Tapioca is the root from cassava plant. Though tapioca is the starch from the root, generally the root itself is referred to as tapioca. It is a native of Brazil but grown all over the world now. It is used as staple food and as a thickening agent in some food preparations.
Tapioca starch is produced in various forms like sticks, pearls, powder etc. It is water soluble and is one of the purest forms of starch produced. Cassava leaves are also used for their medicinal properties.
In addition to being used as a staple food item, tapioca starch is also used in laundries for starching the garments before ironing. Besides being a pure starch food with high protein, tapioca provides many other health benefits as it contains many vitamins and minerals.
100 grams of raw tapioca provides 160 calories of energy and 38.06 grams of carbohydrates equal to 29% of Recommended Daily Amount (RDA). I also contains 1.36 grams of protein and 1.8 grams of fiber.
It also contains small amounts of folate, niacin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and thiamine, Vitamin A, C, E and K with an RDA of about 1% to 7%.
It contains minerals – calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc, ranging from 1% to 5% of RDA. Electrolytes potassium and sodium are also present at 6% and 1% RDA respectively.
Health benefits of Tapioca
Tapioca is grown as a substitute food item and is consumed as such, particularly by people who do not get adequate food with required amount of starch and carbohydrates.
To gain weight
Among the starch rich roots, tapioca provides the highest amount starch. It in fact provides twice the amount of calories provided by potatoes of same weight. Tribal people use tapioca as their main diet and are known to live on tapioca alone. The high carbohydrate content in tapioca helps gain healthy weight. As it contain no cholesterol or fat it is an excellent option to consume for gaining weight. It is not only healthy but also less expensive and an ideal substitute food. People with eating disorders can do well by eating tapioca.
Supports digestive system
The fiber in tapioca supports the digestive system by preventing common disorders like constipation. Tapioca is an easily digestible food. It prevents bloating. It is useful in preventing colorectal cancer as the digestive system is kept healthy. Tapioca has the potential to scrap the cholesterol or fat from the blood vessels and arteries walls of the heart and to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
Calcium, iron and vitamin K present in tapioca improves flexibility and health of the bones. Tapioca is an instant energy booster in case of fatigue.
Muscle strength is as important as bone strength in maintaining the body health and strength. Protein present in tapioca helps muscle growth and strengthening of the muscle.
Benefits during pregnancy
Tapioca is recommended for pregnant women as it provides instant energy due to the presence of high level of starch and carbohydrates. In addition, vitamin B-complex and folic acid in tapioca helps healthy growth of the fetus and prevents neural tube defects.
- Potassium in tapioca reduces the strain on the cardiovascular system and protects the heart. By keeping the blood flow healthy tapioca controls the blood pressure thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks.
- Some people are intolerant to gluten (a protein). Since tapioca obtained from cassava, it is gluten free and it is a substitute for those who follow gluten free diet.
- Low level of Sodium in tapioca makes it a risk free substitute diet.
How to use
- Soak fresh tapioca in water to remove mud and dirt.
- Boil the root in water until it is soft.
- Cool it down and peel of the skin.
Freshly cooked tapioca is used in soups, savories and pudding. You can also consume it as chips when fried in oil with salt.
Products from tapioca are pearls, sticks, starch powder and papads. The tapioca flour is used in cakes and cookies. Pearls are used to prepare sweet pudding.
As a word of caution, raw or uncooked tapioca is not recommended for consumption due to hydroxycyanic acid present in it which interferes with the cellular metabolism.