How to Prepare Cassava Safely to Reap the Health Benefits (2024)

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is a tuberous root vegetable. It is also known as manioc, yuca, or mandioca and is native to South America. The root vegetable tastes similar to other starchy vegetables, such as yams and sweet potatoes, and is described as earthy, nutty, and either slightly bitter or sweet, depending on the type.

Eating this vegetable provides many health benefits because of the vitamins and minerals it contains. One of the most notable is resistant starch, which aids in digestion and gut and metabolic health. This article discusses the health benefits of cassava, how to eat it, and the risks associated with consuming the vegetable raw.

How to Prepare Cassava Safely to Reap the Health Benefits (1)

What Are the Nutritional Benefits of Cassava?

Cassava contains high levels of vitamins and nutrients that provide various health benefits.

While the root vegetable is similar to various types of potatoes, it is not the same. The differences stem from its plant compounds, nutrients, and calorie content.

Cassava Nutritional InformationServing Size: 100 Grams (g)
Calories159
Protein1.4 g
Total Fat0.3 g
Carbohydrates38 g
Fiber1.8 g
Sugars1.7 g
Copper0.1 milligrams
Calcium1%
Iron1%
Vitamin C34%
Vitamin B65%
Magnesium5%

Because of its high nutritional content, cassava can benefit your health in the following ways:

Digestion

Cassava contains resistant starch, a carbohydrate that cannot be fully digested. When consumed, resistant starches bypass digestion in the small intestines. Once they reach the large intestine, they ferment and act as prebiotics in the gut.

Prebiotics are used as a food source for the collection of microorganisms that live in the gut, known as the microbiome. Because they feed good bacteria, prebiotics are vital in maintaining balance within gut organisms and promoting overall health.

Metabolic Health

Resistant starches can also help maintain or improve metabolic health, which is how the body uses food as an energy source. People with optimal metabolic health have appropriate levels of sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides in the body and a healthy weight.

Research has shown that, when consumed regularly, cassava can help to improve these metabolic parameters and may aid in reducing the risk of developing metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Regarding type 2 diabetes, resistant starch can increase the body’s insulin sensitivity, allowing for better blood sugar management. Cassava may also reduce the risk of obesity, but more research is needed.

Immune Health

Since cassava contains high levels of vitamin C, consuming it regularly can improve the functioning of the immune system. Vitamin C stimulates the movement of specific immune cells, known as neutrophils, to the area in the body that contains a harmful pathogen.

Vitamin C has other immune benefits, including:

  • Enhancing phagocytosis, which is the process white blood cells perform to destroy and remove harmful substances from the body
  • Destroying harmful microbes
  • Protecting tissues from damage caused by infections

The immune system is better equipped to fight infection and illness when the body has enough vitamin C.

Bone, Skin, Muscle, and Joint Health

Your bones, skin, muscles, and joints require the protein collagen to keep them healthy. As people age, collagen production decreases, leading to bone loss, joint pain, wrinkles and dry skin, and loss of muscle mass. However, eating foods with the proper nutrients can help restore some collagen and inhibit the effects of aging.

Cassava can aid in bone, skin, muscle, and joint health. Its high levels of vitamin C increase the body’s natural ability to produce collagen by turning on specific genes that signal the body to do so.

Inflammation

Cassava contains anti-inflammatory properties due to its high vitamin C content. When eaten regularly, cassava's vitamin C content can help lower inflammation by reducing the risk of oxidative stress. It does this by providing antioxidants that can balance out free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage if too many roam freely within the body. Antioxidants help to stabilize the molecules, essentially neutralizing their ability to cause harm.

Brain Health

The human brain requires several nutrients to function correctly. One such mineral, copper, is vital for brain health because it plays a role in neurotransmission. Neurotransmission is the communication pathway between brain cells (neurons).

Copper also aids in the activation of neuropeptides, which are chemical messengers. Cassava contains a decent level of copper, thus, can help improve brain health and neuropathways.

Other Health Benefits of Copper

While copper can help with brain health, it also aids in:

  • Iron absorption
  • The production of energy
  • Production and maintenance of connective tissues and blood vessels
  • The function of the immune and nervous systems

Forms of Cassava and Preparation Methods

There are many types of cassava, but they can be broken up into two categories: sweet and bitter. Choosing which one fits into your diet depends on your personal flavor preferences. Regardless of the type, there are specific ways that the vegetable needs to be prepared.

The Wetting Method

The first method is referred to as the wetting method and consists of the following steps:

  • Peel, chop and grind the vegetable into a flour
  • Put the flour into a bowl and mark where the flour tops out
  • Add water to the mixture and mix, the level will drop and then rise again to where it was initially marked
  • Once at this level, spread it into a thin layer a centimeter thick or less
  • Leave for five hours in the shade or two hours in the sun
  • Once ready, the flour can be cooked in boiling water

Other Safe Preparation Techniques

There are two other safe preparation methods, both of which involve soaking the vegetable. The first method calls for soaking the cassava roots for six days, followed by grating and fermenting for four days.

The second soaking method requires the vegetable to be soaked in water for three days, followed by three days of drying. After the six-day process is complete, cassava can be cooked through boiling, frying, or baking.

Risks of Raw or Ill-Prepared Cassava

The reason why the cooking methods are so intricate is that cassava contains cyanogenic glycosides. These compounds release cyanide when consumed, which can lead to cyanide poisoning and the accompanying adverse health effects such as:

  • Chest pain and tightness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Eye pain or tearing
  • Excitement or restlessness
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Rapid or slow heart rate or breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Dangerously high or low blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Lung damage
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

When consuming cassava, it’s crucial to prepare it properly.

How Much Cassava Would You Have to Eat to Get Sick?

If prepared correctly, cassava is safe to eat. However, consuming only two cassava roots can lead to cyanide poisoning if eaten raw or when not being prepared properly. People with poor diets are more likely to feel these effects.

Summary

Cassava is a highly nutritious tuber root vegetable that can be deadly if not prepared correctly. Because of that, eating cassava requires a certain level of skill when it comes to preparation. If you incorporate it into your diet, cassava can aid in various aspects of health, including brain, immune, and metabolic health; digestion and gut balance; and the health of bones, skin, muscles, and joints.

9 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Dobranowski PA, Stintzi A. Resistant starch, microbiome, and precision modulation. Gut Microbes. 2021 Jan-Dec;13(1):1926842. doi:10.1080/19490976.2021.1926842

  2. USDA, FoodData Central.Cassava, raw.

  3. Nwose EU, Onodu BC, Anyasodor AE, Sedowo MO, Okuzor JN, Culas RJ. Ethnopharmacological values of cassava and its potential for diabetes and dyslipidemia management: Knowledge survey and critical review of report. J Intercult Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Jun 9;6(3):260-266. doi:10.5455/jice.20170606094119

  4. Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11):1211. doi:10.3390/nu9111211

  5. DePhillipo NN, Aman ZS, Kennedy MI, Begley JP, Moatshe G, LaPrade RF. Efficacy of vitamin C supplementation on collagen synthesis and oxidative stress after musculoskeletal injuries: A systematic review. Orthop J Sports Med. 2018 Oct 25;6(10):2325967118804544. doi:10.1177/2325967118804544

  6. Righi NC, Schuch FB, De Nardi AT, Pippi CM, de Almeida Righi G, Puntel GO, da Silva AMV, Signori LU. Effects of vitamin C on oxidative stress, inflammation, muscle soreness, and strength following acute exercise: Meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials. Eur J Nutr. 2020 Oct;59(7):2827-2839. doi:10.1007/s00394-020-02215-2

  7. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Copper: Fact sheet for health professionals.

  8. Banea JP, Bradbury JH, Mandombi C, Nahimana D, Denton IC, Kuwa N, Tshala Katumbay D. Effectiveness of wetting method for control of konzo and reduction of cyanide poisoning by removal of cyanogens from cassava flour. Food Nutr Bull. 2014 Mar;35(1):28-32. doi:10.1177/156482651403500104

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cyanide: Exposure, decontamination, treatment.

How to Prepare Cassava Safely to Reap the Health Benefits (2)

By Angelica Bottaro
Bottaro has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and an Advanced Diploma in Journalism. She is based in Canada.

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How to Prepare Cassava Safely to Reap the Health Benefits (2024)

FAQs

How to Prepare Cassava Safely to Reap the Health Benefits? ›

Boil cassava until it is fork tender or anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. "Do not reuse the boiled water," cautions Lemond, who adds that boiling cassava helps retain the nutritious properties of the root while over-processing the vegetable (like when making tapioca) can deplete some of its nutrients.

How do you make cassava safe to eat? ›

Peel it. The peel of cassava root contains most of its cyanide-producing compounds, so it's a good idea to discard it before cooking and eating the vegetable. Soak it. Soaking cassava by submerging it in water for 48–60 hours before cooking it may reduce its content of harmful chemicals.

How do you make cassava less toxic? ›

Fermentation, boiling, and ensiling are efficient techniques for removing cyanide from cassava peels.

How to prepare cassava leaves for health benefits? ›

Cook the ground cassava leaves with plenty of groundnut paste, a little salt and enough water to cover. Cook gently for 30 minutes. Remember that some varieties of cassava contain a lot of the poison cyanide. Use 'sweet' cassava varieties.

How long to soak cassava in water? ›

Soaking. The peeled cassava roots are soaked in water in a large vessel or a running stream for 3-4 days.

Does roasting cassava remove cyanide? ›

Crushing and sun-drying cassava roots made into flour removes 96% to 99% of total cyanogens, whereas soaking and sun-drying into lafun or fufu, or soaking and fermenting and roasting into gari or farina, removes about 98% of cyanogens.

What is the major problem with cassava? ›

The main problem of raw cassava tubers is their high concentration of cyanogenic glucosides (with peels containing more than the flesh).

Who should not eat cassava? ›

Nutrition of Cassava

However, it's a good source of potassium, folate, vitamin C, and several other nutrients. Though this doesn't make cassava unhealthy, people following low-carb diets and people with blood sugar regulation issues, such as those with type 2 diabetes, should avoid consuming large amounts of cassava.

What processing techniques to reduce toxicity and antinutrients of cassava for use as a staple food? ›

Fermentation and oven-drying are efficient processing methods to remove phytate (85.6%) and polyphenols (52%), respectively, from cassava roots. Sun-drying the leaves, with or without prior steaming or shredding, removes about 60% phytate.

How long to cook cassava to remove cyanide? ›

Boiling/Cooking

As with soaking, the free cyanide of cassava chips is rapidly lost in boiling water. About 90% of free cyanide is removed within 15 minutes of boiling fresh cassava chips, compared to a 55% reduction in bound cyanide after 25 minutes (Cooke and Maduagwu, 1978).

How do you know if cassava is safe to eat? ›

When taken by mouth: Cassava that has been prepared properly is LIKELY SAFE for most people when eaten occasionally in normal food amounts. However, cassava that has not been prepared properly is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Cassava that is prepared improperly can contain chemicals that are converted to cyanide in the body.

How do jamaicans eat cassava? ›

Bammy or bami is very similar to casabe bread or yuca bread. The differences between the two include that bammies are thicker, while yuca bread consists of grated cassava and salt fried in a skillet. Bammies are soaked in coconut milk and then fried, steamed, or baked.

What causes cassava poisoning? ›

Cassava, an edible tuberous root often made into flour, contains cyanogenic glycosides, which can result in fatal cyanide poisoning if not properly detoxified by soaking, drying, and scraping before being consumed. Acute cassava-associated cyanide poisoning outbreaks are rarely described.

How long should cassava leaves be boiled? ›

Instructions:
  1. Put the katapa cassava leaves into a pot with water just above the Katapa and start boiling.
  2. Boil for 2-3 hours or until tender, making sure to add more water once it dries up.
  3. When the leaves are tender and fully cooked, add tomatoes, onions, cooking oil and salt.

Do you have to soak cassava before cooking? ›

The variety typically sold for home cooking in the U.S. is sweet cassava, and its cyanide content is removed by peeling and cooking the tuber. (Bitter-tasting yucas produce up to a gram of cyanide per kilogram of fresh roots. That type of cassava root must be soaked and cooked for hours before it's safe to eat.)

Is cassava sprayed with pesticides? ›

Herbicide is rarely used in cassava production, despite some demonstrated economic advantages.

Can blood type O eat cassava? ›

Tapicoca (cassava) manioc only for for A, B2 (non-secretor), O1 (secretor). The fine tapioca flour makes a good binder to replace gluten in most baking recipes for these blood types. Where manioc is grown, it is a staple food.

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