What are the health benefits of jicama?

Diabetes
Jicama is a starchy root vegetable similar to a potato or turnip. The tuberous root tastes slightly sweet, but it is low in sugar, making it a good carbohydrate choice for people with diabetes and others attempting a low-sugar diet.

Originally from Mexico, the jicama is sometimes also known as a Mexican turnip or yam bean.

Although the root is safe to eat, the rest of the plant, including the beans, are toxic.

In this article, we discuss some of the potential health benefits of eating jicama. We also cover its nutritional content, safety, and how to use this vegetable.

Healthful source of dietary fiber

Jicama on a table
Jicama is a healthful source of dietary fiber and prebiotic fiber.

Jicama is a good source of fiber. A 1-cup or 130-gram (g) serving of raw jicama contain 6.4 g of dietary fiber.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most Americans do not get enough fiber. The recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 25 g a day for females and 38 g for males. For those over 50 years of age, the daily intake recommendations are 21 g for females and 30 g for males.

Dietary fiber can prevent or treat constipation. It can also help stabilize a person’s blood sugar, which may help treat or prevent diabetes. High-fiber diets also promote regular bowel movements and reduce the risk of heart disease, according to the FDA.

Furthermore, getting more fiber in the diet may contribute to people living longer.

A 2016 study followed 1,609 adults, aged 49 years or older, for 10 years. The researchers found that participants who consumed the most fiber had a greater likelihood of aging successfully.

Among the nutritional factors the study assessed, fiber intake was the most significant predictor of health and longevity. This epidemiological data suggests that increasing fiber-rich foods in the diet may decrease disease during the aging process.


Prebiotic

Probiotics are bacteria and yeast that are beneficial to human health.

Living in every person’s gut is a large community of bacteria. Consuming foods or supplements that contain probiotics can help restore the natural balance of this community. Studies link probiotics with a range of health benefits, including improved gut health and a lower risk of certain infections.

Prebiotics are a type of fiber that the body cannot digest. Prebiotics support the growth of probiotics by providing them with food. Jicama is rich in inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber.


Source of antioxidants

Jicama is a good source of vitamin C. Just 1-cup, or 130-g serving of raw jicama contains 26.3 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C. According to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adults is 90 mg for males and 75 mg for females.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means that it may counter the effects of oxidative stress in the body. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, oxidative stress may play a role in aging and several diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Research on the role of antioxidant supplements in fighting disease is inconclusive and sometimes contradictory.

A 2017 systematic review only found limited, low-quality evidence that vitamin C supplementation reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, other studies have shown vitamin C to be impactful on boosting the immune system.


Blood sugar regulation

Jicama has a low glycemic index and is high in fiber. This means that eating jicama as part of a healthful and balanced diet may help to prevent spikes in blood sugar levels, which may make it a good choice for people with diabetes.

A 2015 study found that mice who consumed jicama extract had lower blood glucose levels after eating a meal than control mice. However, further research is needed to confirm this effect in humans.

Nutrient dense

Jicama is low in calories but dense in nutrients. This makes it an ideal choice for people wishing to lose weight while still getting a healthful balance of vitamins and minerals.

Jicama is also very low in sugar and fat and maybe a suitable replacement for starchy, higher carbohydrate vegetables.

As a low-calorie and nutritionally dense food, it may be a good potato substitute for people with diabetes. It may also be a useful option for people:

  • eating a healthful-heart diet
  • with celiac disease
  • looking to eat more fiber


Nutritional content

jicama on a wooden board
A single jicama contains 38 calories.

Jicama is low in calories and sugar, very low in fat and protein, and high in fiber. A single 100 g serving of raw jicama contains:

  • 38 calories
  • 8.82 g of carbohydrates
  • 1.80 g of sugar
  • 0.09 g of fat
  • 0.72 g of protein
  • 4.90 g of fiber
  • 150 mg of potassium
  • 12 mg of calcium
  • 20.20 mg of vitamin C

Safety

For people interested in trying jicama, it is essential to know that only the root vegetable is safe to eat. The rest of the plant, including the beans and flowers, contain rotenone.

Rotenone is a natural insecticide that is toxic to humans, especially in large doses. Research suggests that consuming rotenone may raise a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s.

A person should also remove the brown skin before eating jicama. Anyone who develops an allergic reaction or digestive symptoms after consuming jicama should avoid it in the future.


How to use

Eaten raw, jicama tastes similar to an uncooked potato but slightly juicier and sweeter.

A person can use jicama to add flavor and texture to a variety of dishes. Try adding it to a Mexican fruit salad or thinly slicing it to give some crunch to a vegetable salad.

Some other, easy ways to prepare jicama include:

  • thinly slicing the jicama, sprinkling it with sea salt and lime juice, and serving on top of avocado
  • sautéing it and tossing with other vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots
  • using it as a substitute for water chestnuts in a stir-fry

Summary

Jicama is a starchy root vegetable that people describe as tasting like a sweeter and juicer version of potato. It is low in calories, sugars, and fats, but rich in fiber and contains several essential vitamins and minerals.

Jicama may be a good choice for people with diabetes or those on a low-sugar diet. The root vegetable is safe to eat cooked or raw and can add texture to a wide variety of meals. However, the rest of the plant, including the flowers and beans, is toxic.

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