Tapioca is a starch that is extracted from the root of the cassava plant. It is referred to as an empty calorie because it is pure carbohydrates and contains only very small amounts of fiber, nutrients, and protein. It has its origins in the South America, particularly Brazil. Its use has spread to the West Indian countries, Africa and Asia and even reaching the United States. Many countries in Africa and Asia have made tapioca their staple food.
Here are some of the uses of tapioca:
- Alternative or substitute to other types of flour such as wheat and corn;
- Can be used in pastry recipes and can even be mixed with other flours. Developing countries are using tapioca in making flat breads.
- It can be made into flakes or pearls. Pearls are being used in snacks such as desserts and puddings and are even added in bubble teas. Even the United States are now adding tapioca in many of their beverages.
- It is a great thickener that adds volume in soups and various types of sauces or dips.
- Tapioca is also being utilized as a binder for burger and nugget mixes.
- Besides for cooking, tapioca pearls are being used in laundries by boiling them with the clothes for starching.
Despite being made up of pure carbohydrates, tapioca still has health benefits:
- Provides the human body with energy.
- Low in saturated fat, sodium and protein.
- Aids in lowering the blood sugar level.
- It is gluten-free, therefore safe for those who have allergies to gluten, wheat, and other grains.
- Makes you feel full.
- Increases metabolism.
On the other hand, the consumption of tapioca also has its downside. Here are some of them:
- It lacks the vitamins and minerals the human body needs.
- Improper processing of the cassava root could cause cyanide poisoning which can cause life-threatening reactions.
- Since it is purely carbohydrates, it is not fit for people with diabetes.
- Tapioca and products that contain it can be the result of deficiencies such as malnutrition, goiter and rickets if one eats too much of it.
- Those with latex allergy may also experience allergy to tapioca, a reaction called cross-reactivity, since they contain proteins that are similar to each other.
Tapioca does not usually cause allergic reactions, but when its processing is not done the proper way, it can cause adverse reactions in the human body such as the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Abdominal pain
It is extremely important to immediately seek medical advice should you experience allergies a few minutes after consuming or coming in contact with tapioca. If it is confirmed that you indeed have tapioca allergy, the best thing to do is to totally stay away from it and from products that contain it to avoid further occurrences of allergy.
Those who are allergic to latex must inform their doctor. He might run some tests if you too are allergic to tapioca due to cross-reactivity. In the event that the allergic reaction that manifest is severe, do not hesitate to rush the patient to the nearest hospital.
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.