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Scientifically termed as Manihot esculenta, cassava is a starchy root vegetable or tuber. Extensively cultivated for in tropical and subtropical regions, it belongs to the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. The starchy edible tuberous root is one of the major sources of carbohydrate, along with various other nutrients. The dried powdery or pearly form of cassava is called as tapioca and the fried, granular form is called garri  .
The carbohydrate content in the tuber is so high that it stands third, after rice and maize. Due to the high nutrient content, cassava is a staple food in various developing countries. However, processing cassava can reduce its nutritional value as the vitamins, minerals, fibre and resistant starch tend to get lost while cooking it. The most effective way to retain the nutritional value of the tuber is to boil it  .
The edible roots are both bitter and sweet in taste and cannot be eaten raw as it contains antinutritional factors and toxins. Cassava has to be cooked properly before consumption, otherwise can lead to acute cyanide intoxication due to the presence of naturally occurring forms of cyanide  . If not prepared properly, the carbohydrate-rich tuber can even cause paralysis or death. Read on to know more about the tuber, its health benefits and side effects.
Nutritional Value Of Cassava
100 grams of the tuber contains 160 calories energy, 0.3 g fat, 0.087 mg thiamine, 0.048 ml riboflavin, 0.854 mg niacin, 0.088 mg vitamin B6, 0.27 mg iron and 0.34 mg zinc  .
The other nutrients present in cassava are as follows:
38.1 g carbohydrate
1.7 g sugar
1.8 g dietary fibre
1.4 g protein
60 g water
27 mcg folate
20.6 mg vitamin C
16 mg calcium
21 mg magnesium
27 mg phosphorus
271 mg potassium
14 mg sodium
Health Benefits Of Cassava
1. Aids weight loss
Rich in dietary fibre, cassava is the perfect option for you, if you are looking forward to losing some weight. Low in calories, as well as the high fibre content of the root, keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time. This, thereby reduces the need to constantly snack, further preventing unnecessary weight gain  .
2. Cures migraine
The presence of vitamin B2 and riboflavin in the tuber is beneficial for curing headaches and migraine. Consuming cassava can help reduce constant migraine attacks. Take 60 grams of cassava roots or leaves and soak in water for 2 hours and make juice out of it  . This will provide relief from severe migraine.
3. Improves digestion
As aforementioned, cassava is rich in dietary fibre that is extremely beneficial for your body and its functions. The insoluble fibre helps in improving your digestive system by absorbing all the toxins deposited in your intestines, and also by reducing any inflammation within your digestive tracts. Thereby, the fibre content in the edible root prevents the onset of any gastrointestinal problems as well  .
4. Treats diarrhoea
The antioxidant property of the roots can help in overcoming loose stools. If you are suffering from diarrhoea, boil the root in water for an hour and consume it. This will help in getting rid of the bacteria causing stomach problems and reduce the symptoms of diarrhoea as well. The fibre content also helps in curing diarrhoeic symptoms  .
5. Improves eyesight
One of the other major benefits possessed by cassava is that it is beneficial for your eye health. Controlled consumption of the root can help provide your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals  . Packed with vitamin A, the tuber help improve your eyesight and also prevent blindness or poor eyesight which can develop in the future.
6. Heals wound
The cassava plant as a whole, that is, the stem, leaves and root are all beneficial in treating wounds. The roots can help prevent the wound from getting infected and promote quicker healing  .
7. Cures fever
Cassava can be used to treat mild fevers. It has improved results when boiled along with cassava leaves. You can make a decoction out of the two and drink it to reduce your body temperature.
8. Clears up worms
Consuming cassava can help get relief from nematode infestation in your stomach and intestine. The cassava roots help eliminate the worms in your intestine and provide relief  .
9. Improves appetite
The carbohydrates and fibre in the tuber play a significant role in regaining your appetite. If you are feeling a bit low and does not have an appetite, may be due to emotional or physical reasons, incorporate some cassava into your diet  .
10. Boosts energy
Rich in carbohydrates, the edible root is extremely beneficial in giving an instant rise to your energy. It helps improve your brain functioning and supplies energy  .
Some of the other benefits offered by the edible root are, it can be beneficial for your nerve health, help maintain healthy muscles due to the presence of a protein that helps maintain muscle health and nourishes the tissues  . It may also help reduce blood pressure due to its dietary fibre content. It is also asserted that consuming cassava can make you less prone to diseases, especially osteoporosis  .
Healthy Recipes Of Cassava
1. Yuca with garlic sauce (vegan)
- 0.7 kg cassava, peeled and cut into small chunks
- 1 to 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup of orange juice
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the cassava in salted water until it becomes tender, about 30 minutes.
- Drain the cassava and place it in a serving dish.
- Set it aside, but keep it warm (don't allow it to come back to room temperature).
- Combine the onions, orange juice, lime juice, cilantro and garlic in a bowl.
- Pour the mixture over the cassava.
- Heat the olive oil, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper in a pan until hot.
- Pour the hot oil over the cassava.
- Toss lightly.
2. Cassava salad
- 0.9 kg cassava, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup vegan mayonnaise
- ½ cup red onions, finely chopped
- ½ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 green onion, finely sliced
- 1 celery, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- Place the cassava chunks in a large pot with water to cover.
- Bring to boil on medium-high heat.
- Reduce the heat to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and drain using a colander.
- When the cassava is cool enough to handle, chop it into small cubes and place into a large bowl. Add mayonnaise, red onion, red bell pepper, green onion, celery, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper.
- Toss well and serve.
How To Prepare Cassava For Safe Consumption
Controlled consumption of the edible root can be beneficial for your health. In order to consume cassava without facing the side effects, it has to be prepared in specific manners  .
Soak it: Immerse cassava in water for about 48 to 60 hours before cooking it. This can help in reducing the toxins present in it.
Peel it: Always make sure to remove the peel of cassava as it contains a high level of cyanide.
Cook it: You can get rid of the antinutrients and chemicals found in raw cassava by boiling, roasting or baking it.
Eat it with a protein: Pairing it with protein-rich foods such as eggs, chicken breast etc., as protein can help get rid of the toxic cyanide from your body.
It is always better to eat the tuber along with other food items. Consuming just cassava for a long period of time is not beneficial or good for your health, so make sure to maintain a well-balanced diet  .
Do not eat raw cassava as it contains naturally occurring forms of cyanide. It can cause 
- increased risk of goitre,
- paralysed legs in children,
- tropical ataxic neuropathy, which causes a loss of feeling in the hands, poor vision, weakness, walking problems, and the sensation of something being on the feet,
- low levels of iodine, and
One of the other major side effects of cassava is the antinutrients present in it. The plant nutrients such as saponins, phytate, and tannins can interfere with the digestion process and restrict the proper absorption of minerals and vitamins  .
It is also pointed out that the roots tend to absorb harmful chemicals found in soil such as arsenic and cadmium, and pollutants such as pesticides, trace mineral elements and herbicides  ,  .
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