I love 99.99% of fruits and vegetables, but this one is in the 00.01% for me. However, I do know a lot of people who really enjoy this vegetable, each to their own. It is a good source of B3 (helps to lower cholesterol), plus iron and calcium. Yuca is a root vegetable with a rough hard thick brown covering, a little like bark. The inside is hard, white and dense, it’s quite heavy. Similar to the potato in that it must be cooked before you eat it. It is quite a lot starchier than the potato and a tad sweeter.
This is not to be confused with the yucca plant – yuccas are widely grown as an ornamental plant in gardens or indoor house plants in cooler climates. Some will bear edible parts – like fruits, seeds, and flowers or stems , but not the edible roots we are talking about here. The yucca plant has long blade like leaves growing from a central point from the ground, similar in configuration as the aloe vera plant (but with softer leaves). The yucca plant is like a small tree, with three medium oval shape blades on each small stem.
The yuca root contains high levels of a phyto-compound, called saponins which acts as a natural steroid. When the compound is extracted from the yuca it makes a perfect natural soap or shampoo.
How do these compounds affect our health when we consume them? These saponins are similar to steroids. They help to reduce inflammation of the joints particularly and in the body in general. Yuca is often included in formulas for inflammatory conditions like arthritic and rheumatoid conditions. It has been reported that yuca has the ability to break up mineral and inorganic deposits. What does this mean? It helps to break down or prevent the built up of calcification of kidney stones, gall bladder stones or calcification of joints. And due to its anti-inflammatory properties it can also help conditions like an inflamed prostate. However, no one plant should be seen as the be all and end all – it should be consumed along with a whole host of other plants.
Yuca has a positive affect on encouraging the action of the ‘good guys’ the friendly intestinal bacteria, which in turn aids the proper digestion of food and prevents the ‘bad guys’ from flourishing. In research it has been shown that the high content of saponins in this plant when ingested stay in the intestines and act on the intestinal flora helping to regulate the balance, stimulating the friendly normal flora and inhibiting others.
In the US much research is being carried out on the use of saponins from the yuca on its use in sewage treatment plants to breakdown organic waste faster, also on farm and factory waste.
When we eat foods (beans and lentils) or herbs (alfalfa, fenugreek, garlic or tribulus) that are high in saponins they stimulate better absorption of vitamins and minerals and decrease the amount of toxins we absorb. This helps to put less of a strain on our already over worked detoxification organs. So with more nutrients absorbed, an increased action of anti-inflammation, improved immune system, better functioning organs – conditions like arthritis and other degenerative diseases improve. The saponins provide a more alkaline environment (most people’s systems are too acidic these days) aiding the digestive tract improving digestion, reducing incomplete digestion and decomposition in the colon which causes unpleasant smelling gases.
The common potato has the opposite effect to yuca, the potato is part of the Solanaceae family, and contains plant compounds that encourages pain and inflammation, another main member of this infamous family is the tomato! Many people have found their aches and pains have improved by eliminating tomatoes, a long with eating healthier. The other attribute yuca has, is its rich source of absorb-able manganese, this helps in the process of repairing joints. Researchers have looked closely at this plants action and its affect on joints and cartilage, the amazing steroid like saponins strengthen the bowel flora of the intestines, breaking down organic body wastes like uric acid (which causes pain) and cleansing mineral deposits that might exist in the joints.
Native Americans used the soapy leaves from yuca for numerous conditions. Poultices or baths were used for skin sores and other diseases as well as for sprains. Certainly used in all sorts of inflammatory conditions.
Other uses – it acts as an astringent so will help to reduce bleeding. Some people find it extremely helpful as a mild laxative, encouraging bowel movements.
How to use yuca? Any recipe that calls for potatoes you can be substituted with yucca, just needs more cooking. First, peel of the rough brown skin, cut open and remove the hard core.
2lbs fresh yuca
Milk or you can use rice or soy milk
1 garlic clove, minced or crushed
½ cup of chopped cilantro
A squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
A little extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil (optional)
Peel the yuca, cut into thick chunks. Cooking time is longer than for potatoes – cover with water and boil until soft. Drain completely (save the boiled water for soups etc) and add milk, garlic, cilantro, the squeeze of lemon, oil (optional), pepper, and salt. Mash and combine all the ingredients, add more milk if you need to, and serve with your favorite meat stew.