So many wonderful, nutrient-dense foods come from South America, and cassava is no exception. Cassava, also called Yuca, is a starchy root vegetable that is gaining popularity in the mainstream American diet for its health benefits and versatility as a grain-free, nut-free flour substitute.
Cassava has a lot of culinary potential due to its high starch content and mild flavor. Its most common derivatives are flour and tapioca starch. Cassava flour is simply the whole root, dried and ground into flour, which is what we use in the recipe below. Tapioca is made from a more intensive process involving soaking the pulp, then evaporating the liquid. What remains from this process is tapioca starch, void of essential nutrients and fiber. This makes cassava flour a much more versatile and nutrient dense option.
Cassava root is a wonderful grain alternative with a low glycemic index. While it provides a small amount of fiber, the real health benefits come from its high content of resistant starch – a topic we are going to delve into before we get cooking.
As we said, cassava is a starchy vegetable. Most of the starch you’ll find in cassava is known as resistant starch, named for its tendency to resist digestion in your GI tract, much like soluble fiber. Some resistant starches are naturally found in starchy foods and others can be created through a cooking and cooling process. A study published in Carbohydrate Polymersdemonstrated that cooking then cooling certain starchy foods like potatoes and bread can increase the resistant starch content via a process called retrogradation, which happens during the cooling process.
Because resistant starch is, well – resistant to digestion, it travels through the GI tract in tract until it reaches the colon, where it serves as a snack for your happy gut bacteria. A study by the British Nutrition Foundationfound that these starches have many of the same benefits of soluble fiber, including positive effects on colon health, insulin sensitivity, blood lipid profiles, blood sugar levels and satiety.
Cassava’s high resistant starch content makes it a great choice for breakfast. Paired with a fat, digestion is slowed and it will leave you feeling fuller for a longer period of time, keeping your blood sugar levels more stable. In just a few minutes, you can transform cassava flour into a delicious tortilla, ready to carry nutrient-dense foods into your body to fuel your day. Below, you’ll find a recipe for Cassava Flour Tortillas with Black Bean & Kale Scramble. This is a great high fat, low histamine combination. If you’re on a lower fat or plant based diet, you can swap the eggs for organic tofu. Make it your own by changing up the vegetable or adding a small amount of cheese or avocado if your diet allows. Remember to be cognisant of the type and amount of oil, butter or ghee used based on your diet and always choose organic when possible.
Some of my favorite products come from Anthony’s Goods. They offer many certified organic flour alternatives that are non-GMO and batch tested to ensure they are gluten free. Their Organic Cassava Flour is gluten free and vegan with no additives.
If you’re on a low fat or oil diet, you can skip these tortillas and try the eggs with lettuce wraps or over sweet potatoes instead. Simply scramble the eggs with a bit of water or vegetable broth instead. For folks that are sensitive to lectins, try pressure cooking the black beans. If plant-based is your thing, try this with black beans and tofu or chickpeas instead.
Danielle Moore is a professional recipe developer, Nutrition expert, food photographer and lover of veggies. Read her full bio here.