It is believed that the Maya, from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, first cultivated Yuca (yoo-cuh). This tropical plant is an edible, tuberous member of the spurge family. It is widely cultivated for its tuberous roots in tropical areas around the world. Otherwise known as Cassava, it is used to produce flour for breads, tapioca, a starch for laundering, and an alcoholic beverage called Kasiri made in South America. In Yucatan you can find Cassava in powdery cakes called “Casabe,” while in West Africa it is used to make “Fufu.” Jamaica makes a dish called “Bammy” from Cassava.
Yuca, or Cassava, is rich in nutrients and has many health benefits. Some of its nutrients include Vitamins A & C, Potassium, Phosphorus, Beta-Carotene, Magnesium and Choline. It is also high in fiber and a source of resistant starch.
Choline helps our bodies manage brain and nerve functions as well as keeping our metabolism efficient. The Potassium in Yuca helps regulate our heartbeat, muscle contractions and kidney function. The pigment that gives Yuca it’s color, Beta-Carotene, is an antioxidant, one of many found in this tuber. As we know, antioxidants fight free radicals that can damage our body’s cells which may cause cancer.
Resistant starch, found in Yuca, works in a similar way as soluble fiber by helping to feed the “good bacteria” in the digestive tract. Currently, this resistant starch is being researched for its ability to help control blood glucose levels. It is believed that it reduces the body’s insulin response preventing spikes in blood sugar after eating.
The Vitamin C in a single serving of Yuca provides one-third the daily requirement for an adult. As many are aware, Vitamin C can boost the immune system, and help us heal when we are injured. Some may not know that Vitamin C is also an important component in our blood vessels.
You can find Yuca in those delicious Tapioca pearls in your favorite Boba drink, as Cassava Flour, which is gluten free, in chip form and as a whole root in the produce area of health food markets. Be sure to peel the Yuca and thoroughly cook the flesh because it should not be eaten raw.