Arrowroot is a family of starchy, edible tubers native to the Caribbean. Arrowroot powder is made from the dried root of these plants and while it has no taste, is used as a thickening agent in foods. It's an especially common ingredient in healthy recipes because it's vegan, Paleo, and gluten-free.
But before you stock your pantry with arrowroot powder, there are some things to know about it first. Keep reading to see how to use it and find out if it's healthy or not.
How to cook and bake with arrowroot powder
1. It's a good swap for cornstarch. "Arrowroot is a great substitute for cornstarch for people who want to bake but are dealing with a corn allergy," says registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk, RDN. (Or if you're Paleo or otherwise not eating corn.) Cornstarch is generally used to thicken sauces and soften the texture of baked goods; any recipe that calls for cornstarch can usually use arrowroot powder instead, as long as you follow a conversion chart for proper measurements.
2. Use it to enhance baked goods, without adding flavor. Michalczyk says arrowroot powder can be beneficial to use instead of ingredients like coconut flour or almond flour because it provides thickness without altering the taste. It can also be used in addition to those dense alt-flours to help improve the texture of the final baked good.
3. Read the label carefully. Michalczyk says that when buying arrowroot powder online or in stores, you'll often see it referred to as arrowroot flour or arrowroot starch. "These are all the same thing," she explains. What you do need to watch out for though, she says, is that it isn't blended with cornstarch, which some brands do.
4. Use it to make dry shampoo. Arrowroot powder's uses extend beyond the kitchen. It can also be used as a primary ingredient in dry shampoo because it helps absorb excess oil.
Nutritional benefits of arrowroot powder
If you look at the label of a package of arrowroot powder, you'll probably notice a lot of zeroes on there. That's because arrowroot powder really doesn't have a lot of anything in terms of calories, fat, fiber, sugar, or protein. However, it does offer up some benefits:
1. It's typically non-GMO. Because corn is such a big genetically modified crop, it can be easier to find non-GMO arrowroot powder than it is non-GMO cornstarch. Still, be sure to look for a non-GMO label on the packaging to be sure.
2. It might boost the immune system. One study found that the immune systems of mice who consumed arrowroot powder were stimulated compared to those of the mice that didn't consume it. Researchers speculate that this is because the fiber in the arrowroot boosted digestive health—and the majority of the immune system is in the gut.
3. It's antibacterial. If you're feeling sick, consider adding arrowroot powder to your soup for an added layer of support. Researchers have found it to be successful in stopping bacterial growth.
While arrowroot powder isn't exactly a nutrient powerhouse, it does have some health benefits, especially compared to other common thickening agents, like cornstarch. Keep it handy for adding density to baked goods, soups, and sauces.
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