What Is Cassava Flour and Why You Should Avoid It | Livestrong.com (2024)

What Is Cassava Flour and Why You Should Avoid It | Livestrong.com (1)

Cassava is a starchy root vegetable and a major source of carbohydrates in many parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.

Cassava isn't something Western cultures eat much of, but it's a staple food in the tropical regions where it's grown. If you're a gluten-free baker, you may be considering trying cassava flour in place of regular flour. You don't need to avoid cassava flour, but it's not the most nutritious option.

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Tip

Cassava flour is made from the starchy root vegetable. It's high in carbs, but it doesn't contain some of the healthful nutrients other flours provide, so you should eat it in moderation.

What Is Cassava Flour?

Cassava is a starchy root vegetable and a major source of carbohydrates in many parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. According to the USDA, people in Africa also eat the leaves of the cassava plant, and the juice can be fermented to make a syrup and a liquor called kasiri. To make flour, the cassava root is roasted or sun-dried and ground.

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In Africa, cassava flour is used as a partial substitute for wheat flour, and that is how it is primarily used in the West — as grain-free replacement for wheat and other grain-based flours. This is a boon for those who can't eat gluten, as well as those who follow restrictive diets such as the Paleo diet and the Whole30.

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Nutrition of Cassava Flour

But how does it stack up nutritionally? It's an important source of nutrition for many people all over the world, but is it the best choice for someone who has access to a wide array of other flours?

That depends on what you're comparing it to. If you're measuring it up against all-purpose white flour, it's nutritionally superior. White wheat flour has been refined and stripped of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Cassava flour provides more protein and fiber than white flour, according to data from the USDA National Nutrient Database.

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Whether it beats out the vitamin and mineral contents of white flour depends on whether or not it has been enriched or had synthetic nutrients added to it.

In comparison to whole-wheat flour and common gluten-free flours, including almond, brown rice and chickpea flours, cassava doesn't fare as well. Cassava doesn't provide any protein, but whole wheat, brown rice and chickpea flours are rich sources with between 7 to 22 grams per 100 grams of flour.

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Cassava flour has more fiber than rice flour but less than whole wheat and chickpea flours. Cassava flour is lower in vitamins and minerals than enriched white flour, whole-wheat flour, chickpea flour and brown rice flour.

Read more:Yuca Nutrition: Benefits, Risks, Cooking Ideas and More

Cassava Poison Risk

You may have heard warnings that you should avoid cassava because it's poisonous. However, this is both true and false. The plant does indeed contain cyanogenic glycosides, which are chemical compounds that are present in more than 2,000 plant species, according to the Centre for Food Safety of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

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On their own, these compounds are not very harmful, but when they are broken down during digestion, they release hydrogen cyanide, which is toxic to humans and other animals.

How much of these compounds cassava has depends on the type. Sweet cassava is relatively low in them, with less than 50 milligrams per kilogram, whereas bitter cassava contains significantly higher amounts — more than 400 milligrams per kilogram. The USDA warns that bitter cassava should not be eaten raw, but it is OK to eat it cooked.

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Should You Eat It?

Most commercial cassava flour has been properly processed to remove the harmful glycosides and carries no risk of cassava poisoning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that involves soaking the roots in water for several days, then drying them in the sun or roasting them. After that, the outer covering is removed and the roots are ground into flour. If any of these steps are not thoroughly executed, the levels of cyanogenic compounds remain high.

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Although rare, there have been cases of cyanide poisoning from improperly processed cassava flour. Manufacturers can test their products before they reach the consumer to ensure safety. When choosing a product, check to see that this testing has been performed.

From a nutritional standpoint, cassava flour isn't your best choice. It's high in carbohydrates but low in fiber and protein compared to alternatives. Whenever possible, choose alternative flours with higher nutritional value, such as brown rice, chickpea, almond and coconut flours.

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What Is Cassava Flour and Why You Should Avoid It | Livestrong.com (2024)

FAQs

What Is Cassava Flour and Why You Should Avoid It | Livestrong.com? ›

Cassava flour is made from the starchy root vegetable. It's high in carbs, but it doesn't contain some of the healthful nutrients other flours provide, so you should eat it in moderation.

Is cassava flour healthy or not? ›

Cassava flour is a healthy and versatile ingredient you can use to prepare a wide range of recipes and dishes. Due to its high resistant starch content, it may aid weight loss, help improve gut health, and benefit metabolic markers, such as blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

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.

When should you not use cassava flour? ›

Lastly, due to its starchy nature, cassava flour is a high-carb flour which means that it won't work well for individuals following low carb diets like the ketogenic diet.

Does cassava flour cause 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.

Which is healthier tapioca or cassava flour? ›

More Fiber, Nutty Taste

Since cassava flour comes from the entire root, it contains more fibre, and therefore, it supports your digestive system, controls your levels of sugar blood and lowers your cholesterol levels. If you love to bake, then you will love this flour, because it enhances the texture of the food.

Does cassava flour have side effects? ›

Cassava flour is not harmful. But you shouldn't eat it in its raw form, as it contains cyanogenic glycosides, which can turn into cyanide in the body. Sweet cassava roots have less than 50 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of hydrogen cyanide on a fresh weight basis, and the bitter types have up to 400 mg per kilogram.

What is the major problem with cassava? ›

Cassava production is usually faced with myriad of problems ranging from pests and diseases (cassava mosaic disease, cassava bacterial blight, cassava anthracnose disease, cassava bud necrosis, root rots, mealybugs, green mite etc), weather related problems, poor soil, land dilapidation, damage by livestock, danger ...

What disease is associated with cassava? ›

The two major diseases are the Uganda variant of the East African cassava mosaic virus (EACMV-Ug) and cassava brown streak virus (CBSV).

What is the toxin in cassava? ›

LINAMARIN - THE TOXIC COMPOUND OF CASSAVA: According to Cooke (6), linamarin and lotaustralin, are the two different cyanogenic glucosides in cassava plant. Roots and leaves contain the highest amount of linamarin (8,14).

What are the warnings of cassava? ›

People should not eat cassava raw, because it contains naturally occurring forms of cyanide, which are toxic to ingest. Soaking and cooking cassava makes these compounds harmless. Eating raw or incorrectly prepared cassava can lead to severe side effects.

What must be removed from cassava to make it safe to eat? ›

Food products: There are hydrocyanic glucosides (HCN) in all parts of the plant; these glucosides are removed by peeling the roots and boiling in water.

How do you prevent cyanide in cassava? ›

Sun drying eliminates more cyanide than oven drying because of the prolonged contact time between linamarase and the glucosides in sun drying. Soaking followed by boiling is better than soaking or boiling alone in removing cyanide.

Can cassava cause pancreatitis? ›

The intake of cassava has been linked to several diseases including fibrocalculous pancreatic diabetes (tropical calcific pancreatitis).

Does cassava flour cause gas and bloating? ›

NO BLOATING OR GAS

Since it is made from the whole root, it is typically more easily digested than extracted starches like tapioca. Given cassava's lighter consistency and high fiber content, cassava can help to feed good bacteria, reduce inflammation and symptoms of bloating or flatulence.

Is cassava flour high in lead? ›

Comparison of present study with WHO standards for Cassava flour. During the sampling, the level of lead in cassava flour was highest at Station K3 (0.053 mg/kg), followed by Station K1 (0.049 mg/kg), and lowest at Station K5 (0.028 mg/kg; Table 1; Figure 4).

Is it healthy to eat cassava everyday? ›

Cassava contains a great amount of carbohydrates and calories, and can lead to weight gain if eaten in excess. However, because of its high fiber content, cassava can keep you full and reduce hunger throughout the day. Therefore, if eaten in moderation, it can actually be incorporated into a weight loss diet.

Does cassava flour spike sugar? ›

Cassava is a significant source of carbs and can spike insulin and blood sugar levels. This can contribute to weight gain, inflammation, and hormonal imbalance and may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

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