Taro, a native to south-east Asia and Southern India is a tropical plant that is grown for its edible and starchy root or tuber and also for its leaves that have high nutritional value. It is considered to be one of the earliest cultivated plants and forms the staple food for people in many parts of the world such as Africa and Southern India. Taro is also known by other common names like cocoyam, dasheen, Dalo, colocasia, elephant’s ear, arvi/arbi, kacchalo, kalo, etc.
The heart shaped green taro leaves are used commonly in many Indian dishes. Taro leaves taste similar to spinach but unlike spinach they can be toxic if consumed raw. These leaves contain calcium oxalate that can cause itchiness and swelling in the throat. Soaking the leaves overnight and cooking them can get rid of the toxicity.
Nutritional profile of Taro leaves
Taro leaves are very healthy as they are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It is a good source of protein, dietary fiber and many important vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Niacin, Riboflavin and Folate. Consumption of taro leaves can provide you with good amounts of minerals like Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, and Zinc.
Health benefits of taro leaves
Taro leaves are packed with nutrients and hence its consumption is associated with several health benefits. A few of the benefits of these leaves are outlined below:
Taro leaves boosts your energy
Taro leaves are rich in protein content and hence is an important source of energy. Moreover it contains high amounts of B group vitamins that play a key role in boosting your energy.
Taro leaves may help in weight loss
Taro leaves are low in calories and saturated fat and hence can be considered as an ideal weight loss food. It provides good amounts of dietary fiber that satiates your hunger, making you feeling fuller for long hours.
Read more about benefits of yacon]
Taro leaves improve heart health
Taro leaves are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and is considered to be a heart healthy food. The fiber in these leaves prevent the accumulation of cholesterol in the blood stream while the high level of potassium in them helps in keeping the blood pressure under control.
Taro leaves for digestive health
Taro leaves are easily digestible and they contain dietary fiber, which is essential for proper digestive health and regularity. The fiber increases the bulk of the stool and helps normalize your bowel movements, thus preventing digestive disorders like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Fiber also helps in lowering your chances of developing colon cancer.
Taro leaves are a rich source of vitamin A
Taro leaves contain high levels of vitamin A, which supports many functions of the body including promoting eye health and normal vision, helping in immune function, promoting the growth, development and health of new cells in your body, gene expression, embryonic development and protecting against many serious diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Taro leaves are high in vitamin C
Regular consumption of taro leaves is a great way to get plenty of vitamin C in to your body. This vitamin is a powerful and protective antioxidant that may offer protection against some types of cancers. Vitamin C is essential for the development of healthy connective tissues such as tendons, ligaments and cartilage. It helps in improving your immune system, thus protecting you against common ailments such as flu and cold. Another use of vitamin C is that it speeds up the healing of wounds and injuries. It helps in iron absorption and is also associated with the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters.
[Read more about benefits of kukui nut]
Taro leaves contain vitamin E
Vitamin E is yet another potent antioxidant found in taro leaves that helps in protecting your body against many health problems including atherosclerosis and certain types of cancers. It also ensures support and the proper functioning of various organs in your body such as the lungs, heart, prostate and the digestive system.
Taro leaves contain vitamin B1 or thiamin
Taro leaves are a good source of vitamin B, which is essential for nerve transmission, digestion and metabolism. It also plays an important role in the formation of blood cells.
Taro leaves contain vitamin B2 or riboflavin
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin is another B complex vitamin that is needed for functions such as digestion and metabolism. It is also associated with the health of the eyes and skin.
Taro leaves provide vitamin B3 or niacin
Just like thiamin and riboflavin, niacin also supports the digestion process and metabolism. A major benefit of this vitamin is that it helps in lowering the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and in increasing the good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Niacin also helps in storing fat and in breaking down the stored fat whenever needed.
Taro leaves are a good source of vitamin B6
Consumption of taro leaves can provide you with fair amount of vitamin B6, which is another B group vitamin that is essential for many body functions. In addition to helping with metabolic activities, vitamin B6 is also involved in assisting oxygen transport and in preventing certain kinds of anemia. This vitamin is needed for neurotransmitters and also protects the health of your heart by lowering the homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid, which if present in high levels in the blood may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Taro leaves contain folate
Folate is an important vitamin often prescribed for pregnant ladies, as it is essential for the normal health and development of the fetus. It helps in preventing birth defects such as neural tube defects in the fetus. This vitamin, which is essential for the synthesis of DNA, is also found to be beneficial in preventing certain types of cancers such as rectal cancer and colon cancer. It can help in reducing the homocysteine levels in the blood, thus preventing heart diseases and stroke.
Taro leaves and calcium content
Taro leaves are a good source of calcium, a mineral that plays a key role in maintaining healthy and strong bones and teeth. It is also associated several other bodily processes such as nerve functions, contraction of muscles, release of hormones and blood clotting.
Did you know? Ragi or finger millets contain highest calcium amongst cereals. Read more about ragi benefits.
Taro leaves provides good amount of potassium
Potassium is an important mineral that is needed by your body to function properly. It helps in breaking down and absorbing carbohydrates, building muscles, maintaining proper acid-base balance, controlling the electrical activity of your heart and in maintaining the normal growth and development of your body. Potassium is important for maintaining the electrolyte and fluid balance in the body. Taro leaves are a good source of potassium and hence the regular consumption of this vegetable can supply your body with adequate amounts of this mineral.
Taro leaves contain copper
Copper is essential for human beings, as it is needed for normal metabolic processes. It is important for respiration, helps with the transport of oxygen and also assists in the proper absorption and utilization of fat and iron stores. Since the body cannot synthesize this mineral, it is important that it is important to consume a diet that ensures a supply of copper. Eating taro leaves is a good way to get good amounts of copper into your body.
Taro leaves contains iron
Iron is an indispensible mineral to human beings because it plays a vital role in the formation of red blood cells and in the transport of oxygen to the different parts of your body. Eating foods rich in iron, such as taro leaves is therefore important as a deficiency of iron can lead to anemia, tiredness and fatigue.
Taro leaves contain magnesium
Magnesium is associated with hundreds of biochemical processes in the body. Some of the major functions of this mineral include protein synthesis, maintaining a healthy immune system, muscle and nerve function, maintaining strong and healthy bones, blood glucose control, energy production and blood pressure regulation. Regular intake of taro leaves helps in providing your body with a supply of magnesium.
Taro leaves provide manganese
Although manganese is required only in small amounts, it is highly essential to maintain the proper functioning of the body. It plays a vital role in the formation of connective tissues, bones, and sex hormones. It is also involved in the absorption of calcium, metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, functioning of brain and nerves and regulation of blood sugar levels. Eating taro leaves can help you meet your manganese requirements. Manganese is also beneficial in treating conditions like premenstrual syndrome, osteoporosis, and arthritis.
Taro leaves contain zinc
Zinc, yet another mineral found in taro leaves is also highly essential for the human body in many ways. It helps in maintaining a healthy immune system and is required for the growth and development of the body. It is necessary for the synthesis of DNA and for promoting wound healing.
Taro leaves are rich in antioxidants
Taro leaves contain high amounts of carotenoids and phenolic compounds that have powerful antioxidant properties. They help in fighting off the free radicals and protect the cells from oxidative stress and damage, thus preventing many serious diseases like cancer and heart diseases.
Taro leaves are highly nutritious and contains a wide range of micronutrients in huge quantities. From the list of health benefits explained above, it is clear that including taro leaves in your diet is definitely a healthy choice that can improve your overall health and wellness.
[Read about benefits of tamarind]
Culinary uses of taro leaves
Stuffed rolls of Taro leaves are popular in south and west parts of India. Stuffing made from chickpea paste, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, tamarind and turmeric is used and the rolls are steamed and shallow fried. These are known as Alu wadi or alu patra or Chamaku Potlalu. They taste great with ketchup and sauce. You would like to read this illustrative recipe of aluwadi.
Palusami is a traditional dish made from taro leaves and coconut cream. It is popular in Pacific islands like Fiji and Samoa and New Zealand. You may like to check this healthy vegetarian Palusami recipe from Heart Foundation, NZ.Image Credits: Wikimedia, Veg Recipes of India