Yuca Root: The Superhero of Root Vegetables
What is it?
Yuca (pronounced yoo-kah) is a root vegetable that is grown and harvested in tropical and sub-tropical climates. It goes by many names depending on where it's grown, including cassava, manihoc, and tapioca. It grows underneath shrubs and takes about 9-18 months to grow to harvestable size, which can be up to 11 inches long! It sort of looks like a long potato, with a thick brown skin, woody core, and white flesh. And while it may not be so popular in the U.S., but it's a dietary staple households all over South America, Africa and Asia.
Isn't it yucca? With two 'c's?
Nope. Yuca (yoo-kah) and yucca (pronounced yuck-kah) might look the same on paper, but they are two very different things. While yuca refers to the root vegetable described above (a.k.a. cassava), yucca (two 'c's) is an inedible flowering plant of the agave family. So why all the confusion? Turns out that back when the yucca plant was discovered, people confused it for the cassava (yuca) plant. After all, they do look sort of similar above ground! So, someone out there made a big mistake and gave it the name yucca, named after the cassava plant (yuca). To further the confusion, there are hundreds of instances where publications have written "yucca" instead of "yuca." (smacks forehead). Maybe this post can raise awareness about this controversial subject and change it for good.
What is it typically used for?
Yuca is used for a variety of delicious dishes depending on the country of origin. Served as everything from french fries, to a side dish for soups, to being used as a dough for dumplings or boiled and served with sauce, it's basically the rest of the world's version of a potato.
What are the nutritional benefits of yuca? What makes it so great?
We're no scientists, but we don't have to be. We can definitely feel the benefit of eating Swapples, which are made from whole yuca root, without having to read any published research about it. No bloat. Stable blood sugar. Tons of energy. Appetite satisfied for hours. But just to back up what we're feeling, here's some quick facts from a few sources:
- It's a resistant-starch. This means it breaks down more slowly in your body, feeding your beneficial gut bacteria and potentially lowering your blood glucose levels.
- It's high in Vitamin-C. 1 cup of it provides 56.5% of your daily value!
- It's high in potassium. This helps balance out the sodium levels of the body, which in turn helps keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. It also helps with nerve function, and activates the enzymes needed to digest carbohydrates.
- It's high in saponins. Saponins are phytochemicals, which bind to cholesterol and prevent its absorption by the small intestine, thereby lowering cholesterol levels. Sweet! They also contain antioxidants that can reduce the risk of serious illnesses.
- It has a low glycemic index. On the scale of 1 to 100, the glycemic index scale measures how much of an effect a specific food has on your blood sugar, by measuring how quickly your body turns that food into glucose. Yuca root sits at 46, at the lower half of the index! This makes it suitable for anyone trying to keep their blood sugar stable.