Cassava is a staple food in many African countries, including Ghana. It’s a versatile crop that is used in various forms, from fufu to cassava chips. However, there has been a prevalent misconception about cassava’s role in diabetes. Many Ghanaians believe that consuming cassava can lead to or worsen diabetes. In this blog post, we will know whether this is a myth or not and shed light on the actual relationship between cassava and diabetes.
Cassava’s Nutritional Profile
Before delving into the misconceptions, let’s first understand the nutritional value of cassava. Cassava is a carbohydrate-rich food that provides a good source of energy. It’s low in fat and protein, making it a primary source of carbohydrates for many Ghanaians. However, cassava is also rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
The following nutrients are found in 100 grams of cooked cassava:
- Calories: 191
- Protein: 1.5 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Carbs: 40 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Vitamin C: 20% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Copper: 12% of the DV
- Thiamine: 7% of the DV
- Folate: 6% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the DV
- Potassium: 6% of the DV
- Magnesium: 5% of the DV
- Niacin: 5% of the DV
The misconception that cassava is harmful for individuals with diabetes likely arises from its carbohydrate content. Carbohydrates, when consumed, are broken down into glucose (sugar) in the body, which can cause blood sugar levels to rise. This has led to the belief that cassava, being a starchy food, should be avoided by people with diabetes.
Debunking the Myth
It’s essential to clarify that cassava, like many other carbohydrates, can be part of a healthy diet for individuals with diabetes when consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced meal plan. Here are some key points to consider:
- Glycemic Index: Cassava has a lower glycemic index (GI) compared to some other starchy foods like white bread and rice. A lower GI means that it causes a slower and more gradual increase in blood sugar levels after consumption, which can be beneficial for diabetes management. The glycemic index of Cassava is 46 while unripped plantain which most people prefer diabetics to eat is 45.3. We can clearly see the difference is not that much. In spite of the low glycemic index of Cassva, popular Ghanaian dishes such as gari and fufu were found to have a higher glycemic index by Ogbuji, C.A. & David-Chukwu, N.P. which they found gari to have a GI of 92.36 and Fufu 84.06. This indicates these foods should be taken in moderation for better glycemic control.
- Fibre Content: Cassava is a good source of dietary fibre, particularly if consumed with the skin. Fibre helps slow down the absorption of glucose, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Both Cassava and Plantain have almost the same amount of fiber around 2 grams per 100 grams.
- Portion Control: Like any other carbohydrate, portion control is crucial. It’s essential to monitor the quantity of cassava consumed in a meal to ensure it fits within the individual’s recommended carbohydrate intake.
- Balanced Diet: The key to diabetes management is a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. Cassava can be part of this balanced diet when combined with other nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
In Ghana, cassava has been unfairly labelled as a harmful food for people with diabetes. While it is true that cassava is a carbohydrate-rich food, it can be included in a diabetes-friendly diet when consumed mindfully and in moderation. The key to managing diabetes effectively is not to demonize specific foods but to focus on portion control, balanced nutrition, and overall healthy eating habits.
Furthermore, studies conducted across the world state the beneficial effects of Cassava on diabetics, One of these studies is “Brazil’s staple food and incident diabetes” by Mari et al. Another school of thought argues the presence of cyanide in Cassava can aggravate diabetes, however, most of the cyanide is removed during the processing of Cassava. Read this article on how to reduce Cyanide in Cassava.
It’s time to dispel the myth about cassava and diabetes in Ghana and encourage informed dietary choices. Cassava can remain an integral part of Ghanaian cuisine, offering its nutritional benefits without causing harm to those with diabetes when consumed responsibly.
Disclaimer: Informational Content
This content is provided for informational purposes and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical or nutritional advice. It is not intended to replace the guidance or treatment provided by your healthcare provider or qualified nutritionist. As individual health conditions vary significantly, it is strongly recommended that viewers consult with their healthcare professionals or registered dietitians for personalized advice on specific health concerns. The content, including text, graphics, images, and information presented in this post or video, is intended solely for general knowledge and should not be used as a replacement for a consultation with your healthcare provider or qualified health professional