Have you ever perused the produce aisle at your local health food store and came across a strange potato-like food, branded as jicama? Are you curious about how to even pronounce the word?
What exactly is this mysterious food? A fruit or vegetable? A starch?
Any question you’ve ever had about jicama and its uses are going to be answered below.
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What Is Jicama?
Jicama (hee-cama) is native to Central and South America as well as Mexico. It can be grown in a warm climate, so it’s possible to grow your own, even if you aren’t in those areas.
Jicama is a root vegetable that closely resembles a potato. Also called a Mexican yam bean, it grows aggressively on vines that span up to 2 feet long.
It’s firm like a pear and has a sweet taste, similar to an apple. Despite having qualities similar to these yummy fruits, jicama comes with quite the kick. Many people like using jicama to substitute for water chestnuts, due to its starchy sweetness.
If it wasn’t for that tasty bulb, it would be almost entirely unsafe for human consumption. Everything except the plant’s taproot should be properly discarded before cooking this vegetable. The taproot is a vegetable’s main root, which grows vertically downward.
How to Find Good Jicama
If you’re at the grocery store and you’re looking for jicama, there are a few things to watch out for to make sure you’re getting the best quality.
The jicama tubers should be round and firm, with minimal damage. Damage during transport or a low-quality harvest are signs that the nutritional value has decreased.
The best jicama is smaller and should weigh less than 4 pounds. Larger jicama tends to be more starchy and less crisp. After purchasing, make sure to store them in a cool area that is free from moisture.
Jicama Nutritional Value
Jicama offers an onslaught of nutritional value to your diet. Whether you need more fiber, or just want some healthy prebiotics for your microbiome, jicama has you covered.
Here are some of its biggest benefits:
- Dietary fiber.
- Vitamin C.
Dietary fiber is perhaps jicama’s most notable benefit. One cup of raw jicama boasts 24 percent of your body’s daily nutritional value. If you find yourself with stomach trouble from irregular bowel movements, consider adding jicama to your diet.
The FDA recommends getting enough fiber to prevent and relieve constipation and stabilize your blood sugar. High-fiber diets also help keep you regular and aid in heart health.
As important as it is to feed yourself, it’s equally as important to feed the microbiome within your gut. We aren’t just people walking around. There are millions of bacteria that live inside our bodies too.
This is where prebiotics come in. These are the food source for the probiotics in your body. Probiotics are live bacterias and yeasts that are good for your digestive system. They’re most notably found in yogurt and fermented drinks, like kombucha and kefir.
Since your body can’t actually digest prebiotics, the probiotics in your gut feed off them. This is what helps to keep your gut in healthy shape.
They’re specialized plant fibers found in most fruits and vegetables and there are multiple types of prebiotic fibers. Jicama is rich in inulin, which is one of the many prebiotic fibers.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps aid against several issues. These include immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health issues, eye disease, and skin wrinkling.
It can also alleviate stress as well as common cold and flu symptoms. This is why so many people take vitamin C when they feel a cold coming on.
Jicama is a really good source of vitamin C. Just one cup boasts almost one-third of the recommended daily intake for males and almost half for females.
Unfortunately, the general public tends to consume more carbs than their bodies really need. This issue is a contributor to heart and weight problems.
One cup of raw jicama contains about 11.47 grams of carbohydrates. This is lower than many other fruits and vegetables, making it a popular choice amongst dieters.
Its promise of low carbohydrates also means if you’re following a ketogenic or other diet, you can enjoy French fries without worrying about going over your carb allowance. Stay tuned below for a diet-friendly fry recipe made from jicama.
Health Benefits of Jicama
Despite only the root being edible, jicama offers a variety of benefits for your health. Whether you’re looking for an immune system boost or you need more fiber in your diet, jicama is a good option for you.
Here are the benefits of incorporating jicama:
- Jicama relieves constipation and promotes regular bowel movements. Like other raw veggies, jicama contains water and nutrients needed for a healthy colon.
- Jicama contains inulin, which serves as food for your probiotics to promote a healthy gut and immune system. Inulin also helps in weight loss, digestion, and hormone balance.
- Jicama will help regulate your blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that eating jicama can help lower glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin in your blood.
- Jicama is high in vitamin C, which is needed to help strengthen your immune system. This, in turn, can help fight against several infections, like the common cold and flu.
How to Use Jicama
Because a majority of the jicama plant is toxic to humans, it’s important to take special care when preparing the food to eat.
First, you need to peel away the skin with a vegetable peeler. Then you can cut it into whatever form you’d like. You can julienne it into strips or cut it into cubes, depending on what you’re planning to make with it.
Once you’ve peeled and cut them to your liking, you can essentially cook the pieces any way you want. Just remember that you must only use the root. You need to make sure you cut away all other parts of the plant, including the seeds, before cooking.
After you’ve properly prepared your jicama, there are several ways to consume it. Here are just a few.
- Serve it raw. You can sprinkle the top with spices of your choice. Jicama pairs well with lime juice, chili powder, and some salt. This is a popular snack in Mexico.
- Cut it into chunks and add it to a fruit or vegetable salad.
- Thinly slice the jicama and add to curry or chili dishes.
- Replace shredded cabbage with shredded jicama to make coleslaw.
- Use jicama instead of potatoes to make potato-based dishes, such as hash browns, mixed vegetable saute or otherwise.
To make these fries, prepare your jicama by cutting away bad parts and thoroughly peeling with a veggie peeler. Jicama is very dense, so briefly boiling them will make cutting and cooking a much easier feat.
Cut them julienne style or another preferred way and then season them with your preferred spices. We like using paprika as a base and then mixing it with whatever other spices we’re in the mood for. Top with a minimal amount of healthy oil.
Now all you do is pop them in the oven, and voila. The perfect low-carb snack that won’t mess with ketosis or load your body with carbs.
Is Jicama Diet-Friendly?
So what about our keto, paleo, and other low-carb friends out there? Is jicama an approved food for these diets? I have some good news.
If you’re on these diets, you didn’t waste your time reading this article. Jicama is both paleo and keto friendly, so you don’t have to miss out on the health benefits of this mysterious root vegetable.
However, like any other food, it should still be eaten in moderation. This is especially true for ketogenic dieters who need to watch their carb intake. The carbs in one cup of jicama are within the approved amount, but can soon add up if you aren’t careful.
Although jicama has some not so paleo-friendly parts, since the only edible area of jicama is the root, it is absolutely fine for paleo dieters.
To Jicama or Not to Jicama?
Despite its otherwise toxic characteristics, jicama can be an extremely beneficial addition to your everyday diet. It can be used in a variety of cuisines, ranging from Mexican, Indian, Asian, and just about any other cuisines, you can think of.
We really like jicama because it’s dense with nutrients and it doesn’t exclude people on paleo or ketogenic diets. As long as you properly prepare and dispose of jicama’s parts, this can be a real game-changer for your diet.
So what do you say? Are you going to give jicama a try? We hope you do and we’d love to know your thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Please leave us a comment below.
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