Yucca is a root vegetable that grows in regions with subtropical climates, like Mexico and South America. Also known as cassava, yucca is a dense, starchy food that’s rich in carbohydrates. It’s a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin C, and potassium.
Yucca offers numerous health benefits, and is often used medicinally. Yucca can be incorporated into your diet. It can also be used topically to treat skin conditions or wounds. If you don’t want to eat yucca at meals, there are supplements available.
Yucca contains high amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants, both of which can benefit the immune system and overall health. Vitamin C stimulates the production and activity of white blood cells, which fight infections and viruses. The antioxidants yucca contains also protect us from cell mutations and free radical damage.
Native Americans have long used yucca for relief from arthritis symptoms, and yucca supplements (often in tablet form) are frequently taken for the same purpose today. Yucca has anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe pain. Some research suggests that high-risk groups could potentially prevent the onset of arthritis by taking yucca.
Yucca also contains powerful antioxidants and saponins. These substances can decrease arthritis symptoms.
Yucca provides multiple skin benefits. Studies have shown that yucca has photoprotective properties, and it may be able to protect against sun damage better than some commercial SPFs.
Yucca extract, which is sometimes added to lotions, soaps, or shampoos, can be used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including:
- sores and cuts
- skin diseases and infections
The folic acid found in yucca may help improve overall skin and eye health. The high amounts of vitamin C also aid in the production of collagen, the main skin protein.
While yucca is a carbohydrate-dense food, it can still boost health in people with diabetes. There is evidence that yucca helps regulate blood sugar.
A 2013 study found that yucca regulated metabolic disturbances in diabetic rats. It was also found to moderately reduce glucose levels. While yucca should never be used in place of insulin or other medications prescribed for diabetes, it can supplement diabetes treatment. Always consult your doctor before use.
Oxidative stress (a type of imbalance in our cells) can cause serious damage to our bodies. Over time, it contributes to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart failure, and inflammatory conditions. There is evidence that compounds in yucca, including antioxidants, help protect our bodies from oxidative stress.
A 2013 study even found significant decreases in damage from oxidative stress in mice who were given yucca supplements. The researchers found that the yucca had a protective effect against the degeneration of multiple organs.
Yucca is generally considered to be safe when eaten, except for those who are allergic to it. Some people may experience abdominal pain, vomiting, or digestive upset.
When consumed in its natural form, yucca is high in calories (especially when fried). While generally healthy, its high caloric count does not make it an ideal food for weight loss. It is, however, high in fiber, which can help you to feel full longer.
Yucca supplements can sometimes cause side effects, including:
- upset stomach
- bitter taste
Children and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding shouldn’t take yucca supplements without the supervision of a doctor. There is not enough research to prove its safety, so it’s better to be cautious.
There are no known drug interactions for yucca supplements. It is not recommended to take yucca for more than three months consecutively. It can interfere with the body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Yucca can be incorporated into your diet. Topical forms of yucca are also available, in soaps, shampoos, and lotions. You can take yucca extract through oral supplements as well, in powder or liquid form.
If you decide to take yucca supplements, ask your doctor about the right dose. There isn’t a set safe amount, but your doctor can help you determine this on an individual basis. Never take more than your doctor recommends.
Yucca can easily be incorporated into your diet. Some people will use it as a substitute for potatoes, as it’s higher in fiber and vitamins. There are a number of delicious, healthy recipes that use yucca in diverse ways. Some great examples include: