Before we venture out into the world of tuber vegetables such as sweet cassava, we must first understand its impact on a global scale. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, cassava is the fourth main starch product, after maize, wheat and potato. In addition, almost 70% of cassava production is from 5 countries, Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia and the Congo Democratic Republic, with the top importers of cassava were China ($623M), Thailand ($267M), Vietnam ($195M), Netherlands ($142M), and the United States ($127M) in 2019.
Cassava Vs Potatoes
Cassava is certainly a globally recognized staple food. Yet, not many appreciate or know about its naturally sweet taste. What's more, its puffy counterpart snacks. But, I digress, the benefits of cassava are plentiful. First, it is a resistant starch, which means that it doesn't digest in your digestive tract. But more on that in a bit. It also has many other health benefits, such as containing sources of vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. Additionally, 2.8g of protein, 78.4g of carbohydrate, 3.7g of fiber, 33 milligrams (mg) of calcium, 43 mg of magnesium, and 558 mg of potassium. Since, it is gluten-free, cassava can be consumed by people with celiac disease, a disease where eating gluten can damage the small intestines.
The cassava root, a starchy vegetable, high in insoluble fiber, where about 40% is soluble fiber. It is also high in resistant starch. The benefits of resistant starches are better metabolic health, improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, reduced appetite and various benefits for digestion. The reason why these resistant starches are so important is because they feed the "good bacteria" in your intestines. It not only feeds the good bacteria, but also feeds the cells in your body, which your cells absorb around 90%! Resistant starches have both insoluble and soluble fibers. Like insoluble fibers, resistant fibers pass through without digestion, until they reach the colon, and feed the good bacteria.
The main difference between insoluble and soluble fibers is that insoluble fibers don’t dissolve in water, and it helps regulate bowel movement. It may include plant cellulose and hemicellulose. While, soluble fibers regulate and help control blood cholesterol and sugar.
The cassava plant consists of 6% leaves, 44% stem and 50% of it is the roots. Besides the dietary fiber that may be found in this root vegetable, cassava leaves are also edible, and have many additional essential vitamins and minerals. An increasing portion of the leaves consist of protein, up to 25%!
There are so many consumer goods that we use everyday that are made from cassava. For example, tapioca pudding, tapioca flour, cassava flour, tapioca pearls, and so much more. From classic desserts to chips, and crisps. The many delicacies that we just will not and can not live without are made from cassava. But, preparation is key to anything.
Dangers of Cassava
When it comes to your body and what you put inside it, it isn't surprising to be wary of something new to you. At Novacrisp, we take every precaution. Making sure that all our products are safe and are up to par with industry standards. That being said, let's go over what makes cassava toxic.So, raw cassava can lead to immediate dangers such as death if not treated properly. So, to properly and safely prepare cassava, we need to:
- Peel the skin.
- Slice or cut it into small pieces.
- Soak them in water.
- Boil them until tender and very well cooked.
- Discard any cooking water.
Cassava, a tuber vegetable, contains cyanogenic glycosides, a strand of cyanide. But, there are different types of cassava with lower to higher levels of cyanide. But, even without the different species of cassava, there are cyanogenic glycosides that are natural plant toxins that create hydrogen cyanide through a chemical change (hydrolysis) from chewing, digesting, and pounding. If you've seen any spy movies, you'll know to stay away. But, at the same time, 26 economically important crops you probably eat every day contain cyanogenic glycosides, such as Lima beans and almonds. It might also go without saying, but it is worth restating, don’t eat the seeds and pits in certain fruits such as apricots, apples, and peaches.
With that being said, there are two types of cassava plants. First, the sweet cassava, and second, bitter cassava. Sweet cassava contains less than 50 mg per kilogram of hydrogen cyanide, while bitter cassava may contain up to 400 mg per kilogram. For normal consumer goods, people usually use sweet cassava, and use the bitter cassava for animal feed.
Similar to cassava, potatoes also come from South America. Which in 2021, was the 4th most important crop in the world. The top potato producers with the largest crop yield starts with China, followed by India, Russia, Ukraine, and finally the USA as the 5th largest producer of potatoes in the world.
What are the benefits of potatoes?
There is quite a lot to say about this tuber vegetable. For instance, potatoes have the vitamins and minerals for strong and lasting bone health, as well as, decreasing blood pressure naturally, and skin health due to the Vitamin C. It has many other vitamins and minerals such as, iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
Dangers of Potatoes
Unlike the cassava plant, the shoots and leaves from potatoes should not be eaten. There are other things that you should be aware of when eating potatoes. For example, solanine, a toxin known to cause headaches, muscle cramps, and diarrhea. It is usually easy to spot, if your potatoes are green and sprouting. There are other signs that you should be aware of, but they are out of scope in this article.
Another toxin that can be created in the potato is Acrylamide. This compound is created when the potato is cooked above 248 Fahrenheit. This compound is commonly found in plastics, cigarette smoke, and glues. According to Medical News Today, "Potato chips, French fries, and processed potato products are likely to be high in acrylamides, fat and sodium. Avoiding them can help reduce acrylamide exposure."