Does drinking garri (cassava flakes) affect the eyes?

Despite its widespread consumption as a primary food source during times of economic crisis, health experts caution that drinking poorly produced garri can lead to vision loss. Why? Learn more from this article.

Garri, an African staple food also called cassava flakes packed in small air-tight leather bags

Key takeaways

  • Garri can affect the eyes, leading to vision impairment if it is improperly processed. Ensure to soak, ferment, and dry cassava during processing to reduce the cyanide content and make garri safer for drinking.
  • Aside from soaking and drinking, other healthier ways to consume garri include consuming it as garri fufu, garri smoothies, and garri pancakes. 
  • Always consult a registered dietician before making garri an important part of your daily diet. 

Garri is an essential dietary component in many West African nations like Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Cameroon, Mozambique, and Liberia. It is derived from processed cassava. Also known as "cassava flakes," many people consider garri a treasure because it contains high fiber and can provide a sense of fullness after consumption.  

In Nigeria, particularly, garri has become a huge aspect of the culture; you can find it on the shelves of nearly every household. Its versatility allows for various forms of consumption, such as drinking, soaking, snacking, or even transforming it into a full-fledged meal. 

Despite its popularity as a staple food, there has been some concern about the effect of garri on the eyes. What is the effect of garri in the body? This piece answers all your questions, including how to eliminate the potentially harmful cyanide in garri and how to know poorly processed garri. Keep reading to find out. 

What is garri?

Garri, also called cassava flakes, is a staple food made from freshly harvested cassava tubers. It comes in two colors — yellow and white. While both yellow and white garri offer nutritional benefits, the yellow type does have some distinct advantages because it contains antioxidants and vitamin E. The presence of antioxidants in yellow garri plays a crucial role in combating harmful toxins, including cyanide. 

The production of garri involves peeling, washing, grating, or crushing cassava tubers to make a mash. After the cassava mash is mixed with palm oil, it is placed in a porous bag and put in an adjustable press machine for dewatering; this process lasts about 1-3 hours. Once it dries, the mash is sieved and roasted in a clay frying pot. Depending on your preferred color, you can fry the mash with or without palm oil. 

Does drinking garri cause eye problems?

Health experts don’t consider drinking garri harmful to the eyes. But drinking poorly processed garri can affect the eyes and may lead to loss of vision.

No scientific evidence proves the effect of garri on the eyes. However, it is important to note that cassava, the root crop which garri is made from, contains cyanogenic glycosides that can lead to cyanide poisoning if not appropriately processed.  

How garri can affect the eyes

An older case study published on Clinical Toxicology indicates that cyanide poisoning may lead to visual loss. This means that repeatedly drinking garri that is poorly produced can minimize the oxygen supply to your eyes, leading to eye problems that can worsen over time. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should soak, dry, and scrape cassava tubers to make them safe for human consumption.

More studies need to be conducted to find out more about the effects of garri on the eyes and overall health. 

How to process garri to avoid eye problems

Processing garri is essential because it helps to eliminate toxicity, improve garri flavor, and extend the garri's shelf life. Here is a step-by-step guide for processing garri to prevent eye-related problems:

Step 1: Find cassava tubers

Garri-making process always begins with sourcing the right kind of cassava. You can source cassava in two ways – planting and harvesting after 12–18 months or purchasing directly from suppliers in local markets or online grocery stores.

Step 2:  Peel and wash

Peeling and washing help you to remove any dirt or debris that may be present on the cassava tubers. For small-scale production, you would need a knife to peel the back of the cassava. Then, wash the cassava tubers thoroughly by hand and with a lot of water. This helps to remove any dirt or debris that may be present on the tubers.

You can adopt specialized machines such as the dry sieve, paddle washer, and cassava peeling machine for large-scale production. These machines enable a more efficient and effective washing and peeling process.

Step 3: Cut and soak

Here, you cut the cassava tubers into small to medium sizes and soak them in water for some days (1 to 2 days). Soaking the cassava tubers softens them and makes them easier to grate. 

Step 4: Grate

It is best to use a mechanical cassava grater to crush your cassava tubers. That way, you can save time and labor. The pulp obtained after grating the cassava will be used to make the garri. 

Step 5: Ferment

Transfer the grated pulp to a bag and allow it to ferment for at least 2 to 3 days. The fermentation stage is usually the most important because that is the time to reduce the cyanide content in the cassava pulp as well as boost the taste. 

Step 6: Dewater

Once you are through fermenting the cassava, the next step is to extract excess water from the cassava pulp using manual or mechanical pressing methods.

Step 7: Fry

Finally, place your dewatered cassava in a large pot and stir constantly to fry. Ensure that the heat is as high as possible while frying. After frying,  sieve the garri to remove lumps and achieve a smooth-textured garri.  

How to know poorly processed garri

If you’re wondering how to quickly identify poorly processed garri, here are a few signs to check for:

  • Dampness
  • Sugary or sour taste
  • Dirt
  • Excess cassava fiber

To avoid buying badly processed garri, contact a reputable seller/supplier. 

Other potential medical conditions drinking garri can cause

Aside from cyanide poisoning and visual loss resulting from poor processing, drinking garri excessively may lead to certain medical conditions, such as: 

1. Digestive issues

As a fiber-rich diet, garri is helpful for maintaining a healthy digestive system. It may also help reduce the risks of diabetes,  obesity, and heart problems. 

However, when it comes to fiber intake, it's essential to strike a balance. This means that while garri can be a valuable source of dietary fiber, excessive consumption may lead to some digestive issues such as bloating, gas, feeling overly full, stomach cramps, constipation, or diarrhea

According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the daily recommended fiber intake should be 25 grams for adult women and 38 grams for adult men.  Moderation is vital to enjoying the benefits of garri without experiencing adverse effects on digestive health.

Micronutrient deficiency

Although garri is a good source of carbohydrates, It may not supply the sufficient nutrients the body needs for optimal health. An older 2010 study shows that relying heavily on garri (a cassava product) as a primary food source without incorporating a diverse and balanced diet can contribute to malnutrition and deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and proteins.

May contain aflatoxins

A study investigating the potential health risks associated with consuming garri found that garri could be contaminated with aflatoxins. Aflatoxins have been linked to liver damage and cancer and can be particularly dangerous when consumed in high amounts over a long period of time.

The study highlights the importance of proper storage of Garri to reduce the risk of contamination and protect human health.

Healthier ways to consume garri

Some healthier ways to consume garri beyond soaking and drinking it include preparing it as: 

  • Garri fufu
  • Garri pancakes
  • Garri smoothies

Garri can serve as a versatile food item that can be used to prepare various dishes in Africa. Instead of consuming garri alone, it may be healthier to prepare it with foods that contain other nutrients so your body can gain different nutrients that it needs to function properly from one meal. To achieve this, you can:

  • Prepare garri as swallow and eat it with different nutritious soups like bitter leaf soup, okra soup and egusi soup
  • Drink your garri with protein-rich foods like akara balls
  • Combine your garri with other delicacies like groundnut, milk, coconut, and fried fish

Is it okay to drink garri often?

If you are relying heavily on garri, you may be depriving your body of other essential nutrients. It is best to drink garri moderately and pair it with other healthy meals. Ensure to consult with a registered dietician or health-care professional before deciding if you should drink garri often.


Overall, garri is a popular and nutritious staple food in West African countries, and it should be properly processed to reduce the risk of cyanide poisoning. 

Also, excessive garri consumption may lead to digestive issues, micronutrient deficiency, and weight gain. Therefore, it is essential to pair garri with other healthy foods and maintain a balanced diet. If you're unsure how much garri to consume, do not hesitate to talk with a good dietician.