Cassava is a nutrient-dense, starchy root vegetable consumed in developing countries around the world. It’s also known as yucca, manioc, or mandioca. Because cassava produces a natural toxin, some people are wary of eating it.
However, the right preparation methods prevent this from being an issue. When cooked, cassava has a similar texture to potatoes. Its tuberous roots are used to make cassava flours, breads, and tapioca.
The nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (103 grams) of raw cassava.1
Cassava is high in carbohydrates, with 39 grams per 1/2 cup. There are just under 2 grams of both fiber and natural sugars in a serving of cassava. The majority of carbohydrates are from starch.
Cassava is a staple food in many cultures. When compared to wheat, cassava may contribute four times less digestible sugar and offer 16 times more fiber, giving it a lower glycemic index than many other staple grains.
Cassava naturally contains minimal fat, with less than 1 gram per cup. However, if you cook cassava in oil or top it with butter, the fat content of your meal will increase proportionately.
Cassava is not particularly high in protein, with less than 2 grams per 1/2-cup serving. However, cassava leaves are edible and a good source of protein.3
Vitamins and Minerals
Cassava is very high in potassium and vitamin C. It also contains most of the B-vitamins (except B12), vitamin A, magnesium, selenium, calcium, and iron.
One serving—which is equal to approximately 1 cup of cassava—contains 165 calories, most of which come from carbohydrates. Overall, cassava is a great source of carbohydrates, and provides high amounts of vitamin C and potassium.
Aside from being a nutritious vegetable that can contribute to a balanced diet, there are some other benefits to eating cassava. Here are some of the potential health benefits of this root vegetable.
May Lower Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of health markers that indicate a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. It’s characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and waist circumference, among other factors.
Cassava is rich in flavonoids and fiber that can protect against the development of metabolic syndrome and it’s associated complications. This claim is especially true when cassava replaces wheat as a staple food.2
May Promote Wound Healing
Cassava is rich in vitamin C. With 42.4 milligrams per cup, cassava provides about 50% of the daily vitamin C needs for most adults. Vitamin C is an essential precursor to collagen, a structural component in skin tissues. Getting enough vitamin C from food supports the body’s ability to repair itself, especially since vitamin C is not something our bodies are able to produce.
May Prevent Malnutrition
Although not as big of a concern in the Western world, cassava serves as an essential safeguard against malnutrition in the tropical and African communities where it is most popular.5
Cassava is tolerant to drought, pests, and difficult growing conditions. The root vegetable produces a high yield and can be kept in the ground for several growing seasons as a reserve food when other crops are scarce.3 Both cassava leaves and roots have nutritional benefits that help keep the developing world fed.
May Reduce Blood Pressure
Similar to potatoes, cassava is exceptionally high in potassium. A cup of cassava has 558 milligrams, providing 16% to 21% of the daily recommendation, which ranges between 2600–3400 milligrams per day depending on age and sex.
Potassium lowers blood pressure levels and can help balance out sodium intake which raises blood pressure.6 Choosing a cassava-based side dish instead of a grain-based one boosts the potassium intake of your meal.
May Support Healthy Weight Maintenance
Although cassava is high in calories, it provides fiber and resistant starch that promotes healthy gut bacteria. Studies suggested that the fiber from root vegetables reduces cravings for salty, sweet, and high-fat foods.
The fiber in cassava also positively impacts the gut microbiome, promoting feelings of satiety. Choosing a meal plan based around whole foods provides ample nutrition without empty calories.