Last Updated on March 21, 2021
The taro plant is an herb that grows in swamps and moist soil under humid weather conditions.
This crop also widely grows in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. All parts of the plant are used in different dishes but the stem and leaves must be cooked to disintegrate any poisonous content.
The root of the taro plant is a more popular food source than the stem and leaves. It is used in desserts, fried, boiled, baked, and added to soups and stews. It is a staple crop in many countries because it provides a good amount of nutrition even when eaten alone.
These tubular roots are often found in clusters with a stem growing from each, and can be harvested six to seven months after it has been planted.
Taro root is starchy and can either be sticky and mushy or crunchy depending on the variety. In some countries, the taro root, eddoe root, and yautia or Malanga root are different species and therefore treated as different crops or vegetables.
For other countries, all three of these tubers are considered one and the same. For today’s discussion, we will be focusing only on the taro root with the scientific name Colocasia esculenta.
Good for the Heart
Since taro is low in fat and sodium with no cholesterol, it can be very good for people watching their diet due to lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. It doesn’t contribute to the weakening of vital organs nor does it harden or clog any arteries.
It has 17 amino acids, including Omega 3 and 6, which protects the myocardial lining of the heart to lower the risk of a heart attack. Even people with heart diseases or who have survived a heart attack should be regularly supplemented with amino acids.
It has Vitamin E which can also lower the risk for a heart attack, and contains a high level of potassium—about 12% of the daily recommended value for every 100 grams of the root. Potassium regulates blood pressure while balancing the amount of salt in the body.
Magnesium is also found in the taro root. Dietary magnesium lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular health problems such as coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
Magnesium is one of the vital elements that contribute to the production of ATP in the mitochondria. When ATP is continually produced, enough energy is delivered to the different parts of the body and the different processes that are needed to stay alive and healthy are sustained.
Regulates Blood Sugar and Reduces Fatigue
Taro root is a good source of calories for people with active lifestyles. It can also be a good source of energy for prolonged periods of sports training, intense workouts, trekking, hiking, and other outdoor activities. It is high in potassium which helps reduce fatigue, weakness, and balances the electrolytes in your body.
With its low glycemic level compared to potatoes, it can be the best alternative root crop for people who are at risk of or who already have diabetes.
It can regulate blood sugar and give hypoglycemic people a safe source of lasting energy. It has more calories and fiber than potatoes, while also offering less fat.
People experiencing pain or spasms after exercise can benefit from regularly eating taro root since it has magnesium and zinc. Both minerals have anti-inflammatory effects.
Magnesium is also vital to the absorption of Vitamin D for healthy bones and muscles. It is important to maintain musculoskeletal health not only at an early age but also all throughout adulthood.
However, for people wanting to watch their weight, taro root should be eaten in moderation due to its high-calorie and high-carbohydrate content.
Digestion and Weight Regulation
Digestion and bowel movement are immensely improved with a good serving of fiber. Since this starchy root crop is packed with dietary fiber, it can help your gastrointestinal tract in digesting food. Carrying a bag of taro chips or boiled taro as a snack or meal can be very good for your digestion.
While taro has the potential to add to your weight when its calories are not burned, it can also cause the opposite. Its high starchy fiber content keeps you full for longer periods of time while eating a small amount can also cause a feeling of fullness, preventing you from eating too much.
For people wanting to gain more weight, taro root is highly recommended.
Taro is naturally gluten-free which ideally makes it a staple in the diet of people with Celiac Disease.
Getting enough antioxidants in your body slows down the aging process because it can reverse the effects of oxidation, even preventing the widespread oxidation of cells. With aging slowed down, the body enjoys benefits inside and out, such a lowered risk of degenerative diseases.
Some of the best antioxidants found in taro roots, leaves, and stems are Vitamin A, C, E, K, and B-complex, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Even when the taro is processed into powder, it still contains beneficial traits. All of these boost the immune system and can help the body recover from illness.
Source of Zinc and other Minerals
Taro is one of the few non-animal sources of zinc. A deficiency in zinc can caused stunted growth and development, so kids especially should have enough zinc in their diet. Zinc is also very beneficial for the skin.
Other minerals include calcium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. Each of these can contribute to a healthier body and aid in the protection of different organs and bodily functions.
Some children may be picky with food or may have a gluten intolerance. It is a good thing that taro can be cooked in different ways. Taro powder can even be added to juice or tea. It can also be used as flour to make cookies, bread, and cake. In some countries, taro root is added to cereal.
How to Add Taro in Your Diet
Eating taro root raw is highly discouraged since it contains an enzyme called protease which can sting or give your mouth and tongue an itchy sensation. It also has high calcium oxalate content which can build up into kidney stones.
The leaves and stem are the same and can even cause poisoning. Eating them raw will cause irritation or even an anaphylactic reaction that will lead to swelling and obstruction of the airway. It is always recommended to cook taro roots, stems, and leaves properly.
Taro root has a nutty flavor and can be used to thicken soups and stews. Its leaves and stems also have a mildly nutty taste when cooked.
With proper precautions taken, you should not be intimidated by the taro plant at all. You can enjoy all the nutritious goodness it can offer by adding it to your daily diet when it is available or in season. Here’s how:
- Add mashed taro to smoothies
- Boil or cook taro with charcoal
- Taro root powder can be used to make tea
- Add slices of taro to your stir-fry vegetables
- Make mash out of taro roots as you would potatoes
- Fry or bake thin slices of taro to make crispy chips
- Add mashed taro or bake taro together with your dough
- Add chunks of taro root to any acidic but savory soup or stew
- Cook taro leaves and stems in coconut milk and your protein of choice
- Steam the leaves or stem of taro and season with salt, pepper and other spices
According to the USDA, 100 grams of taro root contains the following:
- 112 Kcal of energy
- 26.46 grams of carbohydrates
- 1.50 grams of protein
- 0.20 gram of total fat
- 4.1 grams of dietary fiber
- 22 µg of folates
- 0.600 mg of niacin
- 0.303 mg of Pantothenic acid
- 0.283 mg of pyridoxine
- 0.025 mg of riboflavin
- 0.095 mg of thiamin
- 76 IU of Vitamin A
- 4.5 mg of Vitamin C
- 2.38 mg of Vitamin E
- 1 µg of Vitamin K
- 11 mg of sodium
- 591 mg of potassium
- 43 mg of calcium
- 0.172 mg of copper
- 0.55 mg of iron
- 33 mg of magnesium
- 0.383 mg of manganese
- 0.7 µg of selenium
- 0.23 mg of zinc
The taro plant has so much to offer, from its root to leaves. It may not be as popular as other tubers due to its unavailability in some countries, but should you find a taro root in your local farmer’s market or grocery store, you should try incorporating it into your daily dishes.
People with sensitivities to certain food due to intolerance, lifestyle restrictions, or restrictive diets can find that taro root is a good alternative for a lot of foods that contain gluten, high sodium levels, high carbohydrate and cholesterol content.
If your weather and soil conditions meet the requirements of a taro plant, why don’t you try planting one? This low-maintenance plant can grow on its own and spread out at a manageable rate.