One of cassava’s major downfalls is its content of antinutrients. Antinutrients are plant compounds that may interfere with digestion and inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. These aren’t a concern for most healthy people, but their effects are important to keep in mind. They are more likely to impact populations at risk of malnutrition. Interestingly, this includes populations that rely on cassava as a staple food.
Here are the most important antinutrients found in cassava:
- Saponins: Antioxidants that may have drawbacks, such as reduced absorption of some vitamins and minerals.
- Phytate: This antinutrient may interfere with the absorption of magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.
- Tannins: Known for reducing protein’s digestibility and interfering with the absorption of iron, zinc, copper and thiamine.
The effects of antinutrients are more prominent when they are consumed frequently and as part of a nutritionally inadequate diet. As long as you only consume cassava on occasion, the antinutrients shouldn’t be a major cause for concern. In fact, under some circumstances, antinutrients such as tannins and saponins may actually have beneficial health effects.
Summary: The antinutrients in cassava may interfere with the absorption of some vitamins and minerals and may cause digestive distress. This is mainly a concern for populations that rely on cassava as a staple food.