What is Jicama?
Jicama (pronounced HEE-kah-mah) is a crunchy root vegetable commonly used in Mexican cuisine. Jicama also goes by the names yam bean, Mexican turnip, and Mexican potato.
Jicama is a member of the Fabaceae (a bean family that counts "peas" as its main member). It grows on a vine up to 20 feet tall, however the only edible part of the plant is the bulbous root underground. Don’t consume the leaves, seeds, or flowers of the plant. The edible root can be as small as a Gala apple or grow as big as two fists put together. Harvested for centuries in Mexico and other all year round hot areas in South America, nowadays jicama is also grown in parts of southeast Asia. Traditionally, street vendors in Mexico sell peeled and sliced strips of raw jicama with lemon or lime juice and chili powder.
Taste and Texture
Unlike other root vegetables, jicama's tuberous root is "not" that starchy; although it tastes somewhat sweet, it is quite low in sugar, making it a perfect low-carb choice for people leading a ketogenic diet. Raw jicama root inside looks like a potato, is crispy, has a pleasant crunch and a refreshing juiciness to it, similar to a fresh water chestnut or a firm Asian pears (aka shinseiki).
Jicama picks up flavors well due to its porous flesh. It can be marinated with citrus juice and the spices and chunks can be added to salads. It can be sliced thinly and added to a sandwich for some crunch; it can also be used in lieu of a corn tortilla for tacos. Cooking jicama proves tasty too, though it needs a gentle touch when it comes to heat.
It is best to keep jicama whole and unpeeled in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or for about a week on your counter as long as it's not in sunlight or the kitchen gets too hot. Once peeled, you can slice the vegetable and keep it in water in the refrigerator for a few days. Cover any exposed areas with plastic wrap to minimize air exposure.
It's best to eat it fresh, soon after peeling and cutting.
Jicama Nutrition Facts
Because of the high fiber content in jicama, it is considered a low glycemic food. The glycemic load of jicama is approx. 10 (has little effect on blood glucose response).
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.
Serving size: 1 cup (120 g) Calories: 46 Fat: 0.1 g Sodium: 5.2 mg Total Carbs: 11.1 g Fiber: 5.9 g Net Carbs: 5.2 g (sugar: 2.2 g ; starch: 3 g) Protein: 0.9 g
Carbs 1-cup (120g) serving of jicama is has 5 grams of net carbs.
Vitamins and Minerals
Jicama is a good source of vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid). A serving contains 24 milligrams of the vitamin—about 40% of your daily recommended needs.
Jicama provides a small amount of vitamin E (0.6 milligrams or 4% of reference daily intake), folate (4% of RDI), vitamin B6 (3% of RDI), thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid (2% each).
Jicama also provides a boost of potassium, with a single serving containing 195 milligrams, or about 6% of your daily needs. Other minerals provided by jicama include:
Iron (4% of RDI)
Magnesium (4% of RDI)
Copper (3% of RDI)
Phosphorus (2% of RDI)
Calcium (2% of RDI)
Zinc (1% of RDI)
Jicama Health Benefits
The most significant advantages of including jicama in your diet come from its high fiber content and its concentration of vitamin C.
Jicama has a low glycemic index. This means that eating jicama may help to prevent spikes in blood sugar levels, which may make it a good choice for people with diabetes.
Fiber supports digestion and regularity, lowers the risk of some types of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Low in calories but with plenty of vital nutrients, jicama is high in a fiber known as oligofructose inulin (with its zero calories). Inulin promotes good bone health by enhancing absorption of calcium from other foods, protecting against osteoporosis.
Inulin acts as a probiotic role in the intestine, promoting good bacteria growth to maintain both a healthy colon and balanced immunity.
The prebiotic, fermentable fiber in jicama contributes to a healthy gut microbiome, the colony of "good" bacteria in the digestive tract.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and regenerates other antioxidants within the body, including vitamin E.
Antioxidants may help to prevent or delay the development of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.
You can purchase medium-sized jicama with smooth skin and no softness or shriveling, best between October and March at your local grocery market. Note that larger ones tend to be less flavorful.
While this root vegetable is delicious raw, jicama can also be stir-fried or sautéed with onions and peppers.
Chef Janine uses jicama in our popular power bowls as the apple substitute. She also uses raw jicama as a healthy salad topper, in coleslaw, or even adds in wrap sandwiches.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a new, healthy vegetable to add to your diet, then jicama could be the perfect option. Jicama is good for you. And it’s full of valuable fiber, plus plenty of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are beneficial to your health. And, it’s versatile, refreshing, and delicious. Prepared the right way, it might even become a new household favorite.