Two whole cassavas isolated on white background
Cassava: The Versatile Root Vegetable That Is More Dangerous Than It Appears
By Andra Picincu
Also known as yuca or manioc, cassava root is a crop that grows in South America, Africa, and the Caribbean and looks similar to yams or sweet potatoes.
Offering vitamin C, potassium, copper, magnesium, folate, and B vitamins, cassava improves immunity, reduces inflammation, prevents chronic disease, and promotes gut health.
However, raw cassava is one of the most dangerous foods on earth, causing severe toxicity when eaten unprocessed due to its naturally occurring high cyanide content.
Cyanide's role in cassava is to protect the plant from mites, whiteflies, and other pests, but it can be lethal when consumed by humans, according to the journal Sustainability.
More than 2,000 plants, including apples and mangoes, contain cyanide in their seeds or other inedible parts. Cassava, on the other hand, produces cyanide in its leaves and roots.
Linamarin and lotaustralin, the main cyanogenic glycosides in this crop, may cause fatigue, stomach upset, headaches, and other mild symptoms within hours of consumption.
Higher doses of cyanide can cause partial paralysis of the legs, chronic neurological disorders, endocrine dysfunction, heart palpitations, low blood pressure, or even death.
Bitter cassava roots have relatively lower cyanide than sweeter ones but can still be toxic. To be safe, always cook them thoroughly and purchase them only from trusted suppliers.
Simply removing the peel can reduce its cyanide content by half. Soaking the roots in water before cooking will remove another 20% of their cyanide content.
The cassava sold in the U.S. is processed extensively, decreasing its cyanide content. Peel the root, cut it into small pieces, soak them for four to six days, and then cook them.