Is cassava syrup healthy?

Cassava syrup has become a popular alternative sweetener in recent years, touted as a healthier option compared to traditional sweeteners like sugar or high fructose corn syrup. But is cassava syrup actually healthy? Let’s take a deeper look at this trendy sweetener.

What is cassava syrup?

Cassava syrup, also known as tapioca syrup or glucose syrup, is made from the root of the cassava plant, which is native to South America. The roots are processed to extract the starch, which is then broken down into glucose molecules. This glucose is concentrated into a sweet, thick syrup.

Cassava syrup goes by many names – tapioca syrup, tapioca sugar, glucose syrup, and sweet sorghum syrup are all essentially the same product. It’s used as a sweetener in many packaged foods and beverages and has become popular with home bakers as well.

Quick answers:

– Cassava syrup is made from the cassava root, which is high in starch. The starch is processed into glucose syrup.

– It’s about half as sweet as sugar but with a similar texture and viscosity, so it can be used as a 1:1 substitute in recipes.

– Cassava syrup is gluten-free, vegan, and generally considered suitable for paleo and keto diets when used in moderation.

– Potential health benefits include low glycemic impact, no blood sugar spikes.

– Potential downsides include minimal nutrients, high glycemic load in large amounts.

Nutritional profile

So what exactly is the nutritional makeup of cassava syrup? Here’s a quick rundown:

Calories and carbohydrates

Cassava syrup contains about 45 calories and 11 grams of carbohydrates (11 grams sugar total) per tablespoon. For comparison, a tablespoon of pure cane sugar contains 49 calories and 12.5 grams carbohydrate (12.5 grams sugar total).

So cassava syrup is slightly lower in both calories and carbs than regular sugar. However, cassava syrup is still very high in carbs and should be used moderately in a balanced diet.

Sugar content

The main sugar in cassava syrup is glucose. Glucose has a glycemic index (GI) of 100, which means it is absorbed quickly and causes a rapid spike in blood sugar.

However, cassava syrup has a glycemic index around 60. The presence of longer glucose chains slows down absorption and prevents the drastic blood sugar spike and crash caused by pure glucose.

Still, cassava syrup should not be considered a “low glycemic” sweetener. In large amounts it can significantly raise blood sugar and insulin levels. Those with diabetes need to be cautious with intake.

Other nutrients

Cassava syrup contains minimal amounts of other nutrients. There are trace amounts of B vitamins, calcium, iron and magnesium, but not in significant quantities.

Unlike sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets, cassava syrup does not contain any minerals like chromium, magnesium, or selenium, nor does it contain antioxidants.

So in terms of vitamins and minerals, cassava syrup is nutrient-void. It provides carbohydrates and calories, but no real nutritional value.

Potential benefits

Cassava syrup has been associated with some potential health benefits:

Lower glycemic impact than sugar

While not exactly “low” glycemic, cassava syrup has a lower glycemic index and glycemic load than regular sugar. This means it does not spike blood glucose levels as drastically.

For those looking to manage blood sugar levels or insulin sensitivity, cassava syrup may be a slightly better option than table sugar. However, it will still raise blood glucose significantly if over-consumed.

May be suitable for some diabetic diets

Related to the lower glycemic impact, some organizations like the American Diabetes Association have said cassava syrup can be used sparingly in diabetic diets as an alternative sweetener to high glycemic sugars.

However, diabetics should still count cassava syrup’s carbohydrates as part of their diet and monitor blood glucose carefully.


Cassava syrup is naturally gluten-free. This makes it a suitable sweetener option for anyone following a gluten-free diet, such as those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.


Cassava syrup is made from a plant source and is not processed using any animal products. This makes it a vegan alternative to honey or other sweeteners that may use animal ingredients.

May be permitted on paleo or keto diets

Some followers of the paleo or keto diet allow small amounts of cassava syrup as it comes from a whole food plant source. But opinions differ, as cassava syrup is still high in sugar and carbohydrates. Those on keto need to account for the carb content.

Potential downsides

While cassava syrup does have some advantages compared to regular sugar, it also has some potential downsides:

High glycemic load in large amounts

Cassava syrup has a moderate glycemic index, but a high glycemic load. This means that while a small serving may not spike blood sugar too drastically, large servings can flood the bloodstream with glucose and stimulate insulin secretion.

Those with diabetes, prediabetes or other blood sugar regulation issues should be cautious with over-consumption of cassava syrup.

Minimal nutrients

Unlike other unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup or molasses, cassava syrup contains very minimal micronutrients. It lacks minerals, antioxidants and vitamins.

So while cassava syrup may be a slightly better choice than plain sugar, it does not offer the same nutritional value as less processed sweeteners.

Easy to over-consume

Cassava syrup has a subtle, neutral flavor. This makes it easy to use in excess without the overpowering sweetness of sugar. Be mindful of portions when substituting cassava syrup in recipes.

Processed food

While made from a whole food plant, cassava goes through extensive processing to extract and concentrate the glucose. Some prefer to avoid highly processed foods when possible.

Not whole food plant-based

For those following a whole food plant-based diet, cassava syrup would not be permitted as it is not a whole food. The starch is extracted and isolated.

May feed gut bacteria linked to obesity

Some research shows that cassava syrup may feed certain gut bacteria that are linked to obesity, when consumed in large amounts. More research is needed to understand this relationship fully.

How it compares to other sweeteners

So how does cassava syrup stack up against some other popular sweeteners? Here’s a quick comparison:

Maple syrup

Cassava syrup Maple syrup
Neutral flavor Robust maple flavor
Highly processed Minimally processed
No nutrients Contains minerals like zinc and manganese
Vegan Vegan
Glycemic index around 60 Glycemic index around 54


Cassava syrup Honey
Vegan Non-vegan
No flavor Floral, nuanced flavor
Glycemic index around 60 Glycemic index around 58
No vitamins or minerals Contains small amounts of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium

Coconut sugar

Cassava syrup Coconut sugar
Neutral flavor Caramel-like flavor
Glycemic index around 60 Glycemic index around 54
No nutrients Some minerals like iron, zinc, potassium
100% glucose 75% sucrose, 25% glucose/fructose

Is cassava syrup keto-friendly?

Cassava syrup is not inherently keto-friendly, since the keto diet restricts carb intake to achieve ketosis. However, some keto dieters do use cassava syrup in small amounts.

The key considerations around cassava syrup and keto include:

High in carbs

Cassava syrup is over 80% carbohydrates by weight. Most keto plans limit net carbs to 25-50 grams per day, so cassava syrup can use up a good chunk of the allotment quickly.

Low glycemic impact

While high in total carbs, cassava syrup does have a lower glycemic index than sugar. This means it impacts blood glucose less drastically. Some keto dieters tolerate it better than plain sugar.

Lack of fiber

Cassava syrup lacks fiber, so all of its carbohydrates are digestible. This gives it a very high glycemic load despite the moderately low glycemic index. Fiber helps blunt blood sugar spikes.

Use sparingly

Some keto eaters use small amounts of cassava syrup as a substitute for sugar to enhance flavors. But it should be counted toward daily net carb allowance. Be careful not to over-consume.

Overall, cassava syrup is not considered keto-friendly, but some do use it in moderation to add sweetness while minimizing blood sugar impact. Strict keto diets would avoid it completely.

Is cassava syrup paleo-friendly?

Cassava syrup’s classification in the paleo diet is somewhat controversial. Here are the key factors around cassava syrup and paleo eating:

Made from paleo-approved cassava root

The cassava plant is native to South America and was around well before modern hybridized crops. Some paleo plans do allow cassava and cassava flour in moderation.

Highly processed

However, paleo diets avoid highly processed foods, as processing removes beneficial nutrients. Cassava syrup production isolates the starch and concentrates the glucose.

Added sugar

Cassava syrup is very high in simple sugars. Paleo diets emphasize whole food sources of carbohydrates like fruits and starchy tubers. Cassava syrup is considered an added sugar.

Lack of nutrients

Processing cassava root into syrup strips away any beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber it naturally contains. Paleo diets prioritize nutrient-dense foods.

Use sparingly

Some paleo followers allow small amounts of cassava syrup as an occasional substitute for honey or maple syrup. But most advise against making it a dietary staple.

In summary, cassava syrup falls into a grey area on the paleo diet. Some allow it, others avoid it due to the high processing and sugar content. Moderation and whole food options are encouraged.

How to substitute cassava syrup in recipes

Cassava syrup can be used as a 1:1 substitute for sugar in most recipes. However, some adjustments may be needed:

Reduce liquid

Cassava syrup is more moist than granulated sugar. Reduce liquids like milk or juices slightly (by 1-2 tablespoons per cup of syrup).

Lower oven temperature

Cassava syrup causes foods to brown faster. Lower oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning.

Allow proper rising time

Cassava syrup is not quite as sweet as sugar. Yeasted doughs and batters may rise slightly slower. Allow a bit more time.

Add vanilla or spices

Cassava syrup has a neutral flavor. Boost with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger for more flavor complexity.

Store properly

Once opened, cassava syrup should be stored in the fridge to prevent mold growth. Use within 6 months.

Start by substituting 1 cup of sugar for 1 cup cassava syrup in most recipes. Make small adjustments to additional liquid, leavening and spices as needed.

Potential side effects

Cassava syrup is generally well-tolerated, but there are some potential side effects to be aware of:

Diarrhea or digestive issues

Some people report looser stools or diarrhea when consuming cassava syrup, likely due to the high glycemic index. Those sensitive to FODMAPs may experience discomfort.

Blood sugar spikes

In doses of more than about 15 grams (1 tablespoon), cassava syrup can cause rapid rises in blood glucose and insulin secretion, especially on an empty stomach.

Weight gain

Cassava syrup is high in easily digestible carbohydrates. Overconsumption can potentially contribute to weight gain over time, similar to sugar.

Allergic reactions

Rarely, some people have allergic reactions to cassava syrup, ranging from mild rashes, hives and itching to anaphylaxis. It contains proteins that can trigger sensitivities.

As with any sweetener, cassava syrup is best consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. Those with diabetes or digestive issues may want to exercise particular caution.


To summarize key points around the health profile of cassava syrup:

– Cassava syrup is a highly processed, concentrated sweetener extracted from the cassava root. It is around half as sweet as sugar.

– It is high in simple carbohydrates like glucose and sucrose but minimal in nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber.

– Cassava syrup has a moderately low glycemic index of around 60, but a very high glycemic load when consumed in larger amounts.

– Potential benefits include subtle sweetness, lack of blood sugar spike when used sparingly, and suitability for some special diets like gluten-free.

– Downsides can include blood sugar instability, minimal nutrition, and possible digestive issues. It may also contribute to weight gain over time.

– Cassava syrup falls into a grey area on diets like paleo and keto. Some allow it in moderation, while others avoid it due to processing and high carb content.

– Cassava syrup can be used cup-for-cup to replace sugar in recipes, though adjustments to liquids, leavening and flavor may be needed.

Overall, cassava syrup is not a “healthy” sweetener per se, but can be an acceptable replacement for sugar in moderation. As with any sweetener, it is best consumed in modest amounts as part of an otherwise nutrient-dense diet, while accounting for its high glycemic load.

Leave a Comment