April 18, 2023

What Is Jicama?

Try this slightly sweet vegetable to get more disease-fighting vitamin C and filling fiber

fresh sliced whole jicama

With its white flesh, round shape, light-brown skin and Mexican origins, jicama is sometimes called a Mexican potato, Mexican turnip or yam bean. Pronounced “HEE-kuh-muh” or “HICK-uh-muh,” jicama is full of surprises. “Jicama is a high-fiber, low-calorie vegetable,” says registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. “It has the slight sweetness of an apple with the crunchy texture of a water chestnut.”

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You can cut up jicama and eat it raw, like you do with carrot sticks or apple slices. But it’s also a great addition to soups, stir fries, casseroles and other dishes. In addition to being tasty, jicama has many nutrients and health benefits.

Jicama nutrition facts

A one-cup (130 grams) serving of raw jicama has approximately:

Nutrient-wise, a cup of jicama has:

  • 26.3 milligrams of vitamin C (44% daily value).
  • 195 milligrams of potassium (6% daily value).
  • 15.6 micrograms of folate (4% daily value).
  • 0.78 milligrams of iron (4% daily value).
  • 15.6 milligrams of magnesium (4% daily value).
  • 16 milligrams of calcium (1% daily value).

Jicama health benefits

If you’ve been avoiding jicama in the produce section because you weren’t sure what it is or how to prepare it, you’ve been missing out on these jicama nutritional benefits.

1. Filling fiber for regularity and weight loss

Jicama has a lot of fiber (6 grams per cup) and water (90% water content). This combination has many benefits. “Fiber bulks up stool to prevent constipation and keep you regular, while water keeps your stool soft and easier to pass,” says Zumpano.

Fibrous foods also take longer for your body to break down, so you feel full longer. (Foods high in water have a similar filling effect.) A high-fiber diet can be especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight.

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2. Prebiotics for a healthy gut

Jicama is a rich source of inulin which is a prebiotic fiber (in other words, a carbohydrate that your body can’t digest or absorb). Instead, inulin feeds the good bacteria in your digestive tract. A systematic review of studies found that inulin supports a healthy gut microbiome (the tiny microorganisms in your intestines that help with digestion).

Inulin in jicama is especially beneficial for people with digestive disorders. Plus, a healthy gut is good for your mental health, according to findings from other studies.

3. Antioxidants to fight illness

A cup of jicama has more than 26 milligrams of vitamin C, close to half the recommended daily amount. Jicama also has vitamin A, vitamin E and selenium.

These antioxidants protect against free radicals. Left unchecked, these unstable molecules can cause chronic inflammation that contributes to diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions.

Antioxidants also support a healthy immune system. They help your body fight off viruses, bacteria and infections.

4. Low glycemic index for stable blood sugar

Jicama’s low-sugar, high-fiber content places it low on the glycemic index, making it a healthy option for people with diabetes or others watching their blood sugar. “Fiber slows the digestion of glucose (the sugar in your blood), which leads to a gradual, steady release into your bloodstream,” explains Zumpano. “When you consume whole foods that are high in fiber, you won’t experience unhealthy, drastic spikes or dips in blood sugar.”

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5. Fiber and nutrients to improve blood flow

The fiber in jicama helps lower cholesterol and prevent clogged arteries that increase your risk of heart disease. In addition, potassium lowers blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow to and from your heart.

A surprising fact about jicama: Don’t eat the beans!

Jicama is a member of the Pachyrhizus erosus pea family. The edible bulb portion gives root to above-ground vines, flowers and beans. While it’s safe to eat the jicama bulb root, the vines and beans contain a natural insecticide called rotenone that’s toxic to humans when eaten in large amounts. Consuming even small amounts of rotenone may increase your risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to one study.

Selecting, storing and preparing jicama

Many grocery stores carry jicama year-round. Follow these tips when selecting and storing this vegetable:

  • Avoid jicama with shriveled, bruised or blemished skin.
  • Choose jicama with a firm, dry texture.
  • Place unpeeled jicama in a plastic bag and store it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  • Use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to remove the outer skin.
  • Cut jicama into cubes or strips, depending on your preference.
  • Cover peeled jicama with water and store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to three days.

Ways to enjoy jicama

Trying unfamiliar food doesn’t need to be intimidating. A lot of people from Latin America enjoy raw jicama slices drizzled with lime juice and sprinkled with chili powder and salt. They’re such a delectable treat that street vendors sell them this way.

There are plenty of easy ways to make jicama a staple in your kitchen. Experiment using (and benefiting from) jicama with these recipes:

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