A hearty root vegetable, yuca root (also known as cassava) originated in Brazil yet is grown throughout the world’s tropical regions. There are two species of yuca root: one bitter and one sweet although the bitter kind is more commonly used, per the USDA.
The starch of the yuca root is used to make tapioca, and the yuca root itself is used in many different forms. It can be eaten whole and is also processed into flour and snacks like cassava chips.
It can be easy to mix up yuca with yucca, which is actually a perennial shrub or tree with sword-shaped leaves and white flowers, per the Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center.
Yuca contains several nutrients that benefit overall health, and yuca products (like cassava tortillas) can also be a replacement for gluten-containing foods if you’re on a gluten-free or grain-free diet.
Yuca root must never be eaten raw, as it contains a poisonous acid that is destroyed during the cooking process.
Yuca Root Nutrition Facts
One cup of yuca root is equal to a single serving. One cup of cooked yuca or cassava (prepared without oil) contains:
- Calories: 213
- Total fat: 0.4 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 326 mg
- Total carbs: 50.5 g
- Dietary fiber: 2.4 g
- Sugar: 2.3 g
- Added sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 1.8 g
- Total fat: One cup of cooked yuca has 0.4 grams of total fat, which includes 0.06 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.09 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0.1 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat.
- Carbohydrates: One cup of cooked yuca has 50.5 grams of carbs, which includes 2.4 grams of fiber and 2.3 grams of naturally occurring sugars.
- Protein: One cup of cooked yuca contains 1.8 grams of protein.
Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients
- Vitamin C: 20% of your Daily Value (DV)
- Copper: 14% DV
- Thiamin (B1): 8% DV
- Potassium: 7% DV
- Magnesium: 6% DV
- Niacin (B3): 6% DV
- Vitamin B6: 6% DV
- Folate (B9): 6% DV
- Riboflavin (B2): 4% DV
- Zinc: 4% DV
- Phosphorus: 3% DV
Per 1/4 cup
The Health Benefits of Yuca Root
Yuca helps to boost the health of your gut, heart and skin, and can also be a good replacement for foods containing gluten or grains if you’re on a diet that excludes them. Like other vegetables, yuca can be a nutritious part of a healthy and varied diet.
1. Yuca Is Great for Gut Health
Yuca packs resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine, acting as a prebiotic to feed healthy bacteria in the gut, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“Resistant starch is really cassava’s claim to fame because it basically serves as food to support gut bacteria,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD. “And gut health is tied not only to regularity and digestion but also to immunity, mood and even cravings.”
Because resistant starch doesn’t get digested in the small intestine, it doesn’t raise blood glucose levels, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. It also causes less gas than other fibers because it is fermented slowly, and can help you feel more full, treat and prevent constipation and lower cholesterol.
When resistant starch undergoes fermentation in the colon, it results in the production of short-chain fatty acids — one of them being butyrate, which plays an important role in gut health, including reducing inflammation and supporting gut barrier function (which is involved in immunity), per a February 2020 review in Current Opinion in Biotechnology.
If you follow a grain-free or gluten-free diet for medical reasons, yuca can be a nutritious addition to your meals — and there are several packaged options like cassava chips or cassava tortillas available. “It’s a really good option to build more variety into your diet,” Blatner says.
“However, if you’re trying to get the vitamin C, potassium and resistant starch in cassava, aim for a whole-food version like yuca fries as opposed to processed foods.”
Depending on the level of processing, several nutrients may be removed or destroyed during the peeling, heating or drying of foods, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Although nutrients are sometimes added back into processed foods, it’s impossible to recreate the nutritional makeup of the original food. That’s why whole foods are typically considered healthier than processed foods.
It’s also important to remember that some gluten-free foods can be higher in fat, sugar or calories than the gluten-containing food they’re replacing. When it comes to processed foods, always read the ingredient list to ensure your cassava snack doesn’t have unwanted ingredients (like too much salt or added sugar).
3. Yuca Supports Heart Health
Like other vegetables, yuca can be part of a diet that protects your heart. Every serving provides 2.4 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber.
The recommended daily amount of fiber is 25 to 38 grams, per Harvard Medical School. However, most Americans only get about 10 to 15 grams of fiber per day on average. People who eat high amounts of fiber can significantly lower their risk of and death from heart disease, possibly due to fiber’s effects on reducing total and LDL “bad” cholesterol, per a December 2017 review of 31 meta-analyses in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine.
Fiber may also benefit heart health by reducing blood pressure and inflammation, per the Mayo Clinic. What’s more, it helps to control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
A serving of yuca also provides 7 percent DV of potassium. Eating more potassium causes you to lose more sodium through urine and decreases tension in blood pressure walls, per the American Heart Association. As a result, it can help you manage high blood pressure.
Meanwhile, yuca is a food high in vitamin C, with 20 percent of your DV. Although evidence has been mixed, prospective cohort studies indicate that getting more vitamin C is associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and hypertension, per the Linus Pauling Institute.
In addition to potentially guarding your heart, vitamin C generally protects your cells from damage: “Vitamin C is one of the top antioxidants that keeps your cells healthy,” Blatner says. “It’s also a precursor to collagen and is good for skin health, and it’s an immune booster.”
Some people who are allergic to latex may also experience cross-reactivity with cassava, per a May 2007 case report in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology.
Cross-reactivity occurs when proteins in one substance are similar to those in another, causing a similar reaction. This can make diagnosing specific allergies complicated, per the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Speak to an allergist if you suspect you have an allergy. Allergies can cause severe reactions, and you may need to carry epinephrine with you in case of anaphylaxis (a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction).
There are currently no known drug interactions associated with yuca. Be sure to discuss any medication and food interactions with your health professional.
It’s important to peel and cook yuca before eating it. Raw cassava contains a poisonous acid, which must be removed by peeling and cooking the roots, per the USDA.
“Cassava always has to be cooked,” Blatner says. “It’s like a potato, which you wouldn’t think about eating raw.”
Yuca Root Preparation and Helpful Tips
In addition to fully cooking yuca before eating it to remove harmful toxins, it’s important to store it properly. You can use yuca root in place of other root vegetables, and it makes a particularly good swap for potatoes.
Store yuca root properly. If you have fresh, unpeeled yuca on hand, store it in a cool, dark and dry place for up to a week. Peeled yuca can be stored in water in the refrigerator for a month if you replace the water every two days, per the Canadian Produce Marketing Association. Yuca can also be tightly wrapped and frozen for several months.
Swap it in for other root vegetables. If you want to get more yuca in your diet, use it in recipes that would normally call for potatoes. “However you enjoy potatoes is usually how you would enjoy cassava,” Blatner says. “It can be mashed as you would with mashed potatoes, or it can be cubed for breakfast.”
Alternatives to Yuca Root
You can try several other types of root vegetables in place of yuca root. Aim for a diet that’s rich in variety and includes many root vegetables such as:
- sweet potatoes
You can even roast several together as part of meal prep.