A round, bulbous root vegetable with origins in the Mexican peninsula, jicama (pronounced hee-cama) is part of the legume family and grows on vines. This little-known tuber is grown in the warm climates of Central America, the Caribbean, the Andes Mountain regions, and Southern Asia, where it's an important as well as extremely versatile food source.
Very similar in texture to a turnip with a taste closer to an apple, jicama shares the monikers "Mexican water chestnut" and "Mexican yam bean" undoubtedly because of its crisp, white, solid flesh. But unlike yams with their edible peels, jicama skin is thick, tough, and not just unappealing but considered an organic toxin called rotenone, as are the vines and leaves.
When scouting out jicama at the supermarket, look for firm, round tubers, and store them in a cool, dark place for up to four weeks, and in the refrigerator when cut. But not too long, or the starch will convert to sugar. Wash them just like potatoes. Slice off the top and bottom to create a flat surface, and then remove the peel in facets with a sturdy paring knife.
Chopped, cubed, sliced into fine sticks, raw or cooked, jicama is versatile and great in stir-fries, salads, slaw, soup, and with other veggies and fruits like oranges, apples, carrots, and onions, as well as meats and seafood. A favorite Mexican recipe is chilled jicama slices sprinkled with chili powder, salt, and lime juice.
Health Benefits of JicamaLow in calories but high in a few vital nutrients, jicama is a bit of a contradiction when it comes to its starch content. It provides one-quarter of what's needed daily in fiber per serving. But not just any fiber - jicama's fiber is infused with oligofructose inulin, which has zero calories and doesn't metabolize in the body. Inulin, a fructan, promotes bone health by enhancing absorption of calcium from other foods, protecting against osteoporosis. Inulin has a prebiotic role in the intestine – it promotes “good” bacteria growth that maintains both a healthy colon and balanced immunity. Because it has a very low glycemic index, jicama is a great food for diabetics, and low in calories for those interested in weight reduction.
Jicama is also an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C - 44% of the daily value per serving - and a powerful antioxidant that zaps free radicals to protect against cancer, inflammation, viral cough, cold, and infections.
Besides healthy amounts of potassium, this little powerhouse can help promote heart health, since high-potassium vegetables and fruit are linked to lower risks of heart disease. Jicama contains important vitamins like folates, riboflavin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, and thiamin, and the minerals magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese. Like potatoes, they should be used sparingly due to the high carbohydrates content.
Jicama Nutrition FactsServing Size: One cup of jicama (130 grams)Amt. Per ServingCalories