by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Are you looking for a gluten-free flour that can do it all? Look no further than cassava flour! Cassava is a type of root that offers food to over 500 million people globally. The scientific name of Cassava is Manihot esculenta. It is inexpensive and resistant to pests, drought, and diseases. Cassava is a rich source of carbs — hence its flour has many applications in the food industry.
This versatile flour, made from the cassava root, can be used for baking cakes and cookies, making pasta and noodles, and producing alcohol. Plus, it’s packed with fiber, protein, and minerals, making it a more nutritious alternative to wheat flour. With antioxidant properties that may benefit gut and eye health, cassava flour is an excellent addition to any diet.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before changing your current nutrition plan.
What is Cassava Flour?
Cassava flour is a popular gluten-free alternative made from the cassava root, a tuber native to South America and commonly grown in tropical and subtropical regions. Despite the nutty flavor of cassava, its flour has a light, neutral taste, and a fine, smooth texture, typically white in color but may vary depending on the cassava variety.
Making cassava flour involves a five-step process that includes:
- peeling the tubers
- soaking them in water for 4-6 days
- sun-drying or roasting
- scraping off the outer layer
- grinding the remainder into flour
Cassava flour’s versatility makes it a highly sought-after ingredient in the food industry. It is commonly used in baking, including cakes, pancakes, and gluten-free pizza and pasta. Manufacturers also use it as a thickener for ice cream, sauces, and dressings due to its neutral taste and fine texture. Another benefit of cassava flour is its low moisture content, contributing to its extended shelf life if stored away from moisture.
Cassava Flour Nutrition
A cup (32 g) of cassava flour contains:
- Calories: 110
- Fat: 0g
- Protein: 1g
- Fiber: 3g
- Carbohydrates: 28g
The Many Health Benefits of Cassava Flour
Cassava flour has many health benefits that not many people are aware of. Below is a list of the most common benefits you can experience.
1. Digestive and Colon Health
Since the resistant starch in cassava flour ferments in the colon, it feeds the healthy bacteria there. During the process, the starches turn into short-chain fatty acids. One of these short-chain fatty acids is known as butyrate. It is a vital component in the colon cells. Butyrate can also decrease the levels of inflammation inside the colon. This helps to protect a person against many digestive issues, such as ulcerative colitis and inflammatory colorectal cancer.
This shows that, in theory, butyrate could also help protect someone from other inflammatory issues in the colon and bowel, such as constipation, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, and diverticulitis.
2. Weight Loss
According to a 2017 study, eating resistant starches can help individuals feel more full. The study found that consuming 30g of resistant starch each day for 6 weeks decreased the levels of the hormones that cause hunger in healthy people who were obese.
Including resistant starches like cassava flour in the diet may have beneficial effects on weight loss efforts. Research suggests that consuming resistant starches can increase the presence of compounds that help reduce hunger in the morning, leading to a feeling of fullness after meals and potentially reducing snacking and overall calorie intake. Therefore, adding resistant starches to one’s diet may be a helpful strategy for those looking to manage their weight.
3. Blood Sugar
Incorporating resistant starches into your diet, such as cassava flour, can potentially enhance insulin sensitivity. One piece of research found that overweight or obese participants who consumed 10-15g of resistant starch per day showed a decrease in fasting glucose levels, lower hemoglobin A1C, and improved insulin sensitivity. This leads to a more efficient process of moving sugar from the bloodstream to the cells for energy production. By substituting low-fiber flour with cassava flour, you can increase your intake of resistant starches and potentially reap these benefits.
For those who cannot use coconut or nut-based flour, cassava flour is an excellent gluten-free substitute for baking. High-quality gluten-free cassava flour can be purchased from various manufacturers. Since it is completely grain-free, cassava flour is an ideal option for people with gluten intolerance as well as those who follow a paleo diet. Additionally, it is a suitable choice for individuals with sensitive digestive systems, such as those with irritable bowel disease.