YUCCA ROOT. Do you get a rush of adrenaline and excitement when you hear those words!? Ok…probably not (yet). But, yucca root is pretty awesome and has some great health benefits. This article will review the benefits of yucca and all its awesomeness.
The health benefits of yucca root are so underrated! Yucca is also known as cassava, yuca, or yucca root, and resembles a woody shrub. Yucca root is different from the commonly seen yucca plant from the southwest (picture a shrub with tall spiky leaves). Although native to South America, yucca root is the third largest carbohydrate source for humans in the world (1). This plant can grow with very limited water supply, which makes it a great staple in nations where growing food is difficult. The yucca vegetable root is very similar in taste and appearance to potatoes, and is usually boiled, grilled, mashed or fried. There are two different varieties of yucca root, which are generally categorized as “sweet” or bitter”.
Yucca Nutritional Benefits
The roots and leaves of the yucca shrub are the edible and nutritionally valuable parts. But, people around the world more commonly eat the yucca vegetable root.
The yucca root calories come mostly from carbohydrates as with most starchy, root vegetables.
Nutrition in 1 cup of yucca root (2):
- 330 calories
- 78 grams of carbohydrates
- 3 grams protein
- 6 grams fat
- 4 grams fiber
- 42 mg vitamin C (71 percent of daily needs)
- 8 mg manganese (40 percent of daily needs)
- 558 mg potassium (16 percent of daily needs)
- 56 mcg folate (14 percent of daily needs)
The other edible part of yucca is its leaves. The leaves are a bit higher in protein, lower in carbohydrates, and a very rich source of vitamin A.
Nutrition in 100 grams of yucca (cassava) leaves (3):
- 45 calories
- 45 grams carbohydrates
- 8 grams protein
- 2 grams fat
- 1 gram fiber
- 11, 364 IU Vitamin A (in the form of provitamin A carotenoids)
Yucca root is high in antioxidants.
One of the main health benefits of yucca root is its antioxidant content. Antioxidants are compounds that “remove” or clean up dangerous wastes products (called free radicals) in our cells. When free radicals build up the body, it can cause a condition known as oxidative stress. Excessive oxidative stress is linked to diseases like diabetes, inflammation, heart disease, and even cancer (4, 5). Basically, we need antioxidants keep our cells clean, young, and working in top condition!
There are some vitamins and minerals that act as antioxidants. In the case of yucca root, vitamin C and manganese take over the antioxidant roles! One cup of yucca root contains over 70 percent of your vitamin C needs, and over 40 percent of daily manganese requirements.
It can improve skin health.
The health benefits of yucca root also include improving the look and health of your skin. Sounds pretty great, right? There are a few main vitamins that have a significant benefit to skin health. Two of these vitamins are present in yucca root – vitamin C and vitamin A.
Vitamin C improves skin health because of its antioxidant nature and role in collagen production (7). Your skin is your first line of defense against various environmental toxins and pollutants, which makes it even more important to nourish it with antioxidants, like vitamin C. The antioxidants in yucca can help maintain the health of your skin cells, and may slow the aging of your skin. Speaking of aging, let’s talk about preventing wrinkles. That’s where collagen comes into play. Vitamin C is required for your body to make collagen, which is a protein that helps give structure to our hair, skin, nails, and more (8). Collagen improves skin elasticity, moisture, and helps to prevent wrinkles, stretch marks, and cellulite. UM, SOLD!
Yucca nutritional benefits also includes a rich source of vitamin A in the yucca leaves. Most people know that vitamin A is vital for our eyesight, but it’s also a key player in keeping the skin healthy. The yucca leaves contain a great amount of provitamin A, also known as carotenoids. Carotenoids have anti-inflammatory benefits and may protect your skin against the dangers of UV light and sun damage (9)!
Yucca can help strengthen your bones.
Manganese is a mineral that usually doesn’t get the attention it deserves! As an antioxidant, this mineral helps to keep cells healthy, but it also plays a role in bone development and strength. Along with other nutrients, manganese is required for your body’s bone matrix and bone tissue. When combined with a healthy diet and other bone boosting nutrients (like calcium and magnesium), manganese has lead to greater bone density in postmenopausal women compared to just calcium alone (10). This is important, because as women, our bone density decreases as we age, especially after menopause! The yucca vegetable root is a rich source of manganese, containing over 40 percent of your daily needs in 1 cup.
How to cook yucca root
Although not too common in the American diet, you can still find yucca vegetable root in many supermarkets or specialty Latin or Asian grocery stores. Keep in mind, many stores may list yucca root as “cassava”. When dried and ground to a powder, yucca is then often referred to as tapioca. If you can’t find it at the store, you can also find yucca on Amazon (what CAN’T you order from Amazon, amiright?).
Even though yucca may resemble a potato, it doesn’t peel as easy. Using a larger, sharp knife, cut the yucca into 2 or 3 segments. Use the knife to then (carefully) cut under the skin and slice around the perimeter to remove it. From there, you can cut yucca into slices and either boil, mash, or fry it! It’s not recommended to eat yucca raw.
Baked yucca is a great way to make a healthier alternative to French fries. Cut peeled yucca into long skinny sections, and boil in water until you can poke it with a fork. Transfer the drained yucca sections onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and rosemary (or whatever seasonings you like). Bake the yucca fries until golden brown and crispy!
Grilled yucca is a delicious option that won’t heat up your kitchen in the summer! Cut peeled yucca into about 2-3 inch sections. Once again, boil these sections until tender. Brush with oil and seasonings, then throw them on the grill for a few minutes each side until crisped to your liking.
Our favorite yucca recipes
Now that we’ve built up the health benefits of yucca root, let’s talk recipes so we can put these bad boys into action! Here are a few easy and delicious yucca recipes we love:
Although not as commonly used, you can also prepare yucca (cassava) leaves, like in this highly rated Cassava Leaf Soup recipe.
We don’t know about you, but we think yucca root is anything but yucca (😉).
This unique starchy vegetable is high in antioxidants to protect our cells from damage, rich in skin boosting nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin A, and can help us maintain stronger bones. Whether you grill, bake, mash, or fry yucca, this is definitely a vegetable you’ll want to try!