Tapioca is a starch extracted from cassava root that contains very little protein, fiber or nutrients. It is mostly carbs and is considered as “empty calorie.” Tapioca comes from the plant species Manihot esculenta which is native to South American and West Indian countries such as Brazil, Columbia, and Cuba. It is a dietary staple in most countries including Asia, and Africa.
Tapioca is naturally gluten-free. Some claim it serves many benefits while others say it is harmful.
Some of its benefits include:
- It is cheap and affordable staple in developing countries.
- It is a good alternative to wheat and other grains.
- Tapioca flour can be used in bread recipes but oftentimes combined with other flours.
- It is used as flatbread in developing countries in which they add toppings, fit for any meal.
- It is usually sold as flour, flakes or pearls. Pearls are used to make snacks, desserts, puddings, or bubble tea. It is in fact used in beverages and puddings in the United States.
- It is inexpensive with a neutral flavor and with great thickening power suitable for soups, sauces and gravies.
- It helps improve texture and moisture content when added to burgers, nuggets and dough.
- Because it is grain and gluten-free, it serves a good replacement for wheat and corn-based products.
- Aside from its use in cooking, the pearls are used to starch clothes by boiling them with clothes.
- Because it is made up of carbs, it can provide energy.
- It is grain and gluten-free, suitable for those who are allergic or intolerant to wheat, grains and gluten.
- Tapioca is a natural source of resistant starch which functions like fiber in the digestive system.
- It helps lower blood sugar after meals, improve glucose and insulin metabolism and helps increase fullness.
Disadvantages with the use of Tapioca:
- Because it is pure starch lacking nutrients, it is inferior as compared other grains and flours.
- It is mostly carb with negligible amount of protein and nutrients.
- Poorly processed cassava root can lead to cyanide poisoning which can lead to death.
- Tapioca is not good for diabetics because of its carb content.
- People who consume too much cassava or tapioca-based products can acquire deficiencies, goiter, rickets and malnutrition because of its lacking nutritional value.
- It may cause allergic reactions to people with latex allergy.
Tapioca by nature doesn’t cause allergy but when not prepared properly can cause many reactions. These include:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Dilated pupils
- Sweating and chills
It not very common for people to have tapioca allergy, but if you have reactions to it upon contact or ingestion, seek medical advice.
Avoid or stop using products containing tapioca to prevent further reactions and complications.
Proper preparation, peeling, slicing and thorough cooking tapioca helps remove cyanide risk.
Speak with your doctor if you have allergy to latex or natural rubbers to know possible risks.
In case of severe reactions such as cyanide poisoning, (with symptoms such as headache and dizziness, convulsions or coma) immediately bring the patient to the hospital.
This material is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and should not be relied as medical advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication or supplements.