What is Cassava called in your region? For instance, it is called Akpu in Igbo, Rogo in Hausa and ẹyẹ in Yoruba. Regardless of the name, this tuber is loved by the three regions in Nigeria. According to this wikipedia article, Nigeria is the largest producers of cassava in the world, followed by Brazil. Cassava is a popular staple food in Nigeria with many health benefits as discussed in this page.
What is cassava?
Cassava also known scientifically as “Manihot esculenta” is a perennial woody shrub with an edible tuberous root, basically grown in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It is a major food in Africa, South America and other developing countries. Cassava food is rich in carbohydrate, potassium and fiber, in addition to being a great source of vitamin C, folate, saponins and resveratrol. See the nutritional composition of cassava according to the table below:
|Components||Quantity (100 gr)|
|Total fat||0.3 g|
|Saturated fat||0.1 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fats||0 g|
|Monounsaturated Fats||0.1 g|
|Dietary Fiber||1.8 g|
|Vitamin A||13 UI|
|Vitamin C||20.6 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg|
Origin of Cassava
Cassava originated from Tropical America (southern Brazil and eastern Bolivia) and in the year 1558, the Portuguese brought it to Africa through the Congo Basin. Today, it’s one of the most consumed food in Nigeria and the third highest source of Carbohydrate in West Africa. It is both a source of food for family and commercial purposes so this has led to some people going into cassava farming as source of making a living.
11 Health Benefits of Cassava
Cassava is a highly energetic food. The nutritionist Paula Schlobach says that the best way to consume it is in meals that have the high energy content as a purpose, for example at breakfast, lunch or in pre or post workout snacks. Check out some benefits found in the consumption of cassava:
1. Good Bowel Function
“Cassava helps to maintain the muscle tone of the wall of the digestive tract. It also helps with peristaltic movement, which is when the intestine starts to move, and this helps in the absorption of nutrients. People who usually have their intestines stuck means the peristaltic movement is not working properly, and this slows down digestion. And cassava because it has potassium, helps in muscle contraction “, explains nutritionist Carlos Cristovão.
2. Anti-Cancer Functions
According to Carlos, cassava has vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps fight some pathologies and increase the immune system, acting to fight cancer. Vitamin C also helps in the treatment of ovarian cancer and lung cancer, in parallel to traditional therapies.
3. Strengthens Hair
“Because it is a food rich in nutrients, it does help strengthen hair. And not only that, because it increases immunity and your body ends up getting stronger. There are even tribes in the southeastern United States that use cassava leaf to make shampoo, soap and some personal hygiene items. So it’s a really beneficial food for hair health “, explains Carlos.
4. Good for Eye Health
“It is a food that contains vitamin B1, which neutralizes diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts. It is not that it prevents, but actually helps to neutralize. It does not let these diseases evolve,” says Carlos.
5. Relieves Symptoms of Arthritis
“Cassava contains a component called saponin, which improves the condition of joints that are affected by arthritis, because it limits or stops their deterioration. Cassava also avoids the side effects that medication has on the digestive system. To reduce pain, stiffness and swelling caused by arthritis it is recommended to consume cassava every day “, says Letícia de Paula.
6. Prevents Anemia
Nutritionist Thayana Albuquerque explains that cassava has iron and folate, very important nutrients in preventing anemia. “It should be consumed in the diet together with proteins and dark green vegetables, to enhance the natural treatment of anemia”, she adds.
7. Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Action
The nutritionist Paula Schlobach explains: “Cassava contains saponins and polyphenols, which guarantee the anti-inflammatory action. In addition, it has the presence of a compound called resveratrol and also vitamin C, which enhance the antioxidant actions of the food”.
8. Softens the Damage of Ultraviolet Rays on the Skin
” Studies indicate that resveratrol is able to delay or reverse the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, suggesting its action as a sunscreen against UV radiation. There are several mechanisms by which resveratrol exerts its chemoprotective action that include mainly antioxidant activity, free radicals, anti-inflammatory activity, inhibition of cell proliferation, inhibition of metastases “, explains Paula.
9. Reduces Cholesterol
Thayana explains that, due to the amount of fibers that cassava has, it acts beneficially directly in the intestine, helping to lower blood glucose and cholesterol. However, to enjoy this benefit, it is recommended to consume boiled or roasted cassava as the excessive consumption of cassava flour can increase triglycerides.
10. Combat Oxidative Stress
“Cassava can help oxidative stress inside cells as it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances”. This can prevent premature cell aging.
11. Good for Physical Activity Practitioners
“Because it is a low glycemic index carbohydrate, a source of vitamins and minerals, eating cassava is very beneficial for practitioners of physical activity. Indicated as a source of energy before training and for recovery its intake is also indicated in the post-workout”.
A lot of men who engage in heavy duty jobs normally eat “Fufu” (processed cassava) to get enough strength.
Cassava Recipes in Nigeria
Cassava can be processed as Garri, which is a creamy-white semi fermented and fried cassava that can be soaked with water and drank or made with hot water to be eaten alongside a soup.
It can also be processed to produce “Fufu” or “Apku” after fermenting and cooking. Fufu is a whitish solid food eaten with a soup.
Cassava recipes includes;
- Cassava flakes
- Cassava Flour Meal
- Roasted cassava
- Cassava cakes
- Cassava Swallow with Okro Soup
- Cassava Buns
- Abacha (African Salad)
Consumption During Pregnancy
Consumption made in moderation is indicated for pregnant women, according to Thayana. “It is beneficial to the intestine since in pregnancy the organ slows down. Cassava also has folates that help in the formation of the neural tube in the fetus. And, finally, it provides a good amount of energy for the mother and baby without causing blood glucose spikes, preventing gestational diabetes “, he explains.
Cassava in Infant Feeding
Leticia recommends that cassava be introduced into infant food together with first baby foods, which are usually offered to children from the 6th month. “I recommend varying it with potatoes, cassava and yams. Because it is rich in fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, cassava is only good for children’s health”, he adds.
Disadvantages of Eating Cassava
There is no disadvantage for the consumption of this food the right way, but an important precaution needs to be taken. “Cassava cannot be eaten raw”, warns the nutritionist. Some species of cassava have a substance called hydrocyanic acid, which can cause poisoning if swallowed. “In the most popular cassava species in Nigeria, called table cassava, the concentration of hydrocyanic acid is insignificant. In the species known as wild cassava there is a greater amount of this toxin and, if it is not well cooked or eaten raw, it can cause intoxication “, he adds.