Yuca (Cassava Root) Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Yucca/cassava annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

To understand yuca nutrition, it's important to distinguish between different types of yuca and their common uses. Yuca, is the root of the cassava plant. This vegetable is often boiled or fried like a potato and consumed as a snack or a side dish. The root vegetable is not to be confused with "yucca" an ornamental plant, often used for medicinal purposes.

If you're wondering whether cassava root is too starchy to provide health benefits, you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn about its nutritional value and future potential.

Yuca (Cassava Root) Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1/2 cup (103g) of raw cassava root (aka yuca).

  • Calories: 165
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 14mg
  • Carbs: 39g
  • Fiber: 1.9g
  • Sugars: 1.8g
  • Protein: 1.4g

Carbs

Yuca is a starchy vegetable with 39 grams of carbohydrate per half-cup. The majority of carbohydrates in yuca come from starch. Just under 2 grams are from fiber and 1.8 grams come from naturally occurring sugar.

Fats

There is very little fat (less than half a gram) in a half-cup serving of raw yuca. However, keep in mind that yuca is often cooked using added fat.

Protein

Yuca provides very little protein, with 1.4 grams per half a cup. There are trace amounts of 18 different amino acids in yuca.

Vitamins and Minerals

Yuca provides choline, vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, magnesium, and calcium. It is exceptionally high in potassium.

Health Benefits

Yuca has several health benefits to offer as part of a plant-based eating plan. Here are some reasons to give it a try.

Protects Heart Health

A cup of raw yuca has 558 milligrams of potassium, providing 16% to 21% of the adequate intake level for most adults. Potassium plays an essential role in regulating blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Yuca is also a great source of vitamin C and folate, two vital nutrients for heart health. Choosing yuca and other tubers (like potatoes) in place of rice or wheat flour can boost daily potassium intakes for better cardiovascular protection.

Promotes Wound Healing

There are about 42 milligrams of vitamin C in a cup of cassava, and one root has double that amount. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and precursor to collagen, a key component for skin integrity.

Getting enough vitamin C is known to promote wound healing. Choosing yuca, along with a variety of fruits and vegetables, supports your body's repair system following an injury or infection.

Improves Eye Health

In an effort to improve the vitamin A status in countries that rely on cassava as a staple food, scientists have found ways to successfully produce fortified varieties that are high in carotenoids.

These yellow genotypes stand to benefit public health for all ages, especially in regards to vision and the prevention of age-related macular degeneration, which are well-established advantages of adequate vitamin A intake.

Prevents Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Similarly, cassava may be fortified with iron to help reduce the worldwide prevalence of malnutrition, in particular, iron deficiency. Adding iron to cassava, which already contains some vitamin C, boosts plant-based iron absorption. Iron deficiency anemia is especially common in women of childbearing age and children.

It can lead to a host of health concerns including birth defects, infant mortality, impaired cognitive function, and poor immunity. The nutritional fortification of the cassava plant can make yuca a staple food with a lot more to offer beyond high-energy starch.

May Aid Breast Milk Production

Starchy foods, like bread, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, rice, and pasta are often recommended to help boost milk supply when breastfeeding. Cassava is another complex carbohydrate option that's a rich source of starch and energy.

Cassava leaf sauce and tubers are commonly used to increase breastmilk supply by women in the western region of Sierra Leone. Although no studies definitively advise yuca for breastfeeding, its nutritional make-up is promising for this benefit.

Allergies

In addition to being eaten as food, cassava root is commonly used to produce starch (substituting for potato or corn starch) and for making pharmaceutical tablets. It's a common ingredient in baby food processing because it is widely believed to be non-allergenic.

However, isolated cases of allergic reactions have been reported, including subjects in 2003 in Mozambique, 2004 in Brazil, and 2007 in Spain. Cassava allergies have been shown to produce anaphylaxis and are believed to be associated with latex allergies, but more widespread studies are needed to confirm this connection.

If you suspect an allergy to yuca, visit an allergist for further testing and evaluation.

Adverse Effects

Adverse effects to yuca are not likely unless it is consumed raw and proper preparation methods are not used. Like many plant foods, cassava contains some naturally-occurring cyanide. This can lead to neurotoxicity at high levels.

To release cyanogenic compounds, cassava should be soaked and dried in the sun, grated and roasted, boiled, or fermented. After processing, yuca is safe to eat.

Varieties

Various yuca varieties have been produced to promote certain beneficial characteristics, including nutritional (such as vitamin fortification, or taste) and agricultural (higher yield or disease resistance). Generally, there are two basic species: sweet and bitter.

A study in Uganda found that most local farmers grow between one to four different varieties on their farms, while others may grow up to 14 varieties at a time. Names of the different varieties vary by location and can be based on the region where it is grown, taste, cooking properties, maturity periods, or a range of other descriptors.

When It's Best

Some—but not all—grocery stores sell yuca in the produce section of the market. You'll find yuca near other root vegetables like potatoes, turnips, or yams year-round.

Look for a reddish-brown, club-shaped vegetable that is firm and solid and has few blemishes. Keep in mind that the bark-like skin is removed before cooking, so dirt or mild blemishes are not a problem.

Storage and Food Safety

Yuca should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place where it will keep for about one week. Before preparing yuca, wash thoroughly under running water. Once peeled, you can store yuca in the refrigerator submerged in water for a few days. Peeled yuca may also be wrapped tightly and frozen for several months.

How to Prepare

Yuca has a starchy taste and texture similar to that of a potato, but it is slightly sweeter and nuttier than a potato. The most common way to prepare yuca is to fry it. You can also make baked yuca fries, providing a healthier alternative to French fried potatoes. You can also mash or roast cassava root.

Yuca can be ground and used to produce baked items like bread and chips or boiled to make tapioca. Traditional African dishes using yuca include Fufu (a dough made from cassava flour and served in soup) and Chikwangue (pounded cassava cooked in banana leaves).

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