Cassava (yuca or manioc) is a nutty flavored, starch-tuber in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) of plants. It thought to have originated from the South-American forests. Indigenous people of many parts of Africa, Asia, and South American continents used it as a staple food source for centuries.
Cassava is a perennial plant that grows best under tropical, moist, fertile, and well-drained soils. The completely grown plant reaches about 2-4 m in height. In the fields, its cut-stem sections planted into the ground to propagate just as in the case of sugarcanes. After about 8-10 months of the plantation; long, globular roots or tubers grow in a radial pattern downwards deep into the soil from the bottom end of the stem up to the depth of 2-4 feet.
Each tuber weighs one to several pounds depending upon the cultivar type and feature gray-brown, rough, woody textured skin. Its interior flesh features white, starch-rich sweet-flavored meat, that should be eaten only after cooking.
Health Benefits of Cassava
- It is one of the chief sources of some essential minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese for many inhabitants in the tropical belts. Also, it has adequate amounts of potassium (271 mg per 100g or 6% of RDA). Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure
- Cassava has nearly twice the calories than that of potatoes and perhaps one of the highest value calorie food for any tropical starch-rich tubers and roots. 100 g root provides 160 calories. Their calorie value mainly comes from sucrose which accounts for more than 69% of total sugars. Amylose (16-17%) is another major source of complex carbohydrates.
- Young tender cassava (yuca) leaves are a good source of dietary proteins and vitamin-K. Vitamin-K has a potential role in the bone strengthening by stimulating osteoblastic cells activity in the bones. It also has an established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
- Cassava is very low in fats and protein than in cereals and pulses. Nonetheless, it has more protein than that of other tropical food sources like yam, potato, plantains, etc.
- As in other roots and tubers, cassava also free from gluten. The gluten-free starch used in special food preparations for celiac disease patients.
- Cassava carries some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, thiamin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and pantothenic acid.
In Nigeria and Ghana, cassava flour is used along with yams to make fufu (polenta), which then savored with stews.Cassava chips and flakes are also widely eaten as a snack.
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