Let’s Get to the Root of Why Jicama is So GoodNutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
When I find a healthy alternative to junk foods, I am always excited to share it with my family and friends. Why? Because eating healthily most of the time can be fun when you make it a creative, community effort.
Many people love savory, salty foods like French fries. But we all know this is not the healthiest way to eat potatoes. One great alternative to standard fries is making oven-baked sweet potato fries at home.
But if you want to get more adventurous in the kitchen, perhaps you should consider making jicama fries.
What is jicama?
Jicama is a root vegetable, like carrots and beets, said to be native to Mexico and Central and South America. Other names for jicama include Mexican potato, Mexican yam bean, Chinese potato and Chinese turnip. Jicama is popular in Mexican and Asian cuisine, sometimes used as an ingredient in stir-fry, salsa, salads and more.
Some might say jicama tastes kind of like a savory apple. It is crisp, juicy and refreshing like a firm pear, making it the perfect summer snack. Jicama is definitely a food you may want to include in your diet if you need to switch up your variety of fruits and veggies. Eating jicama may also benefit you health-wise.
Jicama may lower blood sugar levels.
This vegetable is rich in fructooligosaccharides and inulin, a soluble fiber.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are a type of carbohydrate that are also found in plant foods like garlic, onion, asparagus and bananas. They are sweet and low-calorie, so they are often used as sweetener alternatives.
“Inulin is known to improve blood glucose homeostasis by reducing postprandial [after a meal] blood glucose levels, delaying gastric emptying, and slowing the entry of glucose into the bloodstream,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Jicama may help your gut health.
Prebiotics are food for probiotics and come in the form of fiber. All prebiotics are fiber, but not all fiber is considered prebiotic.
Luckily, the fiber in fructooligosaccharides (FOS) is considered to be a prebiotic.
“Because they are not digestible, FOS travels intact through the small intestine to the colon (large intestine), where they support the growth of healthy bacteria [probiotics] in the digestive tract,” according to the Healthline report.
Jicama may boost your immune system.
Jicama is a great source of vitamin C. One cup (130 g) of raw jicama has 26.3 mg of this immune-boosting vitamin. This vitamin supports the production and function of white blood cells.
“Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress,” according to the NIH.
One study from Cornell University found some evidence that high levels of vitamin C kill certain kinds of colorectal cancers in cell cultures and mice.
Jicama may improve brain function.
Another important nutrient found in jicama is vitamin B6. This vitamin is needed for neurotransmission in the brain and also plays a role in more than 100 enzyme reactions in the body, according to one medical source.
A study from the American Journal of Nutrition suggested that people who had a higher intake of vitamin B6 performed better on memory function tests.
Jicama may help you lose weight.
Jicama is low in calories and high in fiber and water. Nutrient dense, water-rich foods in your diet may help you feel fuller and more satisfied for a longer period of time. This may help you lose weight, as you will probably be less inclined to snack and overeat during meals.
Many people mistake dehydration for hunger. So, a hydrating food like jicama may prevent hunger pangs and help keep you energized throughout the day.
Let’s take a look at additional nutrients in one cup (130 g) of raw jicama:
- Calcium, 16 mg. You probably know calcium is critical for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. What you may not know is this mineral may decrease your risk for colorectal cancer. Recent studies confirm that high calcium intake is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer among both men and women.
- Magnesium, 16 mg. This mineral helps regulate blood pressure, contributes to bone metabolism and has antioxidant functions. Magnesium is also great for pain management. Many people use magnesium as a safe alternative to ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Magnesium may even help alleviate leg cramps women may experience during pregnancy.
- Phosphorus, 23 mg. This mineral often does not get the credit it deserves, but it does so much for your body. Phosphorus is almost as abundant in your body as calcium and helps calcium build strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also important for how your body stores and uses energy, repairs cells and is needed to make proteins like the one responsible for the oxygen-carrying capabilities of our red blood cells.
- Potassium, 195 mg. This must-have mineral works with sodium to balance the fluids and electrolytes in the body. Potassium helps keep blood pressure under control and may even help reduce kidney stones and bone loss as you age.
- Folate, 16 mcg. Most adults need about 400 mcg of folate daily. If you are pregnant, you may need more. Folate is essential for cell growth and many other bodily functions. To see how much folate you need, read here.
- Choline, 17.7 mg. Choline is a nutrient that was recognized as an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1998. “The importance of choline in the diet extends into adulthood and old age. In a study of healthy adult subjects deprived of dietary choline, 77% of the men and 80% of the postmenopausal women developed signs of subclinical organ dysfunction (fatty liver or muscle damage)," reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Vitamin A, 27 IU. This vitamin is an antioxidant that supports the immune system and is good for skin and eye health. Vitamin A also promotes cell growth.
How can you incorporate jicama into your diet?
Many people may be intimidated by jicama, because it is not the usual go-to fruit or veggie, but jicama is delicious simply chopped up and eaten raw. You can even sprinkle it with lime and chili powder for extra flavor. This is a great snack for the beach!
You must peel jicama before eating it. The outer skin has a toxic compound, and the root is the only part of the plant that should be consumed. Do not eat the seeds, pods or vines of jicama.
Here is a great recipe for those jicama fries. The only ingredients you need are:
- 2 cups jicama sliced
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt divided
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
And what’s so great about making these fries is that you can change up the seasonings to your liking.
I also want to try this jicama salsa recipe.
Any precautions to be aware of with eating jicama?
Overall, jicama appears to be a pretty safe food. It may cause an upset stomach in people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). So if you do have IBS, you may want to try a little bit of jicama and see if it makes your symptoms worse.
I recommend caution with any foods, especially for people with existing medical conditions and those of you who are taking both prescription and over-the-counter medications. You always want to avoid a drug interaction.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.