Friday, March 31

Nyambeh Nyebbeh:lower risk of belly fat, obesity?

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By Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

One interesting thing as a medical writer and a Professor of Naturopathy I found in  Gambian cuisines is that cassava is mostly consumed or possibly highly revered. Most  Gambian dishes have cassava as their base ingredient.  One interesting diet I chanced on is Nyambeh Nyebbeh; which literally means cassava and beans and is mostly eaten as dinner. In preparing this food,one needs three different pots: one pot for the cassava, another for the beans, and another for the stew. In this article, my focus is on the first pot as the main ingredient; cassava and beans.  What is the scientific justification for eating this food? I explore in this article the health benefits of eating Nyambeh Nyebbeh.


Nutritional Profile of Cassava

The fact is that traditionally made Gambian Nyambeh Nyebbeh can have cassava levels as high as 90%.  What do you get from eating the cassava in Nyambeh Nyebbeh?  One study answered this question: Hussein et al.(2012)  found that Cassava contained the following: Protein  0.35-2.45%, ash (0.15-1.50%), fat (0.12-0.61%), fiber (0.01- 0.20%), carbohydrate (81.81-90.37%) and dry matter (81.792.69%).

According to, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked cassava root contains 191 calories. This means that 84% comes from carbs, while the rest comes from protein and fat. Additionally, one serving also provides some fiber and a few vitamins and minerals.

I provide a summary of the following nutrients present in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cooked cassava according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (2020):

330 calories
78.4 grams of carbohydrates
2.8 grams of protein
0.6 gram fat
3.7 grams fiber
42.4 milligrams vitamin C (71 percent Daily Value)
0.8 milligram manganese (40 percent DV)
558 milligrams potassium (16 percent DV)
55.6 micrograms folate (14 percent DV)
0.2 milligram thiamine (12 percent DV)
43.3 milligrams magnesium (11 percent DV)
0.2 milligram copper (10 percent DV)
1.8 milligrams niacin (9 percent DV)
0.2 milligram vitamin B6 (9 percent DV)
0.1 milligram riboflavin (6 percent DV)
55.6 milligrams phosphorus (6 percent DV)
3.9 micrograms vitamin K (5 percent DV)
0.7 milligram zinc (5 percent DV)

A recent study by Abdullah et al.(2022) is in agreement and found that Cassava root is mainly high in vitamin C, an important vitamin that acts as an antioxidant, supports collagen production, and enhances immunity, among other benefits. The National Health Institute (2021) also found that cassava is rich in copper, a mineral necessary for neurotransmitter synthesis, energy production, iron metabolism, and more.

Glycemic Index, Nyambeh Nyebbeh.

Interestingly in the Gambia, no studies have been conducted on the glycemic index of Nyambeh Nyebbeh. However, because cassava is the base ingredient, I will examine this base cassava diet’s glycemic index.   GI  is a classification of food based on the blood glucose response to a food relative to a standard glucose solution.  Low glycemic foods control the release of glucose into the bloodstream at a steady and sustained rate, keeping the body’s metabolic processes and energy levels balanced.

People with low glycemic diets or [who]eat low glycemic foods are said to have a lower risk of getting coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These food items that have low GI would benefit those who are already suffering from diabetes since these would help in the proper control and management of blood sugar.

This means that, as a low-GI food, eating cassava related diet such as Nyambeh Nyebbeh can also help improve physical endurance because blood glucose levels are moderated instead of dropping when insulin is produced. Low-GI foods also may help control triglyceride and other lipid levels in your blood. Cassava has even been called a “weight loss wonder food” due to its ability to decrease appetite and decrease fat storage in fat cells ( Kresser, 2014).

The writer

The Healthy Home Economist (2016) also calls cassava-resistant starch “the healthiest starch for your gut:” what does this mean to our health? They had this to say:

“Resistant starch is a type of starch that does not break down (it literally “resists” digestion), instead of being absorbed as glucose like most starches. Instead, resistant starch travels through the small intestine to the colon where it is turned into beneficial, energy-boosting, inflammation-squashing, and short-chain fatty acids by intestinal bacteria. The main reason why resistant starch is so beneficial is that it feeds the friendly bacteria in your colon, turns them into important short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate (known to help reduce inflammation), and is extremely helpful in cases of autoimmunity, IBS, colitis, and allergies.

The Authority Nutrition (2016) also explains:

“Most of the carbohydrates in the cassava diet are starches. Starches are long chains of glucose that are found in grains, potatoes, and various foods. But not all of the starch we eat gets digested. Sometimes a small part of it passes through the digestive tract unchanged. In other words, it is resistant to digestion”.

A previous study by Topping et al, (2003)  also explained that resistant starch can be very beneficial. As it feeds beneficial gut bacteria, it can reduce inflammation as well as harmful bacteria. It may also lower your blood glucose level after meals (Diabetes Care, 2006), improve insulin sensitivity (Robertson et al. 2005), help manage metabolic syndrome (Bodinham et al, 2010), and possibly help you eat less(Raben et al,1994). From this analysis, just imagine what eating your local cassava-related diet Nyambeh Nyebbeh could do to your health.

Cassava in Nyambeh Nyebbeh, the Science

Digestive and colon health

One study by Marandola et al.(2004) found that Cassava may also, by a different mechanism, be protective against cancer because it contains a chemical called tamarin which is responsible for the production of hydrocyanide. This tamarin has been shown in vitro to cause the death of cancer cells by self-toxicity with hydrocyanide. Another study by Tsumbu et al.(2011) found that Cassava Leaves and roots show promise against colon cancer. Irabor (2011) found that the low colon cancer in Nigeria could be due to the consumption of resistant starch foods such as cassava related.  So eating Nyambeh Nyebbeh may help you reduce your colon cancer risk.

Cassava and Prostate Cancer?

Two case studies were reported by Abeygunasekera and Palliyaguruge(2013) which found that patients with hormone-resistant prostate cancer whose serum PSA level continued to rise despite consumption of large quantities of boiled roots of cassava indicating its ineffectiveness in controlling prostate cancer. Though they recognized that this is a single case, it guides healthcare workers who look after patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer in the absence of more comprehensive research on cassava and its effectiveness on prostate cancer. Take note that this case report was based on patients with hormone-resistant prostate cancer.

This means that the science is not strong to back the claim that cassava cures prostate cancer. Besides, the claim that linked this to the Vitamin B-17 content is not strong enough and could worsen your prostate cancer outlook.

Promotes Wound Healing

According to, Cassava is loaded with vitamin C, with 20% of the Daily Value in each 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving.  Other studies found that cassava provides about 50% of the daily vitamin C needed for most adults.

Vitamin C plays a key role in many aspects of health, including immunity. Carr and Maggini(2017) study found that vitamin C can help protect against oxidative stress and support the function of immune cells in your body.

Reduce Blood Pressure

Compare to potatoes, cassava is exceptionally high in potassium. A cup of cassava has 558 milligrams, providing 16% to 21% of the daily recommendation, which ranges between 2600–3400 milligrams per day depending on age and sex.

Filippini et al.(2020) study found that Potassium lowers blood pressure levels and can help balance out sodium intake which raises blood pressure. Choosing a cassava-based side dish such as Nyambeh Nyebbeh instead of a grain-based one boosts the potassium intake of your meal.

Cassava is rich in flavonoids and fiber that can protect against the development of metabolic syndrome and its associated complications. This claim is especially true when cassava replaces wheat as a staple food(Nwose et al.2017).

Weight Management

One may be mistaken for thinking that due to the high calories in cassava, it may not be appropriate for weight management. However, don’t forget that cassava provides fiber and resistant starch that promotes healthy gut bacteria.

This has been confirmed by Hiel et al.(2019) who found that the fiber from root vegetables reduces cravings for salty, sweet, and high-fat foods. The fiber in cassava also positively impacts the gut microbiome, promoting feelings of satiety.

Negative Aspect

High calories

U.S. Department of Agriculture (2020) found that Cassava contains 191 calories per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is high compared with other root vegetables. If one juxtaposes the same institution’s work, you will notice that sweet potatoes have 90 calories, while the same amount of carrots has 35 calories. The high-calorie amount is what makes it a significant main crop in several countries. Be warned that eating too many calories than you burn can add to your weight gain( Osilla et al. 2021).


Two studies (Zidenga et al.2017; Cressey andReeve 2019) found that raw cassava contains chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides.  Hence, if one consumes it raw, it is likely to release cyanide into the body.

Hence, two studies( Tshala-Katumbayet al. 2016; Alitubeera et al. 2019) affirmed that eating raw cassava on daily basis is likely to increase cyanogenic glycosides or cyanide poisoning.  They further had this to say: “Cyanide poisoning is associated with impaired thyroid and nerve function, paralysis, organ damage, and even death.”

This notwithstanding, Odoemelam et al.(2020) study explains that because protein helps rid the body of cyanide, those with poor nutritional content and low protein faced these challenges.  

However, these effects can be mitigated by Soaking and cooking cassava.  Additionally, we can also mitigate this by infusing cassava with other diets found to contain high protein (Alitubeera  et al. 2017; Odoemelam et al. 2020). This is what makes Nyambeh Nyebbeh stand out as a superfood as it is eaten with beans.

The processing affects the nutritional Profile

Another interesting thing is that the nutritional profile of cassava can be affected by processing such as peeling, chopping, and cooking.  However, a study by Julie et al.(2009) found that though cooking affects the nutritional content, cooking cassava before consumption is important to avoid side effects.

Julie et al. (2009) additionally found that boiling cassava root still retains more nutrients, compared with other cooking methods like roasting or frying. The exception is vitamin C, which is sensitive to heat and easily leaches into the water.

This means that our traditional processing forms of cassava diet such as Nyambeh Nyebbeh are likely to reduce their nutritional value. Additionally, cooking is still a less processed technique to provide nutritional value.

Beans in Nyambeh Nyebbeh.

Black-eyed peas, science

Weight loss

Black-eyed peas are loaded with protein and soluble fiber,  which means eating Nyambeh Nyebbeh supports weight loss.  Two studies  (Bloom et al.2006;  Lomenick et al.2009 ) found that the Protein in Nyabeh Nyebbeh reduces levels of ghrelin, a hormone that’s responsible for stimulating feelings of hunger.

On the other hand, as a soluble fiber, Lattimer and Haub’s (2010) study found that this fiber is a type of fiber that forms a gel-like consistency and goes into your digestive tract slowly to make you full. This account for why most people like eating beans to keep them for the day. Eating beans, therefore, helps to manage your weight. 

For instance, one large study of 1,475 people, by Papanikolaou and Fulgoni(2008) found that people who ate beans frequently had a 23% lower risk of increased belly fat and a 22% lower risk of obesity, compared with non-consumers.

Another, Kim et al.(2016) review of 21 studies found that consuming black-eyed peas, in your diet(Nyambeh Nyebbeh) could be an effective weight loss strategy and may help reduce body fat percentage.

Digestive Health

As a soluble fiber food, black-eyed peas support digestive health. Interestingly, one meta-analysis by Yang et al.(2012) demonstrates that when we eat more beans diet, the soluble fiber can help promote regularity and increase stool frequency in those with constipation.

Anderson et al.(2009) also found that the fiber in beans may avert digestive disorders, such as acid reflux, hemorrhoids, and stomach ulcers. Another good news is that one study by Carlson et al.(2019) found that the soluble fiber found in black-eyed peas and other plants can also act as a prebiotic, which helps the growth of the beneficial bacteria in our gut to help foster a healthy microbiome.

Kechagia et al.(2013) found that these beneficial bacteria go beyond our digestive health support but also reduce inflammation, enhance immune function, and reduce cholesterol levels.

Heart Health

Eating beans related to diet(Nyambeh Nyebbeh) also reduces your risk of heart disease. Bazzano  et al.(2009) review of 10 studies, found that frequent eating of legumes was linked to lower levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, these two could add to heart disease.

Alizadeh et al.(2014)  study on 42 women found that when we eat a low-calorie diet enriched with 1 cup of legumes per day for 6 weeks drastically decreased waist circumference and triglyceride and blood pressure levels, juxtaposed with a control group. Three studies(Esmaillzadeh and Azadbakht, 2012; Hosseinpour-Niazi et al. 2015; Golia et al. 2014) found that frequent consumption of legumes is linked to lower markers of inflammation, and therefore reduces your risk of heart disease.

Take Home

From the reviews, there are many benefits in eating your local cassava-related diet in combination with beans and other locally sourced ingredients used in Nyambeh Nyebbeh. Finally, assess your needs first and understand how your body responds to diet. There is no one size fits all approach to diet.


Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups.  My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, and a science writer. President, Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. Currently BL Candidate at the Gambia Law School, Banjul. E. mail: + 2207452652(for more information)