Malanga Root: What Are the Benefits?

Medically reviewed by Suzanne Fisher, RD

Malanga root is a type of tropical root vegetable rich in B vitamins and complex carbohydrates. Native to South America, it is often confused with taro, another root vegetable from the same family, but the two differ. While malanga root has a mild sweetness to it, taro is nuttier.

This article discusses everything you need to know about malanga root, including its taste, texture, and nutritional benefits.

<p>sdstockphoto / Getty Images</p>

sdstockphoto / Getty Images

Malanga Root: A Journey Through the Senses

Malanga root has a unique flavor profile and texture compared to more well-known root vegetables, such as carrots. It is often interchanged with taro, although the two do not taste the same nor offer the same health benefits.

Taste

Malanga root is often referred to as "the potato of the tropics" because it is native to tropical places and is as versatile as the staple potato many people keep in their pantries. Unlike typical varieties of potatoes, malanga root is not a nightshade.

While the texture and appearance of malanga root are similar to potatoes, its flavor and odor are not. Malanga has a rich, nutty-like taste with mild sweetness when prepared. The malanga root's taste and fragrance are similar in that it tastes and smells nuttier than other root vegetables it is often confused with.

Texture

Unlike taro, which is soft and slightly slimy, malanga root is firm and dry.

This makes it a versatile option for those looking to expand their culinary experience beyond the potato with something similar in feel and texture but a different flavor profile.

Malanga root also possesses a hairy-like texture when touched, making it more difficult to peel.



Peeling Malanga Root

When peeling Malanga root, you should approach it the same way you would a squash. First, cut off the ends and then the entire vegetable into three smaller parts. Then, you will cut thin slices of the peel off each side of the malanga root until all the peel is gone.



Related: 4 Dietitian-Recommended Tips for a Fast and Nutritious Breakfast

Malanga Benefits and Nutrition Breakdown

Malanga root contains many nutrients the body needs for various functions.

The breakdown of nutrients and how they affect the body is as follows:

Nutritional Profile

What It's Good For

200 calories

Energy for cells

7.24 grams (g) fiber

Bowel health, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels

25.6 milligrams (mg) calcium

Building and maintaining strong bones and heart, muscle, and nerve health

42.6mg magnesium

Muscle, nerve, and bone health, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels

108mg phosphorous

Growth, maintenance, and repair of cells, tissues, and genetic material including DNA and RNA

683mg potassium

Hydration, maintaining fluid in cells, supporting proper blood pressure and muscle contraction



Compounds in Malanga Root that Promote Overall Health

Malanga root contains high levels of carotenoids, which are plant compound pigments that act as antioxidants within the body. Antioxidants help to fight off inflammation.



Related: 6 Essential Vitamins for Skin Health

Should Anyone Not Use Malanga Root?

Malanga root is generally considered safe to consume but should be avoided if a person already has high levels of potassium.

If a person gets too much potassium in their diet or has a health disorder that causes a build-up of the nutrient, consuming too much malanga root can lead to dangerously high levels in the blood, a condition known as hyperkalemia.

Hyperkalemia is a medical emergency if it is not addressed quickly. Symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness and spasms

  • Fatigue

  • Hyperventilation or shortness of breath

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Paralysis

  • Tingling sensations in the body

  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias)

  • Confusion

  • In the worst cases, seizures, coma, and death

How to Prepare Malanga Root

Malanga root should never be consumed raw. There are many ways to prepare the vegetable to your liking. Since they are similar to potatoes, you can cook them through:

  • Boiling

  • Baking

  • Roasting

  • Steaming

  • Mashing (after boiling to soften)

According to research, the ways malanga is prepared traditionally include:

  • Peeling, boiling, and mashing the vegetable with spices or other vegetables

  • Serving it in a soup or stew

  • Peeling, slicing, and frying it in the same way you would make potato fries

Related: How to 'Personalize Your Plate' During National Nutrition Month

Where to Find Malanga

While not every grocer will have malanga root, a lot in the United States do. It has grown in popularity in recent years, and with a higher demand, more stores can stock it on their shelves.

Some grocery establishments and online produce stores that may have malanga root include:

  • Kroger

  • Walmart

  • Central Market

  • Premier Produce One

Summary

Malanga root is a vegetable similar to the potato. It is often confused or interchanged with yuca, but the two are not the same. They offer different nutrients and flavor profiles. People looking to consume malanga root can do so safely, granted they do so in moderation and are not already experiencing high levels of potassium in the blood.

Malanga root should only be consumed after cooking it, and it's as versatile as a potato, so you can use it to make anything from fries to mashed.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.