Jicama, a root vegetable, is a solid source of essential nutrients. It’s also very versatile and can be used in lots of delicious dishes.
Ever heard of jicama? If not, you’re missing out. This root vegetable is packed with essential nutrients and loaded with all kinds of potential health benefits. It’s also versatile enough to really spark your imagination in the kitchen.
Let’s get to the root of the benefits.
Jicama is the root of a vine that was originally grown in Mexico. It has crunchy, starchy white flesh and rough, papery brown skin. It’s sort of like what would happen if a potato and a turnip had a baby. In terms of flavor, think of a savory apple or pear.
People all over the world eat and enjoy the root, but you should avoid the beans. They’re toxic — and not in the fun Britney way.
BTW, jicama has a lot of other names. You might see jicama called:
- sweet turnip
- Mexican turnip
- Mexican potato
- yam bean (adorable)
- Mexican water chestnut
Is jicama poisonous?
Only the root of the jicama is safe to eat. The beans, leaves, and flowers of the vine are toxic. They contain rotenone, a natural insecticide that the vine uses as its defense mechanism.
Research suggests rotenone can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. In at least one severe case, eating a large amount of jicama beans has caused seizures and even coma.
Sounds delicious, right? Well, don’t worry. It’s incredibly easy to tell the difference between the jicama root (yummy!) and the beans (yucky!). Plus, most stores offer pre-picked roots and do not sell the harmful parts of the plant.
So, is jicama root good for you? Yup! One cup, or about 130 grams (g), of jicama contains the following:
- Calories: 49.4
- Protein: 0.94 g
- Fat: 0.12 g
- Carbs: 11.5 g
- Fiber: 6.37 g
- Calcium: 15.6 milligrams (mg)
- Magnesium: 15.6 mg
- Phosphorus: 23.4 mg
- Potassium: 195 mg
- Vitamin C: 26.3 mg
All those nutrients are sure to make a big positive impact on your body. Here are six science-backed reasons to give this root a nibble.
1. Jicama is full of antioxidants
Jicama is a rich source of vitamin C, an important antioxidant. Vitamin C plays a major role in the development, growth, and repair of all your body’s tissue. It’s also involved in lots of vital functions like iron absorption, collagen production, and bone health.
More good news: Research suggests that antioxidants help your body ward off everything from the common cold to cancer.
2. Your digestive system will thank you for jicama
Not to put too fine a point on it, but all that fiber is also very beneficial when the time comes for a number two. It thickens up your poop and helps it move through your digestive system and onward to a better place. Plus, jicama’s high water content is good for easing constipation.
Yes, a gut that enjoys jicama is a very happy gut indeed. The root contains a prebiotic called inulin, which the good bacteria in your gut use to ward off bad bacteria. Yum.
3. Jicama, jicama — it’s good for the heart
In short: Hearts love jicama!
It’s high in dietary fiber, which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels (LDL is the bad kind of cholesterol, BTW). It also has potassium, which can lower blood pressure and might reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
4. Cut your cancer risk with jicama?
Because jicama is rich in antioxidants, prebiotics, and dietary fiber, it might help stave off cancer.
Some studies suggest that antioxidants (like the ones found in jicama) can help prevent cancer. Additionally, some research has found that dietary fiber may help prevent cancer in the digestive tract.
Oh, and another thing! According to a 2021 research review, prebiotics might help reduce the risk of colorectal cancers by controlling the number of unhealthy bacteria.
Just keep in mind that we need a lot more research to find out whether these perks are legit.
5. Jicama might help you lose weight
Jicama has a lot of nutrients and relatively few calories and carbs. That makes it a solid choice if you’re trying to shed a few pounds. Its high fiber and water content can also help you stay full longer.
Better still, research indicates that dietary fiber helps stabilize your blood sugar levels immediately after you eat. And when your blood sugar is steady, your body can convert glucose to energy more efficiently instead of storing it as fat.
6. Might reduce the risk of diabetes
People with diabetes could consider turning to jicama for its blood sugar-stabilizing properties. Promising animal research suggests that jicama can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
While we need more research to find out the full effects, it might be worth a shot. Just keep in mind that it’s def not a diabetes cure-all.
Jicama are often compared to potatoes because they look similar. But these two veggies are pretty darn different in every other way.
For starters, most folks don’t eat potatoes raw. Jicama has a much sweeter taste and can be eaten raw. (Just be sure not to eat the toxic bits!)
In terms of nutrition, jicama is a clear winner. While a white potato packs more than twice the protein of a jicama, it’s also significantly higher in calories and carbs. Jicama, meanwhile, boasts more than twice as much dietary fiber as a potato.
There’s basically no way to screw up a jicama. But by knowing when it’s at its tastiest, you can take your kitchen creations to the next level.
It’s perfectly good to eat raw — try cutting it into batons and eating it with dip, like you would carrot sticks. Salads also benefit from its crisp juiciness and snazzy flavor.
Alternatively, you can roast it, saute it, or even mash it up into relish.
How to pick a jicama
Of course, you’re going to enjoy cooking with jicama way more if the ones you use are at peak ripeness. To pick a jicama at its best:
- Look for a rounded root with smooth skin and no scars or bruising. Avoid ones with soft, dark spots on the skin.
- Choose heavier jicama — this indicates the right (high) water content. Ditch soft or wrinkly ones, which could be too dry.
- Give it a squeeze. If it’s nice and firm, it should be perfect to eat.
- Remember that peeling a ripe jicama should involve very little resistance. If it’s hard to peel, it might not be in peak condition.
When is jicama season?
You can probably find jicama in stores all year round, but its peak season starts around October and lasts throughout fall. Because it’s native to Mexico and thrives in tropical environments, the root is at its very best when those blazing summer months begin to ease off a bit.
How long will a jicama keep?
A whole jicama will stay good for about 2 weeks if you pop it in the fridge. Once you cut it, however, the flesh begins to dry out. Grab some plastic wrap to protect a jicama once it’s cut. If you do this, it should be good for a week in the fridge.
The jicama is a true gem of a root. It’s nutritious, versatile, and delicious. And don’t be put off by its dangerous leaves and beans — the jicama root you can find in the store could spark a lifelong culinary love affair.