Tapioca is a food of tropical origin that now has a wide spread all over the world thanks to its nutritional properties and its versatility. Let’s see what it is, what are the properties of tapioca and how to best use it.
Tapioca (also called cassava or yuca) is a starchy food obtained from the tubers of the bitter cassava, a tropical plant. It is in fact a food that is an integral part of the diet of African and South American populations.
The process by which tapioca is obtained from cassava is very complex and takes time, since it involves separating the starch from the rest of the plant, which also contains poisonous substances.
The woody tubers are grated in order to eliminate a milky liquid that contains toxic substances, they are then washed, dried and reduced to powder, which is further processed and undergoes a cooking process. This process produces a flour with a high caloric and nourishing power, free from harmful substances and mainly made up of starch.
Being a gluten-free food, tapioca flour is often used in the nutrition of weaning babies, when more easily digestible starchy foods are offered. In fact, being easy to digest, tapioca is excellent for the intestines still in the maturation phase of infants. For this same reason it is often used in the diets of those suffering from colitis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Tapioca: calories and nutritional properties
Tapioca is a fairly caloric food, in fact it provides about 360 calories per 100 g, almost entirely in the form of carbohydrates, the protein and lipid content is in fact quite low. Contains vitamins, especially vitamin B2 and also mineral salts, including calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus.
Nutritional values per 100g of tapioca:
- Kcal: 363
- Carbohydrates: 95.8 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Proteins: 0.6 g
- Fibers: 0.4 g
- Waterfall: 12.6 g
- Iron: 1 mg
- Soccer: 12 mg
- Sodium: 4 mg
- Potassium: 20 mg
- Phosphorus: 12 mg
- Zinc: 0.12 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.1 mg
Tapioca: health benefits
Tapioca is a food rich in carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins and above all it is easily digestible and naturally gluten-free. From these characteristics derive important benefits that this food can bring to our health. Let’s see below the properties of tapioca.
✓ Anti-inflammatory properties for the digestive system
Due to its extreme digestibility, tapioca is suitable for consumption by those with gastro-intestinal problems due to chronic diseases and also by weaning children. It also contains saponins, compounds that help soothe inflammation and facilitate the elimination of uric acids.
✓ Strengthens the immune defenses
The iron, zinc and B vitamins present in tapioca give this food the ability to strengthen the immune system due to their antioxidant properties. Furthermore, tapioca has a prebiotic effect on the intestinal flora, an important constituent of our immune system.
✓ High energy power
Given the conspicuous presence of carbohydrates, tapioca is an excellent food to supply our body with energy while avoiding filling up with fat. It is also particularly suitable for those who do sports, associated with protein foods, in order to have energy available but without being weighed down.
✓ Helps the cardiovascular system
Tapioca is able to regulate blood pressure thanks to its content in potassium, an important mineral salt that works in synergy with sodium and has vasodilating effects. Moreover, thanks to the iron it contains, it supports the functioning of red blood cells by promoting good circulation.
✓ Suitable for celiacs
Being naturally gluten-free, tapioca can be freely consumed by those suffering from celiac disease.
✓ Beneficial for the bone system
Tapioca protects our bones and joints by virtue of its content in calcium and phosphorus, two minerals at the base of the composition of bone tissue. Phosphorus together with calcium favors the bone remineralization process, which is essential both during growth and during senile age to combat osteoporosis.
How to use tapioca in cooking
Tapioca can be used in cooking in several ways. It is usually sold as flour to prepare the first baby food, often combined with corn flour, which can be simply dissolved in hot water to obtain a semi-liquid food that is well suited to be given to both weaning children and to the elderly who have problems with chewing or swallowing.
Tapioca can in fact come in the form of granules or pearls or in the form of flour, which, if hydrated, acquires a gelatinous consistency and a rather neutral flavor, so much so that it can also be dissolved in milk while preserving its taste.
In the kitchen it can therefore be used as a thickener for soups or sauces (we often speak of tapioca starch) or as flour for the preparation of sweets or savory baked goods such as bread and focaccia.
It can also be used to prepare puddings or as an egg substitute when this is not desired or can be used as, thanks to its gelatinous consistency, it has a binding effect.
Flour or tapioca pearls are therefore suitable for both sweet and savory dishes. In a meal based on tapioca, however, a protein accompaniment should not be missing, which can complete the nutritional intake, since, as we have seen, tapioca contains almost exclusively carbohydrates. We could therefore use it to prepare legume soups, or meat or fish balls, stuffed focaccias.
The tuber, that is, cassava, is usually prepared boiled, baked or fried, but cannot be eaten raw.
Cassava and Tapioca: Nutritional Differences
It’s easy to confuse tapioca with cassava. Cassava is the tuber from which tapioca is made. Therefore, being different foods, they also have different nutritional properties.
Cassava has the shape and consistency of a tuber, so it has a bark that encloses a pulp and which, after undergoing various treatments, gives rise to tapioca flour. The tuber is rich in carbohydrates, mineral salts and vitamins and also toxic or poisonous substances, which are removed during the processing process.
Cassava therefore has a more consistent fibrous component than the flour obtained from it and also a higher water content, since in order to be transformed into flour it also undergoes a dehydration process.
Contraindications of tapioca
The contraindications of tapioca are related to the fact that, containing many carbohydrates in the form of starches, it has a rather high glycemic index (unlike cassava which, having not been refined, has a lower glycemic index), therefore it should be consumed with a lot of caution by people with diabetes or who have problems managing glucose.
Moreover, given the high caloric content, it is not recommended for those who want to lose weight, except in small quantities and accompanied by protein foods.
Furthermore, if you want to consume the whole tuber, that is cassava, you must make sure that it is not the “bitter” variety, which contains toxic substances.
Tapioca: prices and purchase
It is possible to buy tapioca in ethnic food shops but also in shops specialized in organic food and in the “bio” departments of supermarkets. In the form of flour, it is usually found in foods intended for children during weaning. It is also found online. The flour or tapioca pearls are sold at a cost ranging from 3 USD to about 6 euro per hectogram depending on the origin and type.