Health Benefits of Yuca

Yuca root, also known as cassava root, is a staple crop that supports hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Yuca root looks like a cross between a potato and sweet potato in many ways, as a long, dark brown tuber. It has been cultivated by people in South America and Africa for centuries, and it is increasingly being investigated as an efficient, drought-resistant crop that’s easy for farms of any size to grow. 

Yuca root is good for more than just that, however. It’s also an excellent source of nutrients and health benefits.

Health Benefits

The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in yucas can provide important health benefits. For example, choline is an important nutrient for helping the body manage nerve and brain functions. It’s also an important part of keeping your cells and DNA healthy. Without enough choline, your metabolism will not function as efficiently as it otherwise could.

Yuca is also full of potassium, which plays a key role in regulating your heart beat, kidney function, and muscle contractions.

In addition, yuca can provide other health benefits like:

Lower Risk of Cancer

Yuca root is rich in beta-carotene, the pigment responsible for its color. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant, and is just one of many found in yucas. The antioxidants in yucas, including saponin, have been shown to fight free radicals, which can cause damage to your cells and potentially lead to cancer.

Digestive Health

Yuca root can help stabilize your digestive system. It is an excellent source of resistant starch, which works similarly to soluble dietary fiber. Yuca root starch helps feed the “good” bacteria that lives in your intestines, helping your digestive system function more smoothly. It also helps you to feel more full, which can help you moderate your food intake and may help prevent weight gain for many people.

Blood Glucose Control

Yuca root’s resistant starch is also being investigated for its ability to help control blood glucose levels. Consuming resistant starch has been shown to help reduce insulin response after eating. This means that eating moderate amounts of yuca root may help people who are watching their blood sugar levels manage their insulin without risking spikes after eating.

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Nutrition

Yuca root is an excellent source of vitamin C, offering up to a third of an adult’s daily requirement in a single serving. Vitamin C helps your body heal from injuries, and is an important component in your blood vessels and muscles. Getting enough vitamin C regularly can also help boost your immune system.

Yuca root is also an excellent source of:

Nutrients per Serving

A half cup of yuca root contains:

Things to Watch Out For

Yuca root is a nutritious food, but it’s important to prepare it correctly. In its raw state, yuca root contains chemicals known as cyanogenic glycosides, which can be converted into cyanide if not carefully prepared. Luckily, removing these compounds is as simple as peeling the yuca and cooking the whole plant thoroughly. When the whole root has been cooked and it can be easily pierced with a fork, the root is safe to eat.

How to Eat Yuca

Yuca can be found in many forms: as flour, tapioca pearls, chips, or in whole form. It’s becoming more common in health food stores and import groceries around the country. This versatile plant can be eaten in a variety of ways, as long as it is thoroughly cooked.

Yuca flour can be used to replace wheat flour as long as it is baked and cooked thoroughly. Tapioca pearls and premade yuca chips are also safe to consume. Frozen yuca should be cooked just as thoroughly as fresh yuca unless the packaging states that it’s already been cooked {FoodStandards.gov.au: “Cassava and bamboo shoots.”}.  

Here are some ways you can include yuca in your diet:

  • Use yuca flour to make cookies
  • Try yuca fries
  • Grill yuca rounds as part of a barbecue
  • Include yuca in a stew
  • Boil yuca and serve with garlic sauce to make yuca con mojo
  • Try making mashed yuca instead of mashed potatoes
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on September 22, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

British Journal of Nutrition: “Acute ingestion of resistant starch reduces food intake in healthy adults.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

FoodData Central: “Cassava, cooked, fat not added in cooking.”

FoodStandards.gov.au: “Cassava and bamboo shoots.”

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: “Cassava: A Guide to Sustainable Production Intensification.”

Food Science and Technology: “Resistant starch in cassava products.”

Molecules: “Antioxidant Phenolic Compounds of Cassava (Manihot esculenta) from Hainan.”

National Institutes of Health: “Choline.”

National Institutes of Health: “Potassium.”

National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin C.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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