What is Jicama: Nutrition, Taste and Uses
Mexican yam bean, Mexican turnip, Mexican potato or simply jicama is a root vegetable with golden-brown skin and white, juicy and crispy flesh. This potato-like veggie is rapidly gaining in popularity in various food circles thanks to its tasty, sweet flavor, excellent nutritional profile and low-carbohydrate content. While it can be enjoyed raw, jicama tastes best when added to other dishes as it helps intensify the flavor and add texture to any meal.
In this article, we’ll talk about the nutrition of jicama, its main benefits (and there are many!), taste and the best ways you can add it to your diet.
Nutritional Content of Jicama
Although low in calories, fat and protein, jicama root is packed with nutrients. This is because this tuber is incredibly rich in various micronutrients, including a host of important vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber. Because it’s mostly composed of water, jicama is naturally low in sugar and starch, making it a good carbohydrate choice for people with insulin resistance and diabetes, as well as folks who eat a low-carb, low-sugar diet.
One cup (130 g) of jicama has:
- 49 Calories
- 12 g of Carbs
- 4 g of Fiber
- 1 g of Protein
- 1 g of Fat
It also contains:
- 44% of the RDI Vitamin C
- 6% of RDI of Potassium
- 4% of RDI of Iron
- 4% of RDI of Folate
- 4% of RDI of Manganese
And that’s not even all – jicama also has small amounts of other vitamins and minerals, including vitamins E, B5 and B6, thiamine, calcium, zinc, copper, riboflavin and phosphorus. Basically, it’s a powerhouse of nutrients!
Main Health Benefits of Jicama
While small and low in calories, Mexican turnip has various health benefits, including:
- Great source of dietary fiber: one cup of jicama contains 6.4 grams of fiber, which is already 17% of RDI for fiber for men, and a whopping 23% for women. Dietary fiber can improve gut health and prevent constipation, help stabilize blood sugar and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- High in antioxidants: the Mexican potato contains a number of highly beneficial antioxidants, which can help prevent cell damage and boost the immune system. These include vitamin C and E, beta-carotene and selenium.
- Blood sugar regulation: thanks to its low glycemic index and high fiber content, jicama can help prevent spikes in blood sugar levels, making it a good choice for people with insulin resistance and diabetes.
- Improves gut health: as mentioned, jicama is rich in fiber – specifically inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber – which feeds the healthy bacteria in the human gut. Eating it can increase the number of good bacteria and decrease the number of bad bacteria, which in turn can lead to greater gut health and a lower risk of infections.
- Boosts heart health: consuming larger amounts of fiber can decrease your bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase your good cholesterol (HDL), which is great news for your heart health. Additionally, because it contains potassium, iron and copper, jicama can help lower high blood pressure and improve circulation.
- May reduce cancer risk: thanks to its high antioxidant content, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and selenium, jicama can help your body neutralize free radicals that cause cell damage and lead to cancer. Also, consuming more fiber decreases the risk of developing colon cancer.
Before you start munching that juicy jicama, it’s important to know that only the root part of the plant is safe to eat. Jicama’s beans, flowers and other parts contain rotenone, which, while a natural isoflavone, is toxic to humans. Tiny amounts of rotenone cannot kill you, however, large amounts may cause all kinds of health problems, and even increase your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Also, always peel the skin of the jicama. It’s thick and non-edible so never try to use the whole tuber in your recipes. First, wash the vegetable, cut off its root, and then cut two thin slices – one on the top and one on the bottom. This will create a flat surface on the vegetable, making peeling safer and easier. While you may be able to use a vegetable peeler to peel a jicama’s skin, we recommend using a chef’s knife.
Taste and Uses of Jicama
What does jicama taste like? With a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and crisp and light texture, jicama is best described as a cross between a potato and a pear, although many people compare it to a water chestnut. This humble tuber is tasty on its own, so many choose to just slice it and eat it raw, like one would eat an apple. However, we find that jicama tastes best when mixed with other ingredients – it’s fantastic in vegetable salads, stir-fries, fruit salads, sauted with other vegetables and, of course, jicama fries are delicious too.
Here are a few ideas on how to eat yam beans:
- Raw: peel the skin of the jicama, slice it up and enjoy it on its own as a snack or with dips like hummus or guacamole.
- In a veggie salad: mix peeled and sliced jicama, cucumber, green, red and yellow bell pepper and orange sections. Add fresh cilantro, a pinch of paprika, chili powder and some salt. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and mix well.
- In a fruit salad: combine peeled and sliced jicama with mango, strawberries and pineapple. Add a little bit of lime juice and raw honey or maple syrup.
- In stir-fries: make a Mexican stir-fry with jicama, red bell pepper, zucchini, and yellow squash. Add herbs and spices of your choice, such as oregano, cumin, salt and black pepper.
- Baked jicama fries: simply peel and cut jicama into thin slices, drizzle it with olive or avocado oil and season it with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes on 400°F and then serve with ketchup or guacamole.
There are dozens of ways you can eat jicama, and we strongly encourage you to add it to your diet! Not only is this tuber tasty and versatile, it’s also incredibly healthy.