Jicama is a healthy food that certainly isn’t new but has entered the zeitgeist more recently as a superfood that can be incorporated into many types of diets.
But, what is jicama? Is it a fruit or vegetable? What are its benefits and nutrition facts? How do you eat it, raw or cooked?
In this nutrition guide, we will discuss what jicama is, its benefits, nutrition facts, and how to add it to your diet to take advantage of its healthy nutrition.
We will cover:
- What Is Jicama?
- Jicama Nutrition Facts
- Jicama Benefits
- Is Jicama Good For Weight Loss?
- How to Eat Jicama
Let’s get started!
What Is Jicama?
Jicama is a root vegetable with a somewhat flattened spherical shape (like a slightly deflated sports ball) that has a starchy, white interior flesh and papery, golden-brown skin on the outside.
It is native to Mexico, but the plant has since spread to parts of Asia, such as the Philippines, and tropical Asian regions that stay warm year-round or most of the year because the growing season (from planting to harvesting) is long.
Because it is a root vegetable, the part we eat is the actual root; jicama is the edible root portion of a plant that produces a type of bean that is similar to Lima beans.
However, the beans produced from the jicama plant are toxic and cannot be consumed (even when cooked).
If you’ve never had jicama, you’ll likely wonder what it tastes like.
Of course, though we all describe tastes and flavors somewhat differently, most people say it tastes slightly sweet and nutty with a texture and flavor like a water chestnut or a cross between a starchy potato and a pear (or Asian pear).The flesh is juicy, crunchy, and dense but not overly sweet.
Owing to the botanical similarities, native origin, texture, and taste, jicama is also sometimes referred to as yam bean, Chinese turnip, Mexican potato, and Mexican water chestnut.
It tends to be eaten raw, but you can also cook it.
Jicama Nutrition Facts
Jicama nutrition is impressive in terms of nutrient density relative to the number of calories.
Like most root vegetables, most of the calories come from carbohydrates, as the roots of a plant are storage houses for starch, which is essentially the plant analog to glycogen in the human body—a storage reservoir of carbohydrates (sugar) for energy.
Jicama is high in fiber and is also a good source of several essential vitamins and minerals. Overall, it is a low-calorie food and is considered a healthy vegetable.
Compared to root vegetables like carrots and parsnips, jicama calories per serving and sugar content are both lower, making it a great weight loss food and a low-glycemic vegetable for better blood sugar control.
According to the USDA, one cup (130 grams) of fresh jicama provides the following nutrients:
- Calories: 49
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0.1 gram
- Fiber: 6.4 grams
- Vitamin C: 26.3 milligrams (44% of the daily value)
- Folate: 15.6 micrograms (4% of the daily value)
- Iron: 0.78 milligrams (4% of the daily value)
- Magnesium: 15.6 mg (4% of the daily value)
- Potassium: 195 mg (6% of the DV)
- Calcium: 16 mg (1% of the DV)
- Manganese: 4% of the DV
It also contains small amounts of other minerals such as phosphorus, zinc, and copper and vitamins such as vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid.
We often hear about the importance of meeting the daily fruit and vegetable intake recommendations for overall health. Fruits and vegetables provide an array of health benefits and can help support a healthy body weight.
Here are some of the health benefits of jicama:
#1: Good Source of Antioxidants
One of the nutritional benefits of jicama is the high vitamin C content found in this root vegetable.
A 1-cup (130 grams) serving of raw jicama contains 26.3 milligrams of vitamin C (44% of the daily value).
Along with vitamin C, it provides other potent antioxidants such as vitamin E, beta carotene, and selenium.
As antioxidants, these polyphenols (plant compounds), vitamins, and minerals all help combat free radicals and prevent oxidative damage and inflammation throughout the body while supporting the immune system.
Antioxidants are potent compounds that can combat free radicals in the body, which are reactive oxygen species.
The reactive nature of free radicals makes them prone to causing oxidative damage. Free radicals can damage proteins, nucleic acids like DNA and RNA, cell membranes, and other cell components, causing premature aging and increasing the risk of various diseases.
Another benefit is that foods high in vitamin C can aid iron absorption and thus potentially prevent anemia.
Iron deficiency can result in fatigue and weakness because it results in a reduced ability of the blood to transport oxygen to your tissues.
If iron deficiency progresses, it can result in iron deficiency anemia, an even more severe condition in which your hemoglobin levels are insufficient.
Although jicama isn’t a very good dietary source of iron, it is rich in vitamin C. Research has demonstrated that iron absorption is significantly enhanced when iron-rich foods are consumed alongside foods high in vitamin C.
Therefore, eating jicama alongside iron-rich foods like steak, liver, and spinach may reduce your risk of anemia.
#2: High In Fiber
As can be seen from the nutrition facts presented above, jicama is particularly high in fiber, with a 1-cup (130 grams) serving of raw jicama providing 17% of the RDI of fiber for men and 23% of the RDI for women.
Fiber plays many essential roles in the body, particularly in terms of helping aid digestion, bulking up stool, supporting gut bacteria, feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut, and promoting bowel regularity to reduce the risk of constipation.
Fiber can also increase satiety and help you stay fuller for longer, potentially helping you consume fewer calories.
Furthermore, there’s a large body of evidence to suggest that diets high in fiber are associated with a decreased risk of numerous diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain inflammatory bowel diseases, and some cancers.
Jicama is particularly high in inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that feeds healthy gut bacteria.
Healthy gut bacteria may promote weight loss over time due to a balanced gut microbiome.
This produces key vitamins, reduces inflammation by maintaining the integrity of the gut barrier, supports the immune system by defending against pathogens, promotes healthy digestion, and produces short-chain fatty acids, which may increase energy and boost metabolism.
#3: Can Improve Overall Health
Numerous studies have found that diets high in vegetables and fruits help improve heart health, reduce blood pressure, reduce the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases, and help people maintain a healthy body weight with lower levels of visceral fat and central abdominal obesity (which is associated with a risk of cardiometabolic diseases).
Jicama is nutritious, versatile, filling, and low in calories, so it can be enjoyed by anyone looking to lose weight, improve health, and support their body with the best nutrients for optimal performance.
Is Jicama Good for Weight Loss?
Because jicama is low in calories, high in fiber and water, and provides key vitamins and minerals, it can be a good food for weight loss.
Studies suggest that diets high in fiber can promote weight loss, and the high fiber and low sugar nutrient profile makes jicama a low-glycemic food.
Some animal studies show that eating jicama can actually improve insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar levels.
This bodes well for eating jicama on a weight loss diet and for adding it to your diet if you have risk factors for type 2 diabetes or insulin sensitivity.
How to Eat Jicama
One of the benefits of jicama is that it’s a versatile vegetable. Because it has a fairly neutral flavor profile, you can add it to sweet or savory applications.
It is typically eaten raw, but it can also be cooked.
To prepare it, the tough peel has to be removed. Then, the white flesh can be cubed, diced, or cut into small strips.
It can add crunch and a slight sweetness to vegetable salads, or it can offset sweetness with fruit salads mixed with pineapple, mango, melon, etc.
People also add it to stir-fries, tacos, guacamole, fruit or vegetable salsas, or use it as a crudite and dipped into hummus, ranch dressing, salsa, or other dips.
You can also shred it with a cheese grater and make a slaw like coleslaw or lightly sauté the shredded jicama with some sesame oil, soy sauce, or other flavorings to make a low-carb alternative to rice, noodles, mashed potatoes, pilaf, or other starchy-carb side dishes.
Finally, you can simply peel and eat chunks of fresh jicama just as you would eat apple slices or peeled carrots for a healthy, low-calorie snack for weight loss.
You can find some other healthy snacks for weight loss diets with 200 calories (at most) here.