What is Jicama?
Until I started to research this article, I had never eaten Jicama. I am not even sure whether I had ever heard of it before. If you are in the dark as I was, then hopefully this article will help you understand what you are missing out on. This is a very versatile vegetable with a huge array of health benefits and a taste and texture that may very well surprise you. We feel that jicama is a very well kept secret and hope that we can go some way towards convincing you that you are missing out.
A native to Mexico and several other countries across South America and Central America, jicama is a sweet, crunchy tasting vegetable that some people compare with a sweet potato. Known scientifically as Pachyrhizys eorosus, the vegetable is often referred to as Yam Bean or Mexican yam and is used in a variety of tasty recipes from stews to salads.
If you are unfamiliar with jicama, then it can be a little bit confusing and perhaps even intimidating. The vegetables can be large and covered with bark but don’t let that put you off. Once you know what to do with them, they can be a pretty exciting addition to your cooking and you are likely to start wondering what took you so long. If you are wondering exactly how to cook the vegetable, we will get back to that later. Let us start by taking a look at the nutritional and medicinal benefits you can get from it.
Nutritional Value of Jicama
Jicama is very low in both sodium and fat and is considered to be a great vegetable for weight control.
Like most other vegetables, jicama is positively brimming with nutrition. It is extremely high in vitamin c which makes it an excellent choice for boosting your immune system and protecting against illness. Vitamin C has many other known health benefits ranging from heart health to arthritis and vision.
Being low in calories and extremely high in dietary fiber, jicama can help stimulate better digestive health and may even help you lose a few unwanted pounds.
Jicama contains plenty of healthy minerals. This includes a very healthy dose of iron equivalent to around 22% of your recommended daily allowance. We know that iron helps provide energy and boosts the red blood cell’s supply of oxygen.
Jicama also contains plenty of potassium, magnesium and calcium all of which play a very important role in many bodily functions. Eating jicama will provide you with a great supply of vitamin B6 which helps support brain function and fight invasion from antibodies.
The Health Benefits of Jicama
Did I mention that this vegetable tastes great? Well, that is not all. There are numerous reasons why you should be adding jicama to your diets other than taste alone. Here are just a few of the ways that you can benefit from the vegetable.
1) Digestive Benefits
Like many other vegetables and fruits, eating jicama will go some way towards helping you get as much dietary fiber as you need. We are all aware of the benefits of fiber but that does not mean that the vast majority of us fall well short. Getting enough fiber into our diets is incredibly important especially when it comes to improving our digestive health. Vegetables like jicama can help add bulk to your stools meaning that you are less likely to suffer from constipation. And other common digestive complaints. A healthy digestive tract is absolutely essential to your overall feelings of health and wellbeing and can help you deal with bloating, pain, diarrhea and indigestion. It may even help you lose some weight while evidence links fiber consumption to a reduced risk of diseases from cancer to heart disease.
2) Suitable for Diabetics
Jicama is high in a particular form of soluble fiber – oligofructose inulin – a sweet type of carbohydrate which is not metabolized into simple sugar. This makes jicama a perfect choice for diabetics who need some sweet produce without the worry of blood sugar fluctuations that may otherwise occur.
3) Immune System Boost
Jicama is a great source of vitamin C with 100 grams of the vegetable providing around 40% of your recommended daily dose. As we all know, vitamin C plays a crucial role in immune system health and protection against illnesses from bacteria, viruses, fungus and other pathogens. Vitamin C is also a natural antioxidant that combats the damaging effects caused by the so called free radicals that we encounter constantly. Free radical damage is at the heart of many serious illnesses from cancer to heart and brain disease.
4) Blood Pressure
As well as protecting our heart from free radical damage, jicama is a great source of the potassium necessary to relieve arterial stress. Potassium works as a vasodilator and helps reduce the stress on the system by dilating the arteries. This in turn lowers the stress on the entire cardiovascular system and might keep blood pressure in check. Another important function of potassium is that it combats the effects of sodium and maintains fluid balance in the system. This keeps our bodies well hydrated and functioning efficiently.
5) Brain Health
Jicama is a good source of vitamin B6 or pyridoxine which is linked to a range of cognitive abilities and other brain functions. Another important function of the vitamin is its role in the breakdown of proteins into amino acids that the body can use. This helps improve the metabolic process and the working of many of our organs.
6) Bone Health
The rich variety of essential minerals found in jicama includes magnesium, copper and iron that can help bolster mineral density in your bones. Not only do these minerals help keep the bones strong and healthy but they can also contribute to the growth of new bones and help heal injured bones.
7) Improved Circulation
Because jicama contains high amounts of iron and copper, it is great for improving your circulatory health. Iron and copper are especially important for building healthy red blood cells and can help prevent conditions like anemia.
8) Weight Control
If you are trying to get back into shape after the Christmas period then adding a delicious low calorie, nutrient dense vegetable to your diet may really help. Unlike many tasty root vegetables, jicama is low in calories. 100 grams of jicama only costs you around 35 calories and because it is so high in fiber, it can also help curb your appetite and keep your eating under control. It is no miracle weight loss cure but when it comes to dietary choices, you could do a lot worse.
How to Eat Jicama
While the root of the vegetable is totally edible, the other parts of the plant are toxic and cannot be eaten. Do not eat the vines, seed pods or the leaves.
When you are shopping for jicama, look for round, firm tubers. Store them in a cool and dark area for up to a month. Before cooking jicama, you should wash them and slice off the bottom and the top then peel off the skin.
You can then chop them into cubes or sticks and and either cook them in a stir fry or stew or add them raw to a salad. The choice is endless; jicama goes well with other vegetables, fruits and meat dishes.
A popular Mexican recipe is to chill jicama in slices then add lime juice, salt and a sprinkle of chili powder.