Yuca root is the underground swollen tuber of the cassava or tapioca plant (Manihot esculenta). Do not confuse "yuca" root with the "yucca" root (Yucca spp.). The cassava plant is native to northern South America and is among the many tropical plants now grown across the world's tropics as a food crop for native peoples. Yuca root is peeled and boiled in water prior to consumption; it is not eaten raw. Granules of dried yuca root are better known as tapioca.
Yuca root is an increasingly important staple food in subtropical and tropical Third World nations. It is an inexpensive crop to produce and provides a good source of carbohydrates, according to a report from United Nations University.
One cup of raw yuca root provides 160 calories, according to the CalorieKing online database, but once cooked, Specialty Produce cites that the value drops to around 40 calories for the same serving size. This discrepancy may be attributed to the loss of the peel on the yuca root when it is prepared prior to cooking as well as the leaching of starches in boiling water.
Yuca root is richest in carbohydrates; 100 g of raw material contains about 40 g of carbs and, once cooked and ready for consumption, about 27 g, according to data supplied by Specialty Produce and United Nations University. Similar servings of yuca root contain more carbs than do potatoes and are nearly on par with carbs supplied by yams or taros. While there is some protein in yuca root, half of it is contained in the peel. Yuca root has substantially less protein than a comparable serving size of corn or sorghum, and only 50 percent the amount contained by yams, according to United Nations University. Yuca root is very low in fat and fiber; the majority of fiber is contained in the peel.
Yuca root is a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin C. It also has small but beneficial amounts of potassium, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. Only a trace amount of vitamin A is contained in yuca root.
The raw tubers and peelings of a yuca root contains two cyanogenic glycosides named linamarin (93 percent) and lotaustralin (7 percent). These toxic compounds must be removed through prolonged boiling in water. Consuming raw yuca root leads to weak and irregular breathing, weakness, depression, staggering, pupil dilation, muscle spasms, convulsions and a coma of short duration. It is highly toxic if eaten in large enough doses, based on a person's health and body mass, according to the North Carolina Poisonous Plant Database.