Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Taro, Answered.
You're scrolling through your social media feeds when you suddenly stop to inspect what looks like a purple latté. You think, "how is that even possible?"
In the world of better-for-you-coffee, taro isn’t the most familiar ingredient, and we’ve received quite a few questions about what it even is—not to mention its health benefits and uses. So we compiled all the frequently asked questions in this guide: your one-stop shop for all things taro.
#1: What is taro?
Taro, also known as taro root, is an ancient, starchy tuber vegetable native to Southeast Asia and Southern India. It’s a staple food in Oceanic, Indian, and African cuisines but is cultivated and eaten today in many countries around the world, including Japan, the United States, Egypt, and Spain. Its size ranges from small to large, and its flesh a pale white or speckled with purple.
Fun fact: It’s considered to be one of the first cultivated plants in human history, and is one of the only crops that can thrive in flooded areas.
#2: How is it different from a potato?
While it’s true that taro closely resembles and is cooked in a similar way as one would a potato, it boasts a nuttier and more complex taste profile. Additionally, it has almost twice as much fiber as a traditional potato.
#3: What does it taste like?
Taro has a slightly sweet and nutty taste to it, but not overwhelmingly so. And it’s because of this mild flavor that taro is so versatile, able to be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes.
#4: Have I seen it before? How is it used?
Yes, you probably have! Although taro is not edible in its raw form, it’s often prepared like one would a potato—into fries, chips, or a creamy mash known as poi, a common Hawaiian side dish. In Southern India, taro is used in a curry known as Arvi, and here in the states it’s commonly blended (in powder form) into bubble tea, lattes, pancakes, baked goods, or even ice cream and frozen yogurt.
#5: What are its health benefits?
From improving digestion to supporting heart health, preventing cancer to protecting skin and eyes, there’s pretty much nothing that taro can’t do.
Here’s the low-down on this unsung hero’s nutritional claims to fame:
There’s a whopping 27% of the recommended daily intake of fiber in a single serving, making taro a go-to to prevent and relieve gastrointestinal troubles such as excess gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation (1).
Including Vitamin A, C, E, and the whole gamut of Vitamin B (B1, B2, B3, B5)—all of which help eliminate free radicals from our systems, which can otherwise cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous ones. (The elimination of free radicals also boosts eye/vision health, as the radicals are prevented from adversely affecting ocular cells) (2).
There’s even a specific carotenoid called cryptoxanthin which has been found to lower the chance of developing oral and lung cancers.
- ...and also to improve and skin health
Thanks to its high levels of Vitamin A and E, taro helps boost cellular health, so blemishes heal faster (3).
Copper and zinc, to be exact.
Potassium has been shown to help relieve stress and pressure on arteries and blood vessels, reducing stress (aka blood pressure) on the cardiovascular system. In turn, fluid transfer improves neural connections to boost cognitive function (4).