Arrowroot, also known by the scientific name Maranta arundinacea L., is a tropical root vegetable. It's native to Central America, South America, and the West Indies, but today is grown in tropical regions all over the world.
Arrowroot is notable for the large size of its stems. Unlike the root vegetables you may be familiar with, the part of the arrowroot plant that grows above ground can be up to six feet tall. The edible, root part of the plant is about 10 inches long and looks like a large potato.
You can purchase arrowroot fresh, or dried as a powder. Dried arrowroot is an easily-digestible starch that can be used as a substitute for cornstarch in baking. Arrowroot is available in the late fall, winter, and early spring.
Nutrients Per Serving
Half a cup of sliced, fresh arrowroot has:
- Calories: 39
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Sodium: 16 milligrams
- Carbohydrates: 8 grams
- Dietary Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: Less than 1 gram
- Protein: 3 grams
Arrowroot also contains a number of vitamins and minerals. Notably, it is a great source of:
The vitamins and minerals in arrowroot are among the reasons many scientists today are studying the benefits of adding arrowroot to your diet.
Although people have used arrowroot for centuries to treat health problems from arrow wounds to poisonous bites, its medical effects are only just being studied scientifically. There are, however, a number of promising potential health benefits being discovered.
Arrowroot’s low glycemic index and high concentration of potassium have been shown to help people with diabetes. As a result, researchers are currently looking into the benefits of arrowroot flour as an ingredient in healthy snacks for people with diabetes.
Good for Gluten-Free Diets
Arrowroot powder is a gluten-free starch that could potentially be used as a starch substitute for people with celiac disease. This research is in its early days though, and further tests will need to be done to confirm its effectiveness as a gluten-free starch substitute.
May Ease Stomach Trouble
Arrowroot has been used as a home remedy for digestive disorders for years. Recent research has indicated that there may be a medical basis for using arrowroot to combat diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. One preliminary study showed that arrowroot helped reduce diarrhea and ease stomach cramps. However, this study was quite small, using only 11 subjects, and more studies are required for definitive proof of these findings.
Though research into the benefits of arrowroot is still in its early stages, there’s evidence that this root is a healthy addition to most diets.
How to Prepare Arrowroot
One of the easiest ways to add arrowroot to your diet is to substitute arrowroot powder for cornstarch when cooking or baking.
Arrowroot powder is a great thickening agent, and you may even find it works better than cornstarch or flour for some recipes. For example, a little bit of arrowroot powder can thicken soups without giving the soup a cloudy appearance, as other starches tend to do.
To prepare fresh arrowroot, you can peel and slice the root. It cooks similarly to water chestnuts and can be used in many of the same dishes. You can also use the peels of the arrowroot like potatoes in stews or fry them into chips.