What is Tapioca (Cassava) Flour’s Glycemic Index? Is it Safe for Diabetes

What is Tapioca (Cassava) Flour’s Glycemic Index? Is it Safe for Diabetes?

Compared to other flours, tapioca flour does have a higher GI value. The glycemic index of Tapioca flour (Cassava) is 67, that is, in the intermediate GI range.

The GI score of tapioca varies between 65-90 depending on whether it is raw, boiled or steamed. Let’s discuss the difference in these scores and see the exact values of each preparation.

What is Glycemic Index (GI)?

Before discussing the GI of a food item, let us have a clear understanding of what the GI actually means.

GI is a common term to you if you are a diabetes patient. The GI stands for – Glycemic Index. The Glycemic index is a numerical value attached to all food items, ranging from 0 – 100.

The Glycemic index indicates the effect that a food item will have on the blood sugar level after the consumption of it. It simply is a manner of ranking foods containing carbohydrates based on the way they can be digested and their results on increasing blood sugar levels in the body.

GI of food items is generally ranked into three categories:

  1. Low GI – foods that have a GI ranging from 0 – 55 are considered to be low GI foods and do not have an adverse effect or spike on the blood sugar level. These foods are considered healthy and safe for diabetes patients.
  1. Intermediate GI – Food items that fall under a GI scale from 56 – 69 are termed to fall in a middle or intermediate GI range. They have comparatively higher carbohydrate content than the low GI foods but are still healthy for consumption by diabetics.
  1. High GI – GI ranges of food items that are above 70, are said to be high in GI. They can have a considerable adverse effect on the blood sugar levels in the body. Fewer amounts of these high GI foods must be consumed by diabetics.

These measures only indicate the carbohydrate content in the food and how they might affect the blood sugar levels. They can either spike blood sugars or help to maintain it.

Do note that food has different reactions on different people depending on their metabolism.

Generally, it is recommended to have more foods with Low and Intermediate GI, and lesser quantities of High GI foods. Also, always keep a check on the way different food affects your blood sugar levels by testing and recording. 

About tapioca

tapioca

The tapioca is a starch-rich product derived from tubers of cassava. Cassava tubers are found vastly in and are native to South America, majorly Brazil.

Tapioca is a rich source of carbohydrates and starch. This goodness of tapioca is made into pearls, flakes, flour, tapioca meals, etc. The tapioca is usually used as an ingredient in making bubble tea, tapioca pudding, etc.

The high starch content in tapioca makes it a great thickening agent. This property of tapioca is utilized in thickening pies. The starchy carbohydrates in this tapioca flour are better than a lot of other thickening flour agents.

Other than carbohydrates, tapioca does not have a lot of nutritional values. It has very fewer amounts of fat, protein, and fiber, and other nutritional values.

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These are the Glycemic Index of different preparations of Tapioca

Food NameGlycemic Index
Tapioca (Manihot Utilissima), steamed 1 h70
Tapioca (Manihot utilissima), steamed 1h70
Tapioca boiled with milk (General Mills Canada Inc., Etobicoke, Canada)81
Tapioca, boiled93

These are the Glycemic Load of Tapioca per 250g

Food NameServe (g)Carb per Serve (g)Glycemic Load
Tapioca (Manihot Utilissima), steamed 1 h2501812
Tapioca (Manihot utilissima), steamed 1h2501812
Tapioca boiled with milk (General Mills Canada Inc., Etobicoke, Canada)2501814
Tapioca, boiled2501817

Tapioca flour:

Tapioca flour

Tapioca is dried, processed, and sold as white flour, tapioca pearls, or flakes. The starch-rich liquid is drawn from the cassava roots and dried to derive a dry powdery product.

This powder is then made into preferable products as use and sale requirements. Being rich in starch, tapioca flour is combined with other flour varieties to make bread as well.

Due to its very limited nutritional value, the flour made from tapioca is not a very superior one, when it comes to health benefits. The high amount of starch and carbohydrates, and less than 0.1% of other nutrients, it is said to consider ‘empty calories’.

What is the Glycemic Index of Tapioca flour?

What is the Glycemic Index of Tapioca flour

As we talked about the high starch and carbohydrate content in tapioca, and less fibrous benefits that are found in other flours, thus we can already tell that it is not the best type of food for diabetic patients.

Compared to other flours, tapioca flour does have a higher GI value. The glycemic index of Tapioca flour is 67, that is, in the intermediate GI range.

The GI of products or food items that have low fiber and higher carbohydrates are generally on the higher end and it is recommended to consume them in lesser quantities.

The tapioca flour falls on the higher GI side of foods and therefore, it is best to substitute tapioca flour with other healthier versions of flour available and suitable for diabetics.

When looking for flours it is best to go for low or even zero GI varieties that are high in fat and fibers. Also, proteins and omega-3 are useful in keeping a check on your diabetic levels.

Processing of Tapioca flour and its uses:

Processing of Tapioca flour and its uses

Tapioca starch, or commonly known as tapioca flour, is a white flour variety with a slight sweetness to it.

Tapioca flours are used in baking, especially as alternatives for traditional wheat flours. It can be used to prepare several varieties of baked dishes.

The native South American Cassava plant is the main source from which this flour is extracted. The starch from the ripe cassava is separated and removed from any harmful toxins. The extract is then washed and separated from the liquid.

Once separated, the extract is dried and drained of any pulp.

Tapioca is a common baking ingredient as it has a very good binding capacity in gluten-free recipes. It also brings out a better texture, adds crunchiness and crisp to the crusts.

The smoothness of the tapioca flour is an excellent thickening agent. It is used as a thickening agent in sauces, pies, soups, etc. without adding any taste. It has a neutral flavor and also brings in a gloss in these dishes.

It is a great alternate for corn starch and can also be mixed with other flour varieties.

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So, is tapioca flour a good option for Diabetics?

Well, the very straightforward answer to that is – NO. The nutrition component of Tapioca flour is not enriching for the body, especially if you are diabetic.

Anything too high in carbohydrates leads to a breaking down of these carbs into glucose. Too much glucose in the body results in a high blood sugar level. Thus, using tapioca flour is not the best for diabetics.

People who are running on a carbohydrate-controlled diet, and try avoiding too much starch, using tapioca flour is not recommended for them.

The effect starch has on blood sugar is usually very high and can lead to adverse fluctuations and spike in the blood sugar measures.

It is always best to go for options that are more fiber-rich and contain more protein.

What is Tapioca flour good for?

The high starch and carbohydrate is a great source of energy. It is also a gluten-free supplement that can be used by ones who want to avoid gluten in their diets.

If someone is allergic to wheat, nuts, and other common grains like corn, that flour is derived from, the tapioca flour is a great alternative, as it does not have grains or any gluten.

Tapioca flour is commonly used as a thickening agent for soups, sauces, gravy, etc. It is also commonly utilized in baking.

Mixing other flours to tapioca flour, e.g. almond flour increases the nutritional value of it, and also improves its texture.

It also gives the following benefits to our body:

  • Tapioca flour can assist people who are trying to gain weight. It is a quick and efficient method to add some pounds to your weight. Only one ounce (nearly 30g) of tapioca flour has like 100 calories. Alongside gaining weight, it does not cause any risks to the body like fats or cholesterol, as tapioca has very few nutrients that have such effects on the body.
  • Tapioca flour, pearls, etc. are a good source of calcium. Around 30mg calcium can be derived from a cup of tapioca pearls. Calcium is a very essential mineral for our body and tapioca is a good source for it.
  • Tapioca is also considered to be one of the food items that are naturally low in sodium. The amount of sodium in food matters a lot, and high sodium can lead to several conditions that are harmful to the body, such as heart diseases, high blood pressure, etc. In a cup serving of tapioca, there is only 1.52mg sodium, which is less comparatively, and also a healthy solution.
  • Tapioca flour has a tendency to be digested easily than other flour varieties obtained from grains and nuts. It is also recommended by several doctors for conditions such as – IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Diverticulitis, and other digestive system related symptoms and ailments.

Given all these above benefits, even diabetics can have tapioca flour in their baked goodies, or other food preparations once in a while, keeping in check their recent blood sugar levels and fluctuations.

It is best to have other flours such as almond flour, walnut flour, and other low GI flours mixed in the tapioca flour to reduce its harmful effects and add some good nutrients as well.

What flours to choose and which ones to avoid in the diabetic diet routine?

There are certain varieties of flours that have zero GI, these are the best ones to opt if you are diabetic and are looking for a healthier alternative that is available and causes no sudden and adverse spikes in your blood sugar levels.

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Having a healthier choice onto something as the staple and common as flour is a great option either you are diabetic or not.

The carbohydrates present in flours directly relate to the high or low values of GI. Lesser fiber and more carbohydrates are an early indication that the flour is rich and has a higher GI. Such flours must be avoided or used lesser if you want to keep your blood sugar levels within the scale range.

Flours with absolutely zero GI are:

–         Flaxseed flours

–         Almond nut flour

–         Walnut flour

Low GI flours that can be incorporated in your diabetics diet table:

–         Oat flour: 44 GI

–         Chickpea flour: 44 GI

–         Soy flour: 25 GI

Flours that have intermediate to high GI, and must be used in lesser quantities and comparatively rarely:

–         Whole wheat flour: GI = 69

–         Tapioca flour: GI = 67

–         Buckwheat flour: GI = 71

–         White wheat flour: 85

–         White rice flour: GI = 72

–         Brown rice flour: GI = 62

 

A better way to schedule and maintain your diabetic planned diet is to exclude for flour-based products. Flours used in bakeries are usually high in starch and the baked goods also have a lot of sugar.

All in all, baked delicacies can be harmful to blood sugar levels.

It is best to have a mix of fat, protein, and fiber in good amounts in your flour choices.

Conclusion:

Tapioca is high in carbohydrates and a 100% pure starch. Its use as flour is common in baking recipes, but it does not have a lot of nutritional benefits.

The consumption of tapioca flour by diabetics is to be done in a much-regulated manner, as it can cause hikes in blood sugar levels.

One must keep the blood sugar levels in check always and attend to the regulations that the body needs from time to time.

Reference

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Dr Sharon Baisil MD

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