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Health Benefits Of The Jamaican Cassava

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Health Benefits Of The Jamaican CassavaHealth Benefits Of The Jamaican Cassava

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Have you ever had Cassava? Today, it is not the most commonly eaten food in Jamaica, but I heard back in the day it was quite popular.

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Cultivation of cassava dates back centuries in Jamaica after being introduced during the colonial era. It isn’t as heavily produced today as it was before, and is more popular in some parishes than others.

It isn’t difficult to prepare either, we have it just as we do yams, sweet potatoes and other popular ground provisions. Simply boiled in salted water until cooked.

However, there is another, and dare I say better way to have cassavas. It is the main ingredient in our traditional flatbread, bammy. Grated cassava is soaked, pressed, and then baked or fried. This is the most popular way to have bammy now and even those who aren’t fond of ground provisions enjoy a warm bammy. This cultural staple is mostly had as a side with main dishes like escovitch fish and ackee and saltfish. 

Cassava is also widely used to make cassava chips, similar to plantain and banana chips and is usually available in any local supermarket. 

What’s the Nutritional Value of Cassava?

Cassava is mainly had as a starchy side dish but, you might be surprised that it also boasts a surprising variety of nutrients essential for our overall health and well-being. Here's a breakdown of its nutritional profile:

  1. Carbohydrates: Despite common belief, carbs are not the enemy. Cassava is a rich source of carbohydrates and provides a steady supply of energy to the body. This makes it an excellent staple food. Of course, like most starchy food, it is important to have it in moderation. 
  2. Dietary Fiber: Cassava contains soluble and insoluble fibre, which supports digestive health, regulates bowel movements and helps control blood sugar levels.
  3. Vitamins and Minerals: While not as abundant as some other vegetables, cassava still provides notable amounts of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), folate (vitamin B9), and manganese. These nutrients play vital roles in various bodily functions, including immune function, energy metabolism, and antioxidant defence.
  4. Resistant Starch: Cassava contains resistant starch, the carbohydrate that prevents digestion in the small intestine and functions similarly to dietary fibre. Resistant starch has been linked to improved gut health, enhanced insulin sensitivity, and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.
  5. Low in Fat and Protein: Cassava is naturally low in fat and protein, which makes it a suitable option for individuals seeking to manage their fat and protein intake. The leaves can have up to 25% protein if they are cooked or sun-dried.

What are the Health Benefits of Cassava?

Now outside of all the nutritional value it provides above, let’s look at how adding Cassva to our diets could improve our health.

  1. Digestive Health: The fibre content in cassava promotes regular bowel movements and supports a healthy digestive system, reducing the risk of constipation and other digestive issues.
  2. Blood Sugar Management: The fibre and resistant starch in cassava help slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, preventing rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. This can be particularly beneficial if you have diabetes or if you are at risk of developing the condition.
  3. Heart Health: The fibre in cassava may help lower cholesterol levels, in turn, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, the presence of potassium in cassava supports healthy blood pressure levels.
  4. Weight Management: As a low-fat, low-protein, and high-fibre food, cassava can contribute to feelings of fullness and satiety, potentially aiding in weight management and preventing overeating. 
  5. Nutrient Absorption: The vitamins and minerals found in cassava are essential for overall health and ensure the proper functioning of various physiological processes.

Potential Health Risk

You may want to be careful of how much cassava you eat. When eaten raw, in excess, or when prepared incorrectly, cassava can be harmful. Cyanogenic glycosides are substances found in raw cassava. These contain cyanide that can enter your body if consumed. The danger of cyanide poisoning rises with regular consumption or excessive consumption of cyanogenic glycosides. Impaired thyroid and nerve function, paralysis, organ damage, and even death are linked to cyanide poisoning.

While cassava is no longer a staple at our dinner tables and is overshadowed by more widely consumed crops, its nutritional value and health benefits should not be underestimated. You can also opt to just have a bammy if you find it more tasty. Here’s a recipe for making Bammy at home. 

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References & Sources For Health Benefits Of The Jamaican Cassava

  1. Ajmera, R. (2023) Cassava benefits and dangers, Healthline. Available at: (Accessed: 05 April 2024).
  2. What to know about cassava (no date) Medical News Today. Available at: (Accessed: 05 April 2024).
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