Cassava flour locally known as ubugali is one of Rwanda’s staple food. According to nutritionists, the food which is generally affordable has many health benefits.
Alice Murerwa, a nutritionist at Ruhengeri Hospital, says ubugali is very high in carbohydrates and therefore an excellent source of energy. This, he explains, enables the brain to function properly. Each serving of this food offers 79.8 grams of carbohydrates or 61% of the130 grams.
She adds that the fiber content of cassava flour also makes the food a good choice for bowel health. One serving contains 11.9 grams of fiber. Dietary fiber may lessen the risk of a variety of diseases including cancer, diabetes, diverticulitis and constipation.
“Cassava is very low in fats and protein than in cereals and pulses. Each serving gives 1.6g of protein. While this amount helps meet your needs, you should supplement your diet with protein-rich foods to meet the suggested intake of 46 to 56 g per day. Nonetheless, it has more protein than that of other tropical food sources like yam, potato, plantains among others,” Murerwa says.
As with other roots and tubers, cassava too is free from gluten. This is recommended for people who are on non-gluten diets or patients with celiac disease.
According to Joseph Uwiragiye, a nutritionist at The University Teaching Hospital (CHUK), cassava flour is one of the main sources of important minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese.
In addition, he says that it has adequate amounts of potassium which is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
“The dish has a potential role in bone mass building through promotion of osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has an established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease by limiting neuronal damage in the brain,” Uwiragiye says.
It is also a moderate source of some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, thiamin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and pantothenic acid.