be useful in helping to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia disorders.
4. The B vitamins
Cassava nutrition includes a high concentration of B vitamins, which are needed for healthy blood production and strong circulation. B vitamins are especially important for pregnant women and those who have circulatory problems.
5. Important minerals in yucca nutrition
Minerals are as important as vitamins for your overall health. Minerals build muscle and organ tissue and, without them, you may have muscle weakness and see weakness in organs like the liver, kidneys, and lungs. Many minerals are also needed to conduct electrical signals from the brains to the nervous system, so without enough of these vital minerals, you may find that your heart rate is irregular and weakened. The cassava root is very strong in concentrations of potassium, magnesium, iron and copper, all of which are needed for healthy muscle and nerve function.
6. How to buy cassava root
When shopping for cassava, you may wonder how to choose the best roots or pieces. Look for those that seem very dense or heavy for their size, as this means the inside fruit or pulp is ready for cooking. Avoid any manioc root that has breaks in the skin, as this allows air to get to the pulp so that it then dries out. As with all fruits and vegetables, you also want to avoid any cassava plant with obvious bruises, dents, soft spots, discoloration, and other such blemishes.
When you buy fresh cassava root, it can be stored whole for up to a week. If the root is peeled or chopped, store it in a pan of water in the refrigerator.
7. How to cook cassava
Never try the cassava root raw, as the chemicals in the plant mimic cyanide and can be very dangerous to your health. Also, note that cassava fruit sold in many stores is coated in wax, which is safe for consumption but which can interfere with its flavor. Be sure to thoroughly wash any manioc root before prepping. Since the skin is so tough, you may not be able to use a vegetable peeler on the tapioca plant, but will need an actual knife for peeling.
To cook cassava fruit, boil it in a bit of saltwater for about 15 minutes, or until it’s tender. You can then add chunks of it to soups and stews. You can also deep fry the cassava root and serve it with a bit of salt and even pepper, and your favorite dip. Try it on its own before using ketchup or any other such condiment, so you know if the flavors will be compatible.
8. Cassava bread
Another variation to using cassava root in your everyday diet is to try cassava flour. This is a good choice for making any type of bread, muffins, or cookies. The high starch content in the plant gives the flour a naturally sweet and tropical flavor, and you may even want to reduce the sugar in the recipes by a small amount. Because there is so much cassava nutrition in the flour, this can mean bread and muffins that are better for you than any recipe made with plain white flour. You may even find some recipes meant for cassava flour in particular; some are meant for a flat fry bread that might resemble pita bread, and this can be a great addition to any lunch or for snack time, and for sandwiches and wraps.
With so many nutritional benefits to cassava and with the naturally sweet taste it offers, why not try some in your kitchen today? The root is healthy and nutritious and chockfull of vitamins and minerals, and a perfect choice for when you want a naturally sweet pick-me-up and some variation on your healthy diet choices.