Taro root is a high fiber plant which is often used as a vegetable. It is possibly underappreciated both in terms of its diverse culinary uses and its therapeutic abilities.
Out here in South East Asia, taro is an extremely popular ingredient in a wide variety of food products. It is used in recipes ranging from savory soups and spicy curries to sweet deserts and even ice cream.
What is Taro Root?
When we talk about taro root, we are referring to the taro plant’s thick tuber. While it is still a relative newcomer in the West, taro is believed to be one of the first plants cultivated by humans.
The taro plant which is known scientifically as Colocosia esculenta is a native of Southeast Asia and part of India but it has since spread around the globe and is now cultivated worldwide. One of the reasons that it is grown so widely is that unlike the vast majority of crops, it can actually thrive in flooded regions.
As well as being extremely easy to cultivate, it provides a great deal of sustenance.
Taro root is a staple part of the diet in many areas of the world including many parts of Africa and India. It is extremely popular in much of Asia, the Polynesian islands and Mediterranean Europe.
The root is the part of the plant most often used in cooking but its corns and leaves are also edible. It cannot be eaten raw because of the presence of toxic oxalates which are eliminated when the plant is cooked properly or steeped in water overnight.
Taro Root Nutritional Value
Taro root is a great source of many minerals and vitamins which play an essential role in human health. It is high in carbohydrates and contains significant amounts of healthy dietary fiber. It is rich in various minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper and phosphorus. Taro root also contains a healthy dose of vitamins A, C, E and B6.
Taro Root Health Benefits
1. Digestive Health
The role of fiber in human health is well understood but that does not mean that people get the amount recommended into their diet. This is especially the case in modern Western diets that are heavy in processed foods and sugars.
For those of you who feel you need more fiber in your diet, taro root is a great option. A 100 gram serving contains a whopping 27% of your recommended daily requirement of fiber.
Getting sufficient amounts of dietary fiber is especially important for your digestive well-being. It helps add bulk to the stools meaning that their passage through your digestive system is more comfortable.
More fiber means less constipation, cramping, bloating and indigestion. And that is not all – better digestion can make the world of difference to overall health and well-being and is even linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
2. Blood Sugar
Another important benefit of dietary fiber is its ability to regulate blood sugar levels and control insulin release. This is especially important in people with diabetes or people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Foods rich in fiber like the taro root may help prevent blood glucose levels from spiking and dropping dramatically in those with diabetes.
It is true that many lists of this nature mention the anti-cancer potential of certain foods but there is a good reason for that. Researchers believe that our risk of developing serious illnesses like cancer can be greatly reduced by eating a healthy diet and making sure we get enough natural antioxidants into our system to protect the cells from damage.
Taro contains antioxidants in the form of vitamin A and C as well as polyphenols. These antioxidants can neutralize the damaging effect that free radicals have on our cells that may lead to mutations into cancer. Taro root also contains a compound called cryptoxanthin which has been linked to a reduced risk of lung and mouth cancer.
4. Heart Health
Is there anything more important than a strong, healthy heart? Fortunately, a healthy heart is obtainable if we take care of our lifestyles and diet and taro root is one product that can help you achieve it. Taro root is high in potassium which helps control the heart beat and also relieves stress on the arteries.
Potassium is necessary for keeping blood pressure in check and reduces the effect of sodium on the body. Taro root is also a great source of dietary fibers that can help maintain a healthy heart.
5. Immune System Boost
One of the most significant health benefits from eating taro root is that it can help maintain your immune system. A healthy immune system is essential to protect against common sicknesses such as the flu and cold.
Fortunately, taro root contains a good supply of vitamin C. This vitamin is known to have a positive impact on immune health. It is also a natural antioxidant which helps neutralize free radical damage and protects against many serious illnesses including cancer and heart disease.
6. Eye Health and Vision
Some of the antioxidant compounds in taro root like cryptoxanthin and beta-carotene can have a real impact on your vision and general eye health. They can protect the cells of the eyes from damage that often results in cataracts and other forms of macular degeneration.
7. Circulation and Blood Health
The combination of copper and iron contained in taro root play an important role in the body and can protect you from anemia and similar conditions. They also help promote better circulation of the blood through the body. By boosting your body’s supply of these minerals, you can reduce the risk of the symptoms of anemia including headaches, lack of energy and concentration problems.
8. Healthy Skin
The combination of vitamin E and A contained by taro root have a great effect on the skin. Eating food high in these vitamins can help to eliminate a variety of skin conditions, boost cell health and regenerate old skin cells. Eating taro can help diminish the appearance of wrinkles and other blemishes and help the skin to heal more quickly.
Are There any Negatives?
After reading about all the health benefits conferred by taro root, I bet you are wondering if there is a catch. We have already mentioned that taro root can be toxic if eaten raw so it needs to be prepared and cooked properly.
The only real negative from consuming properly prepared taro root is that it is very high in calories and carbohydrates. In fact a 100 gram serving of cooked taro comes in at around 112 calories. People on low carbohydrate diets will not appreciate taro root.
They are actually higher in carbs than other high carb foods like potatoes. Of course, athletes and people in high energy occupations need more carbohydrates than others but if your lifestyle is more sedate, eating too much taro root can cause weight gain.
Cooking with Taro Root
Taro root can be eaten in a variety of different ways. It is perhaps most popularly eaten as part of a main, savory dish but can also be used in sweet recipes. It has a texture similar to a potato making it suitable for boiling, frying and roasting.
To Boil Taro Root
- Scrub and wash your taro roots, peel them and cut into two inch chunks.
- Put your taro root in a pot of boiling water, add some seasoning and boil for between 15 and 20 minutes.
- Check if they are the right consistency by pricking them with a fork.
- When they are ready, drain the water off.
- Serve your boiled taro with a knob of butter while piping hot.
Alternatively, you can put your boiled taro on a roasting tray and roast them in the same way you would roast potatoes.
To Fry Taro Root
- Wash and peel several large roots then chop them up as you would chop a potato to make french fries.
- Heat up some oil in a pan then add the taro fries to the oil.
- Cook for 5 or so minutes until they appear golden brown.