Cassava is a starch-tuber in the spurge family of plants, it thought to have originated from the South-American forests. Its sweet, chewy underground tuber is one of the popular edible root-vegetables.
Cassava is an indispensable part of carbohydrate diet for millions of inhabitants living in Africa with over 40 commercial uses but can also be consumed as a staple food.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest producer and also the world’s biggest producer of Cassava, making it an important product for the country,
Health benefits of Cassava
Cassava has nearly twice the calories than that of potatoes and perhaps one of the highest value calorie food for any tropical starch rich tubers and roots. 100 g root provides 160 calories. Their calorie value mainly comes from sucrose which accounts for more than 69% of total sugars. Amylose (16-17%) is another major complex carbohydrate sources.
Cassava is very low in fats and protein than in cereals and pulses. Nonetheless, it has more protein than that of other tropical food sources like yam, potato, plantains, etc.
As in other roots and tubers, cassava too is free from gluten. Gluten-free starch is used in special food preparations for celiac disease patients.
Young tender cassava (yuca) leaves are a good source of dietary proteins and vitamin K. Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone mass building by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
Cassava is a moderate source of some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, thiamin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and pantothenic acid.
It is one of the chief sources of some important minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese for many inhabitants in the tropical belts. In addition, it has adequate amounts of potassium (271 mg per 100g or 6% of RDA). Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
Cassava Production in Nigeria
Cassava production is vital to the economy of Nigeria as the country is the world’s largest producer of the commodity. In 1999, Nigeria produced 33 million tonnes of Cassava, while a decade later, it produced approximately 45 million tonnes, which is almost 19% of production in the world.
In Nigeria, cassava production is well-developed as an organized agricultural crop. It has well-established multiplication and processing techniques for food products and cattle feed. There are more than 40 cassava varieties in use. Cassava is processed in many processing centres and fabricating enterprises set up in the country.