Taro root is a tropical root vegetable that is featured in cuisines around the globe. In addition to providing dishes with a pop of color, it also brings a host of important nutrients to the table, including fiber, manganese and vitamin E.
It’s even been associated with several health benefits, including improved heart health, enhanced digestive function, reduced oxidative stress and more.
Ready to learn more? Keep reading for everything you need to know about this starchy vegetable, including the top benefits and side effects, along with some easy ways to add it to your diet.
What Is Taro Root?
What is taro? Also known as Colocasia esculenta, it is a starchy root vegetable that is thought to be native to Southeast Asia and India but is now cultivated and enjoyed around the globe.
It has edible leaves and a starchy corm, which can be found in a range of different colors depending on where it’s grown, including purple, pink or white. It’s often compared to other starchy vegetables and herbs, such as konjac root (also known as glucomannan) or arrowroot.
It also goes by many different names. For example, taro root in Hindi is known as “arvi” or “arbi,” whereas in the Philippines, it’s referred to as “gabi.”
Taro is considered a staple in many types of cuisines. In fact, you can often spot taro in Spanish, Lebanese, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese and even Polynesian dishes.
It’s a popular ingredient in many different recipes as well, including taro milk tea, a thick, creamy drink that can be found in many bubble tea shops. It can also be boiled, steamed, baked or fried and incorporated into main courses, side dishes and desserts alike.
The taro root nutrition profile is high in carbs and fiber, along with important nutrients like manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin E and potassium.
One cup of cooked taro contains the following nutrients:
- 187 calories
- 45.7 grams carbohydrates
- 0.7 grams protein
- 0.1 grams fat
- 6.7 grams dietary fiber
- 0.6 milligrams manganese (30 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligrams vitamin B6 (22 percent DV)
- 3.9 milligrams vitamin E (19 percent DV)
- 639 milligrams potassium (18 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligrams copper (13 percent DV)
- 6.6 milligrams vitamin C (11 percent DV)
- 39.6 milligrams magnesium (10 percent DV)
- 100 milligrams phosphorus (10 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams thiamine (9 percent DV)
- 25.1 micrograms folate (6 percent DV)
- 1 milligram iron (5 percent DV)
Each serving of taro root also contains a small amount of pantothenic acid, niacin, vitamin A and calcium.
Thanks to its impressive nutrient profile, adding this vegetable to your diet can come with some serious health benefits. Here are a few of the top taro root benefits.
1. May Promote Weight Loss
Although each serving does contain a hefty chunk of taro root calories, taro can definitely be incorporated into a healthy weight loss diet. It’s particularly rich in fiber, which slows the emptying of the stomach to keep you feeling full between meals.
According to one study published in Journal of Nutrition, each gram of fiber consumed daily was associated with half a pound of weight loss and a 0.25 percent decrease in body fat among women over a 20-month period.
Taro is also a great source of resistant starch, which is a type of starch that resists digestion in the body. One study conducted by the University of Surrey found that consumption of resistant starch was effective at reducing food intake, which could potentially help bump up weight loss.
2. Enhances Heart Health
Cramming 6.7 grams of fiber into a single cup, taro is an awesome addition to a heart-healthy diet. Not only is fiber intake linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, but fiber may also help decrease levels of blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which are major risk factors for heart disease.
Plus, it is loaded with antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that can help combat free radical damage and protect against disease. Research suggests that upping your intake of antioxidants can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can contribute to heart disease and atherosclerosis, or fatty plaque buildup in the arteries.
3. Supports Blood Sugar Control
A good chunk of the taro root carbs in each serving are classified as fiber and resistant starch, both of which can help support better blood sugar control. In fact, studies show that increasing your intake of fiber can reduce fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C, which is a marker of long-term blood sugar control.
What’s more, resistant starch has been shown to improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that is used to transport sugar from the bloodstream to the cells. Increased insulin sensitivity can help the body use this hormone more effectively, which can promote better blood sugar control.
4. Improves Digestive Function
Including a variety of high-fiber foods in your diet can have a huge impact on digestive health. Studies show that increased fiber intake can benefit several conditions and may improve symptoms of acid reflux, constipation, hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers and diverticulitis.
Resistant starch is also fermented in the colon, which can increase the growth of the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Improving the health of your gut microbiome can boost immune function, enhance nutrient absorption and support better overall gut health.
5. Good Source of Antioxidants
Taro leaf and root are both excellent sources of antioxidants, including several specific types that have been tied to a lower risk of chronic disease. In some cases, these beneficial plant pigments are also what makes taro purple and provides it with its signature hue.
Interestingly enough, one in vitro study found that taro extract was effective at reducing the growth and spread of breast and prostate cancer cells, which may be due to its powerful antioxidant properties. However, more research is needed to determine whether it offers the same benefits when consumed as part of a healthy diet.
How to Cook and Recipes
Like other root vegetables, this root is starchy and slightly sweet, making it a great addition to a variety of different taro root recipes.
There are a number of ways to take advantage of the delicious taro taste and several different methods that you can use to prepare this popular root veggie. It can be boiled, steamed, baked, fried or blended and added to many delicious taro recipes.
Try making taro bubble tea (or taro milk tea) by combining taro powder with green tea, tapioca pearls, honey, sugar and water. You can also cut it into thin strips and bake or fry to make taro chips, add it to soups or stews, or boil it with coconut milk for a satisfying side dish.
Alternatively, try swapping out other grains in your diet and enjoying taro as a satisfying sandwich substitute.
Here are a few other recipe ideas that you can try making at home:
Risks and Side Effects
Despite the many potential benefits of taro nutrition, there are a few taro root side effects that you may want to consider as well.
Although uncommon, there have been some reported cases of allergic reactions caused by this root vegetable. If you experience any adverse side effects like rash, hives or itching after consuming it, be sure to discontinue use immediately, and consult with your doctor.
Another one of the top taro root disadvantages is its content of calcium oxalate, a naturally occurring compound that can build up in the body, triggering gout and contributing to kidney stones. Because of its oxalate content, eating raw taro can also irritate your throat and cause your mouth to feel numb.
Fortunately, soaking and cooking taro can significantly reduce its oxalate content, making it safe to consume.
Additionally, keep in mind that taro root is also relatively high in carbohydrates. Although it’s also rich in beneficial fiber and resistant starch, those on a low-carb or ketogenic diet should moderate their intake to maximize the potential taro leaves benefits.
Those with diabetes should also consume in moderation alongside a variety of other non-starchy vegetables to help keep blood sugar levels in check.
- What is taro? It is a nutritious, starchy root vegetable that is native to certain parts of Asia.
- Each serving contains a good amount of calories, carbs and fiber, as well as micronutrients like manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin E and potassium.
- Potential taro benefits include improved blood sugar control, increased weight loss, enhanced digestive function, improved heart health and decreased oxidative stress.
- It’s also easy to use and can be enjoyed in a number of unique recipes, including taro tea, cakes, chips, side dishes and desserts.
- However, it’s important to always cook before consuming, avoid if you experience any food allergy symptoms, and moderate your intake if you have diabetes or are following a low-carb diet.