Are Arrowroot and Tapioca Flours Paleo? | The Paleo Diet®
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Are Arrowroot and Tapioca Flours Paleo?

By Irene Jay, Lifestyle Writer
November 19, 2021
Michelle Lee Photography/ Shutterstock.com
Michelle Lee Photography/ Shutterstock.com

Reviewed by Dr. Mark J. Smith on November 18, 2021.

Do you enjoy baking? While you probably know that almond flour and coconut flour are Paleo-friendly in small amounts, there are a few other types of gluten-free flours that are a source of debate in the health sphere.

Arrowroot and tapioca flours are gluten-free, grain-free flour substitutes, but they aren’t the same. To set the record straight, arrowroot flour and powders are Paleo-approved, but tapioca flour is not.

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two, and what you need to know.

Why isn’t tapioca flour Paleo?

Tapioca flour is a starch made from the roots of the cassava plant—but it isn’t exactly nutrient dense.

A ¼ cup serving renders approximately 26 grams of carbohydrates, with no other macronutrients to contribute to its makeup. (1) The domestication of the cassava plant occurred less than 10,000 years ago—a more recent dietary addition to humans than that of our Paleolithic ancestors—making it a less-than-ideal ingredient to add into your diet. (2)

Raw cassava starch also contains anti-nutrients that are potentially toxic to humans in high concentrations. The process that turns the cassava plant to tapioca flour, including boiling, soaking, fermenting, and drying, may reduce these toxic compounds but not enough to eliminate them completely. (3-4)

Tapioca starch also has a high glycemic load. We recommend that you consume tapioca sparingly, as part of the 15 percent of your diet when following the 85/15 rule.

Why is arrowroot flour Paleo?

Fortunately, arrowroot flour is a great alternative to tapioca. Arrowroot is native to the Amazon rainforest, and is a great thickening agent to use in gluten-free recipes such as puddings, sauces, and baked goods.

Arrowroot was domesticated only 7,000 years ago—another newbie dietary addition for humans. (5) However, it's low on the glycemic index and high in nutrients, making it a healthy food that we approve.

For a quick nutritional breakdown, arrowroot is low in calories at only 65kcal per 100g, and is high in vitamins and minerals like folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium. It is also rich in prebiotic fiber and boasts a low level of sodium—enough to balance the potassium to sodium ratio. (6-7)

While arrowroot may not date back as far as our Paleolithic ancestors, it has a strong nutritional profile that we approve as part of a healthful Paleo diet.

How to use arrowroot flour

If you want to use arrowroot flour in place of wheat flour, there are a few things you should know.

To use it as a thickening agent, arrowroot flour needs to be whisked with cold water or dairy-free milk to make it a smooth slurry, which can be added right to soups or stews. Be sure to add it at the end of the cooking, right before serving, to reduce too much heat exposure.

When baking, arrowroot flour can be used with Paleo-friendly flours such as coconut or almond flour, or by itself. When used alone, the substitution for arrowroot flour is 1 teaspoon arrowroot flour = 1 tablespoon wheat flour.

Paleo recipes with arrowroot flour

Are Arrowroot and Tapioca Flours Paleo? image

Want to start using arrowroot flour in your kitchen? Grab a bag of arrowroot flour at the store and get going on these tasty recipes:

The rundown

Arrowroot flour is Paleo, but tapioca flour is not. Since tapioca flour is high in anti-nutrients, it’s best to use it only sparingly. Fortunately, arrowroot flour is just as easy to use and is superior in its nutritional breakdown.

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References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/diet/tapioca-health-benefits-nutrition-uses#1
  2. Olsen KM, Schaal BA. Evidence on the origin of cassava: phylogeography of Manihot esculenta. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 1999 May 11;96(10):5586-91.
  3. Chavarriaga-Aguirre P, Brand A, Medina A, Prías M, Escobar R, Martinez J, Díaz P, López C, Roca WM, Tohme J. The potential of using biotechnology to improve cassava: a review. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Plant. 2016;52(5):461-478
  4. Adamolekun B. Neurological disorders associated with cassava diet: a review of putative etiological mechanisms. Metabolic Brain Disease. March 2011, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 79–85
  5. Piperno DR. The origins of plant cultivation and domestication in the New World tropics: patterns, process, and new developments. Current Anthropology. 2011 Aug 4;52(S4): S453-70.
  6. Marsono Y. Glycemic index of selected Indonesian starchy foods. Indonesian Food and Nutrition Progress. 2001; 8:15-20.
  7. Nutritionist Pro Software. https://www.nutritionistpro.com/

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