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Introduction

Jicama, known by many as yam bean, is an edible tuberous root that is grown in many areas of America, Southeast Asia, and Western Africa.

Many aspects of jicama are characteristic of a potato, such as its shape, skin, and interior color.

People that have tried jicama repeatedly note that it has a unique, crispy texture coupled with a sweet and starchy taste.

In terms of its health aspects, jicama is popular for its content of natural, soluble fibers such as fructooligosaccharides and inulin.

1. May Help to Regulate Blood Glucose Levels

In animal studies, jicama is able to significantly attenuate any short or long-term increases to fasting blood glucose levels after just one week when following a diet that is designed to raise blood glucose levels [1].

This may indicate that jicama could be a useful food for preventing complications in diabetics.

This anti-diabetic effect is likely due to the inulin content of jicama, a fiber substance proven to reduce blood glucose levels after a meal by delaying the digestion and absorption of food, and subsequently slowing the entry of glucose into the blood stream [2].

Other evidence suggests that supplementation with jicama extract may enhance insulin sensitivity because inulin is able to act as a modulator for the release of insulin.

Researchers have even suggested that jicama extract could be a proven “insulin sensitizer” and aid carbohydrate metabolism [3].

Limited data also proposes that inulin can increase glucose uptake into cells by enhancing the activity of glucose transporters which are responsible for moving glucose from the blood into the muscle and liver [4] [5].

2. High in Certain Nutrients

100 grams of jicama contains a significant amount of the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin C: 34% of the recommended daily intake
  • Fiber: 20% of the recommended daily intake

The high amount of vitamin C, an essential water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant, will help considerably with protecting the immune system, and preventing against cardiovascular disease, eye disease, and wrinkling of the skin.

Jicama also contains small amounts (1-5% of the recommended daily amount) for vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese, selenium.

3. May Improve Cardiovascular Health

Jicama is a natural source of dietary nitrates which are heavily linked to improving blood circulation and reducing blood pressure. This allows for enhanced blood flow around the body and a superior circulation and delivery of oxygen to body tissues areas [6].

This could be particularly beneficial for exercising individuals who require increased rates of blood and oxygen delivery to the muscles.

In animal studies, jicama has also demonstrated to be able to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood – at least in rats whose initial cholesterol values were elevated [7].

These positive effects likely result from the benefits of inulin, which has been reported to have similar results on decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels in human patients with high cholesterol [8].

This effect is not surprising, considering a large scientific review concluded that fiber intake significantly decreases total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol in humans [9].

Reductions in blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels are closely linked to removing fatty-acid build-up on arterial walls, improving blood circulation, and reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

More human studies on jicama are needed to assess this cardiovascular relationship further.

4. May Positively Alter Bacteria in the Gut

Jicama is high in inulin, a prebiotic fiber that is linked to improving the bacterial composition of the gut.

As the digestive system is unable to digest or absorb prebiotics such as inulin, the bacteria in the gut can ferment them. This process leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids which are able to effectively modulate the synthesis of inflammatory bioactive substances [10].

A diet high in prebiotic fiber has shown to increase the population of “good” bacteria in the gut and decrease the number of unhealthy and pathogenic bacteria [11].

Gut bacteria plays important roles in human health, such as supplying essential nutrients, synthesizing vitamin K, aiding in the digestion of certain fibers, and developing new blood vessels.

Dysfunction of gut bacteria communities can even lead to different chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and cancer [12].

5. May Reduce the Risk of Colon Cancer

Inulin and oligofructose have shown to influence the function of the intestines such as increasing stool frequency and weight, as well as improving the acidity of stools [13].

As increased bowel movements are associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer [14], inulin and oligofructose have shown to significantly reduce the incidence of this disease [15].

It is thought one of the mechanisms these dietary fibers can decrease the risk of colon cancer is by decreasing the contact time of carcinogens within the intestinal lumen and colon.

In addition, the increased production of short chain fatty acids in the gut from dietary fiber may have protective effects against colorectal cancer as these fatty acids can specifically target the cell death of cancerous colorectal cells [16].

Conclusion

Jicama is an edible tuberous root that is high in vitamin C and prebiotic fibers such as fructooligosaccharides and inulin.

This starchy food may be beneficial for regulating blood glucose levels, improving cardiovascular health, upregulating the production of healthy gut bacteria, and reducing the risk of colon cancer.

It is important to note that these potential benefits are mainly as a result of analyzing studies behind jicamas individual components, such as vitamin C and fiber, as opposed to any direct studies of jicama on human health.

More relevant future research on jicama is needed to allow for more conclusive health statements to be made.

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This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.