Taro leaves are the heart-shaped leaves of the taro plant (Colocasia esculenta), commonly grown in subtropical and tropical regions.

While generally known for its edible, starchy root, the leaves of the taro plant also serve as a staple food in various cuisines.

While consuming cooked taro leaves may offer some health benefits, it’s important to note that the raw leaves are poisonous before cooking.

This article reviews the nutrition, benefits, and common uses of taro leaves.

Nutrition profile

With a low calorie and high fiber content, taro leaves serve as a nutritious complement to a well-balanced diet.

A 1-cup (145-gram) serving of cooked taro leaves provides (1):

  • Calories: 35
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: less than 1 gram
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Vitamin C: 57% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin A: 34% of the DV
  • Potassium: 14% of the DV
  • Folate: 17% of the DV
  • Calcium: 13% of the DV
  • Iron: 10% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 7% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 6% of the DV
Summary

Taro leaves are a low calorie green leafy vegetable that’s high in potassium, folate, and vitamins C and A.

Potential benefits

Due to their favorable nutrition profile, taro leaves may provide several potential health benefits.

May help prevent disease

Foods containing high levels of antioxidants may help reduce potentially harmful molecules called free radicals.

Free radicals, when left uncontrolled, can promote inflammation in the body, which can contribute to various conditions, such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, and heart disease (2).

Taro leaves are an excellent source of vitamin C and polyphenols, two common antioxidant compounds (3).

Thus, consuming cooked taro leaves on a regular basis may help reduce free radicals in your body, in turn aiding in disease prevention.

Healthy addition to a balanced diet

Taro leaves are a nutritious and versatile ingredient that can fit well into any diet.

Due to their low carb and fat content, they’re very low in calories, making them an excellent food to help promote a healthy body weight.

They’re also a good source of fiber: a 1-cup (145-gram) serving of cooked leaves provides 3 grams (1).

Additionally, they have a high water content, with 92.4% being made up of water.

High fiber and water contents have been shown to aid weight management by promoting feelings of fullness with meals, causing you to eat less (4, 5, 6).

Considering that taro leaves are quite nutritious and low in calories, replacing higher calorie items with taro leaves may help you achieve or keep a healthy body weight.

Can boost heart health

In general, a diet high in nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables has been associated with improved heart health again and again.

Taro leaves fall into a vegetable category called dark leafy greens, which also includes vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard.

Regularly consuming dark leafy greens has been associated with an up to 15.8% reduction in heart disease risk based on a 2016 study (7).

They also provide a good source of dietary nitrates which help to promote healthy blood pressure (8).

Therefore, including taro leaves as part of an overall nutritious diet may help promote heart health.

Summary

Taro leaves are low in calories, high in fiber, and high in micronutrients. This contributes to several potential health benefits, such as promoting a healthy body weight, boosting heart health, and preventing disease.

Raw leaves are poisonous

There’s one major precaution to be aware of when eating taro leaves — their toxicity when eaten raw.

Taro leaves have a high oxalate content, which is a naturally occurring compound found in many plants.

Some people may need to avoid oxalate-containing foods if they’re at risk for kidney stones, as oxalates can contribute to their formation (9).

While many foods contain oxalates, such as spinach, beans, soy products, and beets, the amount is too small to have any poisonous effects.

Younger taro leaves contain more oxalates than older leaves, though they’re both poisonous when raw.

It’s also important to note that some people experience an itching sensation when handling raw leaves, so wearing gloves may be advised.

To deactivate the poisonous oxalates in taro leaves, they must be cooked until they soften which only takes a few minutes when boiling or 30 minutes to an hour when baking (10, 11).

Another method of removing harmful oxalates from taro leaves is soaking them in water for 30 minutes to overnight.

Data suggests that longer soaking times, as well as boiling as opposed to baking, results in more oxalates being removed (10, 11).

Once these steps are completed, taro leaves are safe to consume for most people.

Still, people at high risk for kidney stones should avoid taro leaves altogether due to their high oxalate content.

Summary

The leaves of the taro plant contain high levels of oxalates that can be poisonous when consumed raw. It’s important to properly cook them to avoid harmful side effects.

How to eat them

While traditionally consumed by cultures within the tropical and subtropical regions, taro leaves are now available in specialty markets worldwide.

Based on the region, there are several recipes used to prepare them.

Cooked taro leaves boast a mild, nutty flavor with slight metallic notes. Thus they’re best served as part of a dish to maximize their flavor profile.

In Hawaii, the leaves are also referred to as luau leaves. Here they’re used to make a dish called lau lau in which various foods are wrapped in the leaves and cooked.

In certain areas of India, taro leaves are used to make a dish called alu wadi, in which the leaves are covered in a spice paste, rolled up, and steamed for 15–20 minutes.

In the Philippines, taro leaves are cooked together with coconut milk and fragrant spices to create a dish called Laing.

The leaves can be added to soups, stews, and casseroles, making them a versatile vegetable.

Lastly, taro leaves can be cooked and eaten plain similar to other leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, though it’s important to cook them sufficiently to reduce their oxalate content.

Summary

Though grown in warmer climates, taro leaves are now available worldwide in select markets. The leaves can be used to prepare a number of traditional dishes or can be cooked and eaten on their own.

The bottom line

Taro leaves are a nutritious leafy green similar to spinach, commonly grown in subtropical and tropical regions.

They’re rich in several important micronutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and calcium, as well as disease-fighting antioxidants.

Their high fiber and low calorie content make them an excellent food for boosting heart health and promoting overall well-being.

While the leaves can be poisonous when eaten raw, cooked taro leaves can be a versatile and nutritious addition to your diet.