The Health Benefits of Cassava Flour: Should You Be Using It?
Have you seen cassava flour in the ingredient list on your favorite snacks? Or maybe you’ve seen a package of cassava flour on the grocery store shelf? Here are the proven benefits of cassava flour and why you should use it.
With so many trendy flour alternatives, it’s tough to know which ones are good for you and which ones should be left on the shelf. While it may seem new, cassava flour has been used for centuries in South America.
In this article, we’re talking about what cassava flour is, its health benefits, where to find it, how to use it, and if it’s a good choice for people with diabetes.
What is cassava flour?
Cassava is a root vegetable (much like a sweet potato) that’s rich in starch and often dried out and ground into flour. Cassava flour is a nutritious gluten-free substitute for grain-based flour like whole wheat. If you follow a gluten-free diet, you’ve probably enjoyed many foods made with cassava flour.
Cassava flour nutrition
A quarter cup (32 grams) of cassava flour has:
- Calories – 110
- Protein – 1 gram
- Fat – 0 grams
- Carbohydrates – 28 grams
- Fiber – 3 grams
Beyond being an excellent flour for gluten-free baked goods, regularly using cassava flour could have other potential benefits for your health, including weight management, regulating blood sugars, and lowering cholesterol.
A healthy gut
Cassava is high in a carbohydrate called resistant starch. This carb resists digestion in the small intestine and then heads to the colon, where it’s fermented and acts as a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in the gut. This process then releases short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s), which can benefit whole body health.
Animal studies comparing tuber flours, including cassava flour and starch and potato flour and starch, with other starches, found that tuber flours improved gut microbiota and intestinal protection compared to other starches.
Eating foods high in resistant starch, like cassava, can help improve insulin sensitivity. In one study, overweight or obese adults who ate 10-15 grams of resistant starch per day had lower fasting glucose, lower hemoglobin A1C, and improved insulin sensitivity.
Improved insulin sensitivity will help your body to efficiently move sugar from your blood into your cells for energy. Swapping other low-fiber flours for cassava flour can help increase the amount of resistant starch you eat in a day.
Eating foods high in fiber, specifically foods high in resistant starch, can help weight loss. With 3 grams of fiber per quarter cup serving of cassava flour, foods made with this flour can help you feel fuller and more satisfied compared to more refined flours.
Researchers found that eating 30 grams of resistant starch per day for 6 weeks reduced the levels of hormones responsible for hunger in healthy overweight people. While this study used high amounts of resistant starch, including more foods like cassava, oats, plantains, beans, and lentils in your diet could support weight loss.
Cassava is potentially dangerous if processed incorrectly. When raw, it has cyanogenic glycosides that turn into cyanide in the body once eaten. This poisonous compound is significantly reduced when the root is soaked and dried. Cassava flour produced in the United States from sweet cassava is very unlikely to cause problems due to the low cyanide content of sweet cassava and proper processing practices.
Is cassava flour good for people with diabetes?
On the glycemic index scale, cassava has a score of 46, making it lower than other starches like rice and sweet potatoes. Since cassava flour is high in resistant starch and has 3 grams of fiber per quarter cup (compared to all-purpose flour, which has only 1 gram of fiber per quarter cup), it can be a good choice for people with diabetes.
Cassava flour can be beneficial if you have diabetes and celiac disease or gluten intolerance. While it does have carbohydrates and will still cause a rise in blood sugar, it’s high in fiber and has some protein, along with being naturally gluten-free.
Where to find it
You can find cassava flour online, in natural foods stores, and in some well-stocked grocery stores.
Since there is a risk that improperly processed cassava flour could result in cyanide poisoning, always make sure to purchase flour from a reputable company.
How to use cassava flour
You may see cassava flour as an ingredient in some of your favorite gluten-free snacks, but using this flour for home baking can be a great experience too! The flavor is just slightly nutty but mostly neutral, so it works well in sweet and savory baking. Use it for baking bread, pancakes, muffins, cookies, and more.
Cassava flour is a good substitute for regular all-purpose or whole wheat flour as it’s light and fluffy, just like regular flour. It’s almost a 1:1 substitute, but because it’s lighter than all-purpose flour and a little more absorbent, you may need less cassava flour than all-purpose for a recipe.
The bottom line
Cassava flour is a grain-free, gluten-free flour made from the root of the cassava plant. It’s high in fiber and resistant starch. The health benefits of cassava flour include weight loss support, improved gut health, and greater insulin sensitivity. While it’s a good choice for people with diabetes because of the fiber, resistant starch, and lower glycemic index, it’s still relatively high in carbohydrates and should be used in moderation. Make sure to purchase cassava flour from a reputable source and try it in your home baking!