Jicama tastes more like a fruit but more resembles high-starch root veggies. If you’re not eating this “Mexican turnip” you’re missing out on several jicama benefits….
Going on vacation to Mexico? There’s a refreshing, delicious culinary experience you must try. Although a fruit cocktail doesn’t sound particularly exotic, the way it’s prepared in Mexico is.
The fruit is cold and conveniently diced for easy eating. Lime juice and chili powder make for a delectable combination topping. The juxtaposition of slightly spicy and tangy is nearly orgasmic!
Jicama is one ingredient common in Mexican fruit cocktail. But it isn’t a fruit. It’s actually a vegetable. Veggies aren’t typically added to fruit cocktails but one jicama benefit, among many as you’ll read below, is its versatility.
Are you a passionate ‘localvore’? Do you only eat foods native to your area that are only grown in certain seasons? Well, if you live in, say, Chicago, you probably never buy jicama. That’s because it’s typically grown in tropical climates. Besides Mexico and Latin America, it’s very popular in Thailand and other steamy Southeast Asian countries.
But even if you’re not a strict localvore, chances are you don’t buy jicama at the supermarket.
Jicama benefits: Transform junk food into healthy snacks
And that’s a mistake! One jicama benefit is it can transform two of the unhealthiest foods into healthy snacks: fries and chips. That’s right, you can make delicious fries and chips from it. Do they taste just like the real fried, artery-clogging catastrophe? No, they don’t. But jicama has an interesting taste.
What does jicama taste like?
When it’s plain, jicama really doesn’t have much of a taste. However, the Mexican turnip is an interesting food. It’s a starchy tuber. Kind of like a baked potato. However, it’s much lower in carbs than a baked potato.
Another jicama benefit is its carbs mainly come from fiber. In fact, you can’t really digest the fiber. But that’s not a bad thing. That’s because the fiber acts as a prebiotic. Think of prebiotic fiber as food for the good bacteria in your belly.
But it doesn’t taste like a baked potato. Some people claim it tastes more like an apple. But in comparison to a crispy red delicious from Washington state, jicama isn’t nearly as sweet. In fact, some people might find jicama bland.
However jicama absorbs the flavor of any sauce, spice or seasoning. And, it’s crunchiness makes it excellent for adding to veggie stir-fry dishes.
If you’re lazy, you can buy slices of jicama. Sure, it’s more expensive than buying a whole jicama, which resembles a russet potato. However, it’s way more convenient to buy it pre-sliced.
But let’s get back to some more jicama benefits….
Jicama benefits: lowers blood sugar
This study in Preventative Nutrition and Food Science investigates the effect of eating jicama extract. In particular, the study looks at how jicama acts on certain enzymes. These enzymes prevent the digestion of carbohydrates. Jicama extract was given to diabetic mice. The mice feeding on jicama extract had significantly lower blood glucose levels after consuming jicama.
Jicama benefits: alternative to high-starch carbs
Cassava is a popular starchy fixture around the world. In particular, South America and African traditional communities. However, one cup of cassava contains a whopping 78 grams of carbs. Cassava is a tuber vegetable. So are potatoes. But cassava contains the most calorie of any tuber. Moreover, cassava contains just a few grams of carbs. Therefore, the net grams of carbs are still very high.
Active, traditional societies might not need to worry about net carbs. And after all, cassava is a staple for indigenous cultures, that have few other nutritious options.
However, more hitherto traditional people are being introduced to processed foods. Rates of obesity and diabetes are increasing in many areas. Therefore, eating cassava might not be good for those with high blood sugar. And it’s not good for overweight adults.
But a research study in Bioresource Technology suggests something interesting. Jicama can be a potential new source of starch. The researchers conclude that the functional properties of jicama are very similar to cassava starch.
Jicama benefits: detoxification?
Don’t live in South America or Southeast Asia? Then what’s another jicama benefit that applies to you?
Jicama may help your body detoxify. This study is the first to examine how jicama breaks down a particular herbicide at the cellular level. It’s a speculative conclusion to suggest jicama can detoxify your liver. However, if it can help break down a toxic weed killer, it might break down toxins in your own body?
Jicama benefits: good for insulin sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity is good. Insulin resistance is bad. That’s a basic lesson about the hormone, insulin. Insulin drives sugar into the cells for energy. If you have high insulin resistance, your pancreas struggles to produce insulin. Insulin resistance can lead to diabetes. But if you are sensitive to this hormone, your pancreas doesn’t have to produce as much. Another jicama benefit: it lowers insulin secretion. A study in Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition confirms this. After six weeks, blood glucose levels were significantly lower in animals fed jicama extract.
Jicama benefits: protects your heart
This study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine investigates the heart-protective effects of jicama. More particularly, jicama juice. The study shows that jicama juice may have positive benefits on blood pressure. As well as potassium levels in the blood. And blood clotting. The study concludes, “Cardiovascular benefits of [jicama juice] are noteworthy….”
Jicama benefits: good for your immune system
The results in this study suggest that jicama (aka, “Mexican turnip”) enhances your immune system. Jicama increases the levels of three antibodies (IgG, IgM, and IgA). Antibodies help fight disease and infection. Furthermore, jicama increases cytokine production. The cells of your immune system secrete cytokines to fight unwanted intruders in your body.
As you can see, jicama might confer several health benefits. So make sure to add it to your salads. Or make some jicama chips and fries! Heed this warning, though. Just eat the root, not the rest of the plant (including the skin.) The jicama plant contains natural poison.
Do you eat a very low carb diet? If so, is it safe to eat jicama? Is it a food that drives you out of ketosis more so than others? Well, on one hand, it is a tuber. Most tubers are very high in starch. Starch converts easily in sugar. Starches aren’t particularly helpful. Not if you’re trying to burn your own stored fat for energy.
However, jicama is mostly water. And for a tuber it’s ridiculously low in carbs. As mentioned above, there’s a good amount of fiber in jicama that acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics contribute to a more robust microbiome.
Jicama is diabetic-friendly. It’s also high in vitamin C and contains several trace minerals. The two grams of sugar in jicama are minimal in comparison to its many benefits.
As a side note, if you’re low carb, have you ever tried yacon syrup? It’s zero calories and has a similar taste to jicama.
How to eat jicama
Again, the easiest way to eat jicama is buy it sliced. If you want to do it yourself and save money, then buy the whole tuber. Just make sure you peel the skin before consuming. And it’s worth repeating: try not eating any other part of the veggie but the white interior. Don’t eat the skin. For best results, peel it with a very sharp, high-end chef’s knife. You can cut it much like you would a potato.
Look for firm jicamas at your local market. You can put the slices in the fridge. But be aware of the following if they stay in the fridge for a long time. The starch may start breaking down. When starch breaks down, it converts into sugar.
The best way to enjoy jicama is in salads and stir-frys. (They’re even crunchier than water chestnuts.) And if you are planning to take a vacation to Mexico anytime soon, order yourself a fruit cocktail. Many street vendors sell it. The fresh fruit–and jicama veggie–topped with chili powder, salt and lime is delightful. You won’t forget the experience.