Beyond its usefulness in cooking and baking, arrowroot is highly nutritious and linked to a variety of potential health benefits.
What is Arrowroot Powder?
Arrowroot comes from the rhizomes, or underground stem, of the arrowroot plant (Maranta arundinacea). Native to South America, this herbaceous plant can grow up to 6 feet tall and produces small white flowers.
To make the powder, the rhizomes are first washed and peeled. Then, the roots are pounded into a pulp and strained to separate out the starch. This starchy liquid is dried in the sun until it turns into a fine, white powder known as arrowroot flour or starch.
Arrowroot has been cultivated for over 7,000 years. Indigenous people in Central America traditionally used the starchy tubers as a staple food source. The name may originate from aru-aru, meaning "meal of meals" in the language of Caribbean Arawak people.
Nutrition Profile of Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is high in carbohydrates yet low in calories and fat. A 1-cup serving (120 grams) provides:
- 78 calories
- 0 grams fat
- 16 grams carbs
- 5 grams protein
- 2 grams fiber
Arrowroot is a rich source of essential nutrients:
- High in folate - provides over 100% of the Daily Value per serving. Folate is vital for pregnant women and developing babies.
- Good source of phosphorus and iron - important for energy production and preventing anemia.
- Contains potassium, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins.
Compared to other tubers, arrowroot has more protein and is easier to digest. The nutritional value remains relatively stable during cooking and processing.
Key Takeaway: Arrowroot is a gluten-free, low-calorie source of carbohydrates, protein, folate, iron, and other vitamins and minerals. It's more nutrient-dense than many other tubers.
Health Benefits of Arrowroot Powder
Research suggests arrowroot powder may offer various benefits:
1. Supports Digestive Health
Arrowroot contains a type of fiber known as resistant starch, which resists digestion in the small intestine.
As an insoluble fiber, resistant starch adds bulk to stool and promotes regular bowel movements. It also acts as a prebiotic to feed beneficial bacteria in the colon.
Studies show resistant starch may help relieve constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The high folate content of arrowroot further aids digestion.
Folate helps metabolize nutrients and produce new proteins, DNA, and red blood cells. Deficiency can lead to digestive disorders like celiac disease.
2. Helps Manage Blood Sugar
The resistant starch and fiber in arrowroot can slow digestion, preventing sharp spikes in blood sugar after eating.
In a 2017 study, boiled arrowroot was found to have a low glycemic index of just 14, meaning it has minimal impact on blood glucose levels.
Consuming arrowroot powder may benefit those with diabetes or insulin resistance. More research is needed on its long-term effects.
3. Promotes Weight Loss
Due to its high fiber and resistant starch contents, arrowroot powder is very filling.
Replacing some refined flour with arrowroot in recipes can increase satiety after meals. This may decrease overall calorie intake and prevent overeating.
One study in adults found that consuming resistant starch led to reduced food intake and appetite. More research is needed specifically on arrowroot.
4. Provides Gluten-Free Alternative
Arrowroot powder gives structure and texture to baked goods without any gluten. This makes it an excellent choice for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
It can replace wheat flour in recipes for breads, cookies, muffins, and more. Arrowroot even improves the mouthfeel of gluten-free foods.
5. Boosts Immunity
Arrowroot is a source of prebiotics - plant fibers that feed probiotics in the gut. Maintaining healthy gut flora is key for a strong immune system.
One study in rats found that adding arrowroot to their diet increased blood antibodies that fight infection. The prebiotic effect of arrowroot's resistant starch may support immunity.
How to Use Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot starch has many culinary applications as a thickener, binder, and gluten-free flour:
- Use it to thicken sauces, gravies, soups, and stews. It creates a clear, glossy texture.
- Add it to desserts like puddings, custards, fruit fillings, and ice cream.
- Combine it with other gluten-free flours in baking recipes. Replace up to 1/4 of the wheat flour.
- Make a crispy breading for meats or tofu by coating them in arrowroot before pan-frying.
- Try using arrowroot instead of cornstarch in recipes. They work similarly as thickeners.
- Mix arrowroot powder with baking soda and essential oils to create natural deodorant.
For thickening, use about 1 tablespoon of arrowroot per 1 cup of liquid. It's best to create a slurry first by mixing the powder with a small amount of cold water before adding to recipes.
Key Takeaway: Arrowroot powder acts as a thickener, binding agent, and replacement for wheat flour in cooking. It improves texture and moisture in gluten-free baked goods.
Selecting and Storing Arrowroot
When purchasing arrowroot powder, choose organic brands to avoid GMOs and pesticides. Read the label to ensure it contains only 100% pure arrowroot starch with no additives.
Store arrowroot in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat. Kept dry, it will last for several years without spoiling. Refrigeration is not necessary.
Are there any Side Effects?
Arrowroot powder is unlikely to cause side effects in most people. Since it is gluten-free and low in FODMAPs, it is generally well tolerated.
Consuming very high amounts may potentially lead to digestive issues like gas or bloating. As with any new food, introduce arrowroot slowly to watch for any individual sensitivities.
Is arrowroot healthier than cornstarch?
Both arrowroot and cornstarch work well for thickening liquids. Arrowroot contains more protein and nutrients like potassium, folate, and B vitamins. It also provides prebiotic fiber and resistant starch. Cornstarch is highly refined and contains minimal nutrients.
What's the difference between arrowroot and tapioca?
Arrowroot and tapioca are both extracted from tropical tubers and used as substitutes for wheat flour. Tapioca comes from the cassava root, while arrowroot is from the arrowroot plant. Tapioca contains more calories and carbs than arrowroot per serving. Both can be used in gluten-free baking, but arrowroot withstands acidic ingredients and freezing better.
Can you eat arrowroot raw?
Yes, the fresh arrowroot tubers are edible raw. However, the powdered starch needs to be cooked or baked to utilize its thickening properties properly. Arrowroot powder can taste chalky raw and may cause digestive issues.
Arrowroot is a highly versatile and nutrient-packed gluten-free powder with many culinary uses. It works well as a thickener, binding agent, and flour substitute in recipes.
Research shows arrowroot may benefit digestion, blood sugar control, weight loss, and immunity due to its starch, protein, and nutrient contents. The powder is generally well tolerated with minimal side effects.
Try incorporating arrowroot powder into your recipes to take advantage of its health perks and delicious thickening powers. Just a spoonful can lend a silkier texture to sauces, gravies, baked goods, and more.