Cassava flour has been gaining popularity in recent years as a gluten-free and grain-free alternative to traditional flours. However, there have been concerns raised about its potential side effects, including the possibility of causing diarrhea.
In this article, we will explore the relationship between cassava flour and diarrhea, as well as other potential health risks associated with this starchy root vegetable.
So, if you’re curious about whether cassava flour is right for you, keep reading to find out more.
Does Cassava Flour Cause Diarrhea?
There is some evidence to suggest that cassava flour may cause diarrhea in certain individuals. This is because cassava contains cyanogenic glycosides, which can release hydrogen cyanide during digestion. While sweet cassava contains relatively low levels of these compounds, bitter cassava can contain significantly higher amounts.
Consuming raw or undercooked cassava can also lead to diarrhea, as well as other symptoms such as abdominal pain and vomiting. It’s important to note that cassava should always be cooked thoroughly before consumption to avoid any potential health risks.
Additionally, some individuals may have a sensitivity or allergy to cassava, which can also lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea. If you experience any adverse reactions after consuming cassava flour, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional to determine the cause and appropriate course of action.
What Is Cassava Flour?
Cassava flour is a type of flour made from the starchy root vegetable cassava. It is commonly used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour in baking and cooking. Cassava flour is high in carbohydrates but lacks some of the nutrients found in other flours, so it should be consumed in moderation.
One of the benefits of cassava flour is that it is safe for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) since it contains no gluten. Cassava flour also contains resistant starch, which is a type of starch that escapes digestion and has qualities similar to soluble fiber. Eating foods high in resistant starch may enhance your health in various ways.
However, some individuals may have a sensitivity or allergy to cassava, which can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea. Additionally, consuming raw or undercooked cassava can also cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides that can release hydrogen cyanide during digestion.
The Nutritional Benefits Of Cassava Flour
Despite the potential risks associated with consuming cassava flour, it also offers several nutritional benefits. Cassava flour is a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour, making it a great option for individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It is also rich in resistant starches, which can provide several potential health benefits.
Resistant starches in cassava flour may improve digestive and colon health, as well as insulin sensitivity. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those looking to manage their blood sugar levels. Additionally, the fiber content in cassava flour can help promote feelings of fullness and aid in weight loss efforts.
Cassava flour is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, copper, thiamine, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, and niacin. These nutrients are essential for maintaining overall health and wellbeing.
While cassava flour may not be as nutrient-dense as enriched white flour or whole-wheat flour, it offers several unique benefits that make it a worthwhile addition to a healthy diet. As with any food, it’s important to consume cassava flour in moderation and speak with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about its potential impact on your health.
Potential Health Risks Of Consuming Cassava Flour
Consuming cassava flour can potentially pose health risks if not prepared and consumed properly. Raw or undercooked cassava contains cyanogenic glycosides, which can release cyanide in the body and lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that cassava is soaked, dried, and cooked thoroughly before consumption to reduce the levels of these harmful compounds.
Moreover, individuals with a sensitivity or allergy to cassava may also experience digestive issues such as diarrhea after consuming cassava flour. It’s important to note that while cassava flour is not harmful when prepared correctly, overeating it can cause weight gain due to its high-calorie content. Additionally, consuming cassava flour in large amounts can cause abdominal bloating due to its high starch content.
In rare cases, acute cassava-associated cyanide poisoning outbreaks have been reported. An outbreak in western Uganda in 2017 involving 98 cases with two deaths was traced back to a cassava flour dish made from wild cultivars of cassava with high cyanogenic content. Education of farmers and consumers about the importance of strict adherence to established methods of degrading cyanogenic glycosides in cassava is essential to prevent cyanide poisoning.
How To Avoid Diarrhea When Consuming Cassava Flour
If you want to consume cassava flour but are concerned about the potential for diarrhea, there are several steps you can take to minimize your risk. First, make sure to purchase high-quality cassava flour from a reputable source. Look for a brand that is certified organic and non-GMO to ensure that the product is free from harmful chemicals and additives.
Next, always cook cassava flour thoroughly before consuming it. This will help to break down the cyanogenic glycosides and reduce the risk of digestive issues. You can use cassava flour in a variety of recipes, including pancakes, bread, and baked goods. Just be sure to follow the cooking instructions carefully and avoid consuming raw or undercooked cassava.
If you have a sensitivity or allergy to cassava, it’s best to avoid consuming it altogether. Instead, consider using alternative flours such as almond flour or coconut flour. These flours are also gluten-free and can be used in a variety of recipes.
Other Potential Side Effects Of Cassava Flour
Aside from the potential risk of diarrhea, there are other side effects associated with consuming cassava flour. One of the most serious is the risk of cyanide poisoning, which can occur if cassava is consumed raw or prepared improperly. Cyanogenic glycosides in cassava can release cyanide into the body, which can lead to symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, convulsions, and even death if left untreated.
While soaking and cooking cassava can reduce the levels of cyanogenic glycosides, it’s important to be cautious when consuming cassava flour and ensure that it’s prepared properly. Additionally, cassava flour is not suitable for individuals following a keto diet, as it has a high carbohydrate content and can raise blood sugar levels.
It’s also worth noting that some individuals may have an allergic reaction to cassava flour, which can cause a range of symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. If you experience any adverse reactions after consuming cassava flour, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.