Cassava plant | Tapioca Plant is grown all over the world for its root and it’s the staple diet for millions of people. It is also called the Brazilian Arrow Root | Manioc plant | or Yuca plant (not to be confused with the ornamental yucca plant). The starch got from the roots is popularly called tapioca and it is also used extensively all over the world. Here in India, the cassava plant itself is referred to mostly as the tapioca plant.
What Is Cassava?
It is the root of a plant whose botanical name is Manihot Esculenta. We can consume cassava roots as such after boiling them or in the form of tapioca starch or in the form of tapioca pearls (sabudana). At home, we have the roots boiled with salt and we also make tasty cassava dosa| pancakes. It tastes delicious with a simple coconut chutney or tomato chutney.
We use sabudana a lot at home for making many dishes. Tapioca chips are also very famous here and I like them much better than potato chips as it is not very greasy like potato chips. Though cassava leaves are consumed in many communities, we have never cooked them at home.
Cassava Root Common Names:
The roots are popularly called Maravalli kilangu in Tamil, Kappa in Malayalam, Karrapendalam in Telugu, Mara Ganesu Chintu in Kannda, and Tapioca in Hindi (tapioca pearls are called sabudana in Hindi).
Cassava Root Nutrition:
Cassava is a rich source of carbohydrates and it provides us with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Cassava is significantly rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin A. The problem with easily and cheaply available foods like cassava is we tend to overlook its goodness and rarely use it. If we get to know the full health benefits and medicinal uses of cassava, it will always act as a reminder to include it more in our diet.
Types Of Cassava:
There are two types of cassava, one is sweeter and the other is bitter. Raw tubers contain toxins that will cause great harm if we eat them without cooking them properly and bitter varieties contain more toxins than sweet varieties. Even if it is not cooked properly, it will have small amounts of toxins that will cause harm so always make sure to consume only properly cooked cassava root.
Cassava Flour & Tapioca Flour:
Although cassava flour and tapioca flour are derived from the cassava plant, they are different. The main difference is that tapioca flour is the starch got from the roots which is got by grinding them to obtain the starch which is then dried. Cassava flour is simply the dried and powdered whole root. One significant benefit of using cassava flour is it is gluten-free so people who are on a gluten free diet can substitute regular flour with cassava flour. Cassava flour is excellent as a laundry starch and it is also used for making alcohol.
Cassava Side Effects:
Cassava (both leaves & root) when not cooked well before eating will lead to poisoning as raw cassava has cyanide. Especially, the bitter variety will lead to goitre, nerve damage, and paralysis, and in severe cases, it will result in death as it has more amount of cyanide than the sweeter variety. Always eat only cooked root and never eat raw root. Also avoid consuming even cooked cassava daily for long periods of time as it has been proven to have certain side effects. Eating cassava is popularly believed to increase the chances of conceiving twins but I couldn’t find any research supporting this claim. Pregnant women should not consume too much cassava.
5 Top Benefits, Uses & Side Effects of Cassava For Hair, Skin & Health:
1. For Gluten-Free Diet:
People who are on a gluten-free diet, especially those who are suffering from celiac disease will find cassava flour very useful. You can substitute wheat flour in any recipe with cassava flour. When eating out, you can opt for cassava-based dishes but make sure to find out whether any other additional ingredients containing gluten is added to the dish.
2. Cassava Benefits For Weight Loss:
Cassava is very very filling and nutritious, whenever we make cassava dosas at home, I will feel full very fast and I will not be hungry again for a long time. Foods like this which are nutritious and filling should be included in our diet than diet drinks and foods that leave us hungry and craving food all the time. Cassava roots can be made into adai (thick pancakes) or added to gravies, stir-fried, and made into nutritious snacks.
3. For Constipation:
Since cassava is rich in fiber, it is a great food to include in the diet of people who are suffering from constipation. We make cassava dosas at home, for making it soak 1 cup of hand-pounded parboiled rice in water. Wash 2 cassava roots well in water, peel the skin, and cut roughly into cubes. Grind the cassava root along with rice and salt to a smooth paste. This batter should not get sour like our regular dosa batter, you can make dosas immediately, it is best had immediately served along with a spicy chutney.
4. Cassava Benefits For Diabetes:
Cooked cassava has a low glycemic index of 46 which makes it very suitable for including the diet of diabetic patients. It is a good idea for diabetic patients to substitute white flour with cassava flour as it does not rise blood sugar levels rapidly. The way cassava is prepared also makes a difference, I would suggest having it in the form of pancakes or boiled with salt and stir-fried.
5. For Hair & Skin Care:
Cassava when consumed internally is great for hair and skin as it has all the important nutrients. Tapioca starch can be used as a thickener in homemade lotions and also can be used for making homemade bronzer. For making the bronzer, mix tapioca starch with organic cocoa powder and a few drops of pure vanilla. The ratio can be varied depending on the skin type, an effective, allergy-free and cheap bronzer that can be made in a matter of minutes!