The health benefits of taro root may include its ability to improve digestion, lower blood sugar levels, prevent certain types of cancers, protect the skin, enhance vision, increase circulation, decrease blood pressure, aid the immune system, and prevent heart disease, while also supporting muscle and nerve health.
What is Taro Root?
Taro root (Colocasia esculenta) is the thick, tuber stalk of the taro plant. It is an important part of global cuisines and diets for thousands of years. Taro is considered to be one of the first cultivated plants in human history. It is believed to be native to Southeast Asia and southern India, but it is cultivated and used in many places all around the world. It is a staple food in African, Indian, and Oceanic cuisines, but it can be found everywhere from Japan, Egypt, and Suriname to the United States, Fiji, and Spain. Fascinatingly, it seems as though every culture uses taro in a slightly different way. It is also one of the few crops that can grow in flooded areas, due to its petioles.
The most common form of taro is dasheen, also known as “elephant ears”, due to the shape of the broad leaves. The leaves, roots, and corms can be used as dietary ingredients, but the plant must be cooked before consumption. It is toxic in raw form, due to the high content of oxalates. Those dangerous substances can be eliminated when cooked with baking soda or if steeped overnight. The reason that this plant is so widely used is due to the ease with which it grows and the size/sustenance it can provide. More than 11.3 million metric tons of taro plants/roots are cultivated around the world each year. Taro root is gaining popularity in certain health-conscious cultures and populations. Now, let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of the taro root.
Nutritional Value of Taro Root
|Serving Size :|
|Total lipid (fat) [g]||0.2|
|Carbohydrate, by difference [g]||26.46|
|Fiber, total dietary [g]||4.1|
|Sugars, total including NLEA [g]||0.4|
|Calcium, Ca [mg]||43|
|Iron, Fe [mg]||0.55|
|Magnesium, Mg [mg]||33|
|Phosphorus, P [mg]||84|
|Potassium, K [mg]||591|
|Sodium, Na [mg]||11|
|Zinc, Zn [mg]||0.23|
|Copper, Cu [mg]||0.17|
|Manganese, Mn [mg]||0.38|
|Selenium, Se [µg]||0.7|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]||4.5|
|Pantothenic acid [mg]||0.3|
|Vitamin B-6 [mg]||0.28|
|Folate, total [µg]||22|
|Folate, food [µg]||22|
|Folate, DFE [µg]||22|
|Choline, total [mg]||17.3|
|Vitamin A, RAE [µg]||4|
|Carotene, beta [µg]||35|
|Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]||20|
|Vitamin A, IU [IU]||76|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]||2.38|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]||1|
|Fatty acids, total saturated [g]||0.04|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]||0.02|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]||0.08|
|Aspartic acid [g]||0.19|
|Glutamic acid [g]||0.17|
|Sources include : USDA|
Health Benefits of Taro Root
The health benefits of taro root include its ability to improve digestive health, prevent cancer, improve vision health, and much more.
May Improve Digestive Health
The high level of dietary fiber found in taro root makes it very important for gastrointestinal health. A single serving may contain 27 percent of the daily requirement of dietary fiber. Fiber helps add bulk to our stool and aids in improved digestion. Proper fiber intake helps prevent excess gas, bloating, cramping, and constipation.
May Have Anticancer Potential
Speaking of cancer, taro root also plays an important part in the antioxidant activity in our body. The high levels of vitamin A, C, and various other phenolic antioxidants found in the taro root can boost our immune system and can help eliminate dangerous free radicals from our system. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, free radicals are the dangerous by-products of cellular metabolism that can cause healthy cells to mutate and turn into cancerous cells. By eliminating these free radicals, our general health is almost guaranteed! The American Institute for Cancer Research published a report, in association with the World Cancer Research Fund, which stated that cryptoxanthin, which is found in taro root, is directly connected to a lowered chance of developing both lung and oral cancers.
May Help Manage Diabetes
If you have a sufficient level of dietary fiber, which taro root provides, then you can better manage your glycemic levels and lower your chances of developing diabetes. If you have diabetes, then fiber-rich foods like taro root can help prevent the dangerous spikes and plunges in blood sugar as well as help improve satiety.
May Help Improve Heart Health
Taro root contains a significant level of potassium, an essential mineral that we need to remain healthy and functional. Potassium not only facilitates healthy fluid transfers between membranes and tissues throughout the body but also helps to relieve stress and pressure on blood vessels and arteries. By relaxing the veins and blood vessels, blood pressure can be reduced, and thus the stress on the overall cardiovascular system is reduced. Potassium has even been connected to increased cognitive function because neural connections can be boosted when blood pressure is reduced, and fluid transfer between neural membranes is optimized!
May Improve Vision Health
Taro root contains various antioxidants, including beta-carotene and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidants can help improve vision as well, by preventing free radicals from attacking ocular cells and causing macular degeneration or cataracts!
May Improve Skin Care
Between vitamin E and vitamin A, our skin is well-protected when we add taro root to our diets. Both of these essential vitamins work to eliminate skin conditions and boost overall cellular health, meaning that our wounds and blemishes heal faster, and a healthy glow can be returned to the skin.
May Boost Immune System
Perhaps the most important element of taro root for health is its role in the immune system. It has a very high level of vitamin C in each serving. This vitamin may help to stimulate the immune system to create white blood cells, which defend the body from foreign pathogens and agents. Furthermore, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, which can help to prevent the development of serious health conditions.
May Aid in Increased Circulation
The mineral content of the taro root has dozens of useful applications, but the possible dual presence of iron and copper in it makes it a very important food to potentially help prevent anemia and boost circulation throughout the body. Iron and copper are both essential for the production of red blood cells, which carry the all-important oxygen to our body’s organ systems. This, in turn, may help increase metabolic activity, prevent fatigue, allow the growth of new cells, and general oxygenation of the body, which results in the organs and systems functioning at their optimal levels!
How to Clean and Cook Taro Root?
Taro root can be eaten in many ways – mashed, simmered, fried, boiled, or roasted. Taro root is toxic when eaten raw, so be sure to cook them fully in whichever way you are cooking. Before you start cooking taro root, it is important to clean it well.
- Use gloves while cleaning the taro root.
- Clean the root thoroughly under running water and peel the skin.
- Run the peeled taro root under cold water to remove dirt, if any.
- The taro root is ready for cooking now.
Taro root fries: Slice the taro root into thin pieces and make taro fries just the way you make potato fries. You can bake instead of deep-frying!
Roasted taro root: This is a quick and easy recipe and all you need are some spices alongside taro roots.
- Put cleaned taro roots into a steamer until the flesh is tender
- Place the roots in a zip-locked bag and add a teaspoon of chili powder, some turmeric powder and 2 teaspoons of cooking oil
- Keep the roots in the bag until they get coated properly
- Place the roots on a baking sheet and cover them with an aluminum foil.
- The taro root will be ready to eat when they look golden-brown.
Word of Caution: The only flaw with taro root is its high-calorie content. Every 100 grams contains 112 calories, which can be an issue for people trying to lose weight. It has more carbohydrates by volume than potatoes, so overdoing it with taro root can contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes if you aren’t careful. Eat taro root in moderation, to get the health benefits, without packing on the pounds!