Jicama, a light brown tuber also called “Mexican potato” or “yam bean,” is often overlooked, but this exotic root vegetable contains a healthy dose of minerals, antioxidants and most of all, fibre.
It may be the most exciting spud in the supermarket. Jicama’s flesh is crisp, juicy, surprisingly sweet, and easy to prepare. It tastes delicious raw or roasted.
WHAT ACTUALLY IS JICAMA?
First, let’s take a look at the name and its pronounciation. It starts with a “j”, but is pronounced with an “h”: hee-ka-ma.
The jicama plant is a climbing legume vine found in tropical and subtropical climates and is a staple in Caribbean and South Asian cuisine. Unlike other starchy roots, such as sweet potatoes and potatoes, the thick, fibrous skin is inedible.
WHY SHOULD YOU EAT IT?
Jicama contains a great amount of vitamin C, an antioxidant which can help protect your body’s cells from damage, and smaller doses of other vitamins and minerals that are needed for many biochemical and physiologic functions.
But what makes its phytonutrient profile stand out amongst other plant foods is its amazing fibre content. Just 1 cup of jicama provides 6 grams of fibre (nearly 25% of the recommended daily intake for women), for only 46 calories. That’s twice the fibre found in potatoes with skin, for half the calories per cup. Strong scientific evidence links high-fibre intake to a great number of health benefits. Along with its role in immune health and chronic disease prevention, fibre may help to control hunger and curb cravings.
What is more, jicama contains a particular type of soluble fibre, called fructans, with confirmed prebiotic activity. Fructans are also present in asparagus, chicory, garlic, onions and leeks. These substances are considered indigestible, but promote the growth or activity of potentially beneficial “good” bacteria in the GI tract.
You can find jicama in the produce section of many mainstream grocery stores. They are available in different sizes, but small to medium tubers have the best taste as they tend to get dry and woody as they grow larger. When buying them, look for those that are firm, a little shiny, and feel heavy for their size—a good sign of moisture content. They will keep for 2-4 weeks in a dry and cool place.
To prepare, scrub well and remove the skin with a paring knife, then try one of these ideas:
- Raw: cut in thin slices and add to salads or sandwiches; cut in dices and mix into home-made salsa; cut into sticks and serve with hummus.
- Cooked: roughly chop and add to hearty soups or stews; shred and sauté with garlic and onion to make hashbrowns; cut into bite-sized pieces and add to stir-fries.
Recently, an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that a diet lacking prebiotic-rich plant foods is connected to excess weight gain over time.
Last but not least, it may not be the sexiest vegetable in the market, but one small jicama provides 22% of your daily value of iron.