Tapioca is a starch from a root crop called cassava. It came from South America and has also become the staple food of many tropical countries in Africa and Asia. It is being used as a substitute to other flours in cooking and most especially in baking. Many desserts like puddings and bubble tea have been made with tapioca. In fact, it has become a popular ingredient in the United States for their beverages and pastry products.
Tapioca is a purified starch product and only provides carbohydrate food value. It only provides a little amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals. This type of starch only provides you with energy, but without the necessary nutrients. That is why tapioca is considered to be an “empty calorie food.”
It is mostly sold as flour, but its other products are flakes and pearls. Tapioca flour is different from cassava flour. Cassava flour is cassava root that has been ground while tapioca flour is produced from the starchy liquid that is squeezed out of the cassava root. Tapioca is gluten-free so it can be made as a substitute for wheat in cooking and baking for people who have a gluten allergy.
Tapioca has been known to be linked to a lot of health benefits despite its lack of nutrients. It acts like fiber, which improves the digestion of food in the stomach and it aids in the reduction of blood sugar levels after eating. It also boosts glucose as well as insulin metabolism. People who have allergies or intolerance to wheat, grains, and gluten can safely consume tapioca and can also make it a safe alternative to corn-based products.
Although tapioca that is commercially packaged is safe, if not prepared properly, there is a risk that the plant can be toxic. Tapioca naturally contains poisonous chemical called cyanide. Cyanide can be removed through careful processing. They do this by squeezing out the starchy liquid from the cassava root. The next step is to eliminate the water through evaporation, and what is left is the tapioca powder. Thoroughly cooking tapioca removes the risk of cyanide poisoning.
Cyanide poisoning can result from improper handling of the cassava root. Symptoms can range from a painful headache to as life-threatening as coma. Cassava allergy can also happen to people who have latex allergy because of cross-reactivity which occurs when similar proteins from another substance are absorbed in the body. Other symptoms of tapioca allergy can include the following:
- Dilated pupils;
- Abdominal pains;
Tapioca allergy is very uncommon so it is best to seek advice from a doctor for appropriate diagnosis and management. In the event that adverse reactions take place, do not self-medicate but immediately rush the patient to the nearest hospital for proper treatment. Those who are already aware that they are allergic to tapioca must avoid it altogether, including the products that contain it.
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.