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Arrowroot nutrition facts

Arrowroot is a starch rich, creeping underground rhizome belonging to the Marantaceae family plants. It is widely cultivated in the Philippines, Caribbean islands, and South America for its fine, easily digestible edible starch rich tubers.

Some of the common names are West-Indian arrowroot, uraro (in Philippines), arruruz, araru, cara maco, sagu, yuquill etc.

Scientific Name: Maranta arundinacea. Its powder is one of nature's finest carbohydrates. Its qualities such as easily digestible and ability to mix well with a wide range of food ingredients makes it as one of the most sought-after starch substance in infant formulas and confectionaries.

arrowroot powder
Arrowroot powder.

Arrowroot is native to South America; probably originated in the lowlands of western Brazil. The plant is a small perennial herb, growing to the length of 3 to 5 feet with turmeric-like broad, flat, ovate shaped leaves. Tiny, white flowers in pairs appear all along the long pedicle about 90 days after planting.

The root is actually an underground, small, cylindrical shaped cream-white/light red tuber, covered with thin surface scales. The tubers can be ready for harvesting after about 10-12 months of planting. Each root weighs about 30 to 50 g.

Arrowroot are in general employed to obtain starch and may yield about 12-15% of starch by dry weight. Arrowroot powder is fine, clear white, and odorless used as a thickening agent in food industries.

Health benefits of arrowroot

  • Arrowroot is very low in calories; 100 fresh roots carries just 65 calories; less than that of potato, yam, cassava, etc. Its chief starch compose of amylopectin (80%) and amylose (20%). Its powder is fine, odorless, granular starch that is found utility in the food industry as thickener and stabilizing agent.

  • It has relatively more protein than that of other tropical food sources like yam, potato, cassava, plantains, etc.

  • As in other roots and tubers, arrowroot too is free from gluten. Gluten-free starch is used in special food preparations for celiac disease patients.

  • Fresh roots indeed are good source of folates. 100 g arrowroot provides 338 µg or 84% of daily required levels of folates. Folate, along with vitamin B-12, is one of the essential components that take part in the DNA synthesis and cell division. Diet rich in folate when given during preconception periods and during pregnancy may help prevent neural-tube defects and other congenital malformations in the offspring.

  • Arrowroot contains very good levels of B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and riboflavin. Many of these vitamins take part as substrates for enzymes in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism in the body.

  • Further, it contains moderate levels of some important minerals like copper, iron, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, it is an excellent source of potassium (454 mg per 100g or 10% of RDA). Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

Selection and storage

Commercial arrowroot is available in the form of its powder (flour) and is generally intended to use as stabilizer/thickener in the food industries. When added to boiled water, it turns into thin, translucent, odorless jelly. The root itself however, has found no or minimal use in cooking.

Fresh tender arrowroot can be eaten raw and in cooking as you may use it in a way like any other tubers. However, mature roots are exceedingly fibrous and thus, less appetizing.

If you intend to buy the arrowroot flour, look for branded product displaying authenticity, quality, and pureness. Adulteration with cheap substances such as cornstarch, potato powder, tapioca, etc., is a common practice. Do not buy loose/opened packs.

Once at home, store the pack in cool dry place away from moisture and direct sunlight. Do not refrigerate.

Preparation and serving methods

To prepare arrowroot powder, fine quality tender roots are selected. Wash them thoroughly in cold water. Scrape or peel its outer layer. Beat the tubers in mortar until they become single pulp and release milk, which is then sieved using a cheesecloth. The milk obtained thus is then dried under sunlight to obtain fine, white arrowroot powder.

In general, arrowroot flour is added as thickener, colloidal stabilizer, binding agent in liquid-based recipes. It has several advantages over other starch flours. It mixes well in low temperature cooking and gives uniform viscosity to the recipes it added to. It has a neutral taste, prevents dextrinization (breaking carbohydrates to dextrins), and can be added to acidic-based recipes. However, it will not get along well with dairy-based recipes as it turns them slimy. One tablespoonful of flour is enough to thicken one cup of liquid.

Here are some serving tips:

oatmeal-almond cookies using arrowroot flour
Oatmeal almond butter cookies with added arrowroot flour.
Photo courtesy: Salwa's

  • Arrowroot flour is employed in confectionaries as a thickening agent to make cakes, gels, mousse; and in kitchens to prepare soups, sauce, dressings, gravy, etc.

  • Mix its flour to give perfect shapes to biscuits, cookies, and pastries while reducing the amount of cholesterol rich solid fats (trans-fats).

Safety profile

Arrowroot is relatively safe for human consumption. It is gluten free. Its powder may be added in baby foods and infant formulas. (Medical disclaimer).

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Further Resources:

1. USDA National Nutrient Database. (opens new window)

2. Maranta arundinacea L. (Link opens in new window).

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