Jicama is a low-fat, low-calorie root vegetable originating from Mexico. It is rich in fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. According to early studies, it may help digestion, heart health, blood sugar, and metabolism; learn more about its potential benefits here.
What Is Jicama?
Jicama (pronounced hee-kah-mah or hick-ah-mah) is a tuberous root vegetable, with golden-brown skin and a starchy white interior. It is also known as Yam bean, Mexican potato, or bengkoak and belongs to the Pachyrhizus tropical plant family [1, 2].
Jicama originates from Mexico but has spread to Central America, Philippines, China, Malaysia and Southeast Asia .
Jicama is a food full of nutrients and low in calories. It contains some immune-stimulating proteins (albumins, globulins) but seems to be low in lectins [4, 5].
Another major benefit is its low glycemic score. This makes it a great dietary choice for people with diabetes. It is also high in fibers that aid in digestion and promote gut health. Plus, it is packed with essential nutrients – such as vitamin C, potassium and magnesium – that lower oxidative stress and fight inflammation [6, 7].
And unlike most tubers, it can be eaten raw. Alternatively, cook it for flavor with your favorite spices. It’s extremely versatile and can be prepared in vegan, paleo, and keto recipes [8, 9, 10].
But beware! Its seeds, stems, leaves, and skin are toxic. Only the white inside flesh is edible [8, 9, 10].
Here is an overview of the health benefits and risks of jicama [1, 2, 11, 12, 13]:
- High nutritional value
- Rich in antioxidants and fiber
- Possible benefits to digestion, immunity, heart function, and blood sugar
- Seeds, stems, leaves, and skin are toxic
Jicama’s nutrient profile (100gr) and recommended daily intake (RDI) based on a 2000 calories diet [14, 15, 16, 7, 17]:
|Dietary fiber||4.9 g||20%|
|Vitamin C||20.2 mg||34%|
|Vitamin B6||0.25 mg||2%|
|Vitamin E||0.5 mg||2%|
Jicama is composed of around 90% water, so it’s naturally low in calories. A serving cup of jicama (100 gr) contains only 38 calories and has a low glycemic index, making it ideal for weight loss and people with diabetes [14, 18].
Jicama (100 gr) contains 8.82 g of carbohydrates from which 4.9 g is fiber and 1.8 g sugar, whereas the starch accounts for 2.2 g. This makes jicama a low-carb vegetable, keto- and paleo-friendly [7, 19].
Furthermore, a reasonable 200g of jicama makes up for 26% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for fiber for men and 40% for women (based on a 2,000 calories diet) [7, 19].
Jicama is a low-fat food, providing less than 0.1 gram per 100gr [7, 14].
The proteins in jicama are low, only 0.72 g in 100 g. This is half the amount in regular potatoes, but double the amount in sweet potatoes. Jicama also contains amino acids, such as alanine, aspartic acid, lysine, histidine, leucine, and glutamine [20, 21].
Jicama is a good source of vitamin C. Just 200g would provide you with almost 70% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. Keep in mind that cooking jicama will lower its vitamin C levels, though [3, 22].
Other vitamins include folate, riboflavin (V2), vitamin B6, vitamin E, niacin, and thiamine. About 200g of jicama would provide you with only up to 6% of your daily needs of these vitamins, which might not be high enough to have a significant health effect .
But 300g of the root will provide you with ~12% of your daily potassium and 9% of your daily magnesium requirements – pretty good for a low-calorie tuber [7, 23, 24]!
Jicama is high in antioxidants, especially vitamin C. As mentioned, 300g of jicama will cover your daily needs – if you eat it raw. Small amounts of other compounds – potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, folate and selenium, flavonoids, and choline – add to its antioxidant effect [3, 25].
Altogether, these nutrients lower oxidative stress, prevent cell damage and fight inflammation [26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31].
Diets rich in antioxidants are associated with lower rates of many diseases, including cancer, obesity, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease [32, 33, 34, 35].
Potential Benefits of Jicama
Insufficient Evidence For
The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of jicama for any of the uses discussed below. Jicama is considered safe to eat as food, but it has not been approved by the FDA for medical use, and it should never be used to replace something your doctor recommends or prescribes.
1) Gut Flora
Jicama contains significant quantities of a fiber called inulin, which is also responsible for its sweet flavor [36, 7].
Inulin acts as a prebiotic that feeds the good gut bacteria (such as Bifidobacteria). In turn, it may boost gut health and improve IBD and IBS symptoms, such as stomach pain and bloating [12, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42].
Thanks to its inulin content, jicama could potentially also aid in digestion. In clinical studies with over 300 adults and children with constipation, inulin improved bowel movements and stool consistency [43, 44, 45, 46].
Note that this benefit has only observed with inulin itself; no studies of whole jicama have investigated its effect on gut flora and gut health.
2) Heart Health
Jicama juice contains the ion nitrate, which converts to nitric oxide after consumption. Nitric oxide increases blood flow, relaxes your blood vessels, and lowers blood pressure. In 30 healthy people, 500ml of jicama juice lowered blood pressure [47, 11].
Many nutrients in jicama – such as potassium, calcium, iron, copper, and fiber – improve heart health. Potassium and calcium lower blood pressure and are inversely associated with heart disease and stroke [14, 24, 48, 23, 49, 50].
Jicama’s inulin fiber also aids heart protection. In studies with over 1500 people, dietary fiber decreased total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglycerides [51, 52, 53, 54].
Plus, your body needs iron and copper to make red blood cells, while they also improve blood flow. Their amount in jicama may not be exceptional, but it can add to your daily intake of these minerals [55, 56].
3) Blood Sugar
A combination of jicama and tomato juice decreased blood sugar levels in a clinical study of 18 people with type 2 diabetes. Jicama extracts alone had the same effect in studies with diabetic mice [57, 58, 36].
In mice, jicama increased insulin sensitivity, which lowered blood sugar levels. Secondly, it blocked blood sugar formation in the livers of diabetic mice [58, 36].
Moreover, it inhibited enzymes that digest complex carbs, such as alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase [58, 36].
Plus, jicama contains potassium, magnesium, and inulin, which altogether reduce the risk of diabetes and decrease blood sugar [59, 60, 18, 24, 61, 62].
4) Weight Management
Jicama is a low-calorie food. With just 114 calories in 300g, it has about half the caloric density of potatoes. Due to its low glycemic index and high nutritional content, jicama may be incorporated into a diet designed to increase insulin sensitivity, prevent obesity, and boost healthy weight loss [7, 63, 10].
Additionally, it is high in water and inulin, which curbs hunger and increases satiety. In studies with 80 people, inulin reduced body weight and waist circumference [36, 7, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68].
Lastly, jicama contains vitamin C, which increases fat-burning during moderate exercise and prevents obesity [69, 70, 71].
For guidance on how to incorporate jicama into your weight loss program, talk to your doctor or nutritionist.
Animal Research (Lacking Evidence)
No clinical evidence supports the use of jicama for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
Some scientists consider jicama an immune-boosting functional food .
In cells and mice, jicama fiber extracts increased the production of white blood cells (macrophages), antibodies (IgM, IgG, and IgA), and anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-5, IL-10) [2, 72, 73].
However, its immune-stimulating effect may not benefit everyone. For example, jicama extracts also increased compounds that are needed to activate immune cells in mice (TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma) .
Antioxidants present in jicama (vitamin C, magnesium, and selenium) generally lower inflammation by cutting inflammatory cytokines [28, 74, 75].
6) Mental Health
Compounds in jicama root and seeds may protect the brain, but research is still limited.
In mice, jicama seeds relaxed the muscles, promoted calmness, and lowered anxiety and aggression .
The effects of the edible jicama tubers on mental health haven’t been researched. But jicama is rich in vitamin C, which supports good mood. Plus, jicama adds to your daily intake of vitamin B6, folate, and magnesium, which improve PMS, anxiety, and depression [76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85].
Rotenone in jicama seeds, although toxic to mammals, are currently under investigation for their anti-cancer potential. Studies are ongoing, but its effects have only been tested in the lab so far.
In cell studies, jicama seeds prevented the growth of different cancer cells (liver, blood, breast, colorectal), triggering their death. However, the relevance of such studies is likely very low [86, 87, 88, 89].
The edible jicama tubers are also under investigation as they contain a fair amount of inulin and vitamin C. Sufficient intake of fibers like inulin is considered protective against colon cancer. Otherwise, the anti-cancer potential of a jicama-rich diet hasn’t been studied [36, 90, 91, 92].
Limitations and Caveats
The evidence on the health benefits and risks of jicama is very limited. Most studies focus on its nutrients and not on the vegetable itself. Additional research should be encouraged.
How to Eat Jicama
Jicama can be eaten raw, cooked, or stir-fried, on its own or as an addition to other dishes. Peel off the brown, thick skin and only eat the white flesh. You can cut the flesh into cubes, slices, or fine strips.
Jicama’s flesh is juicy and crisp, and its taste is sweet and nutty. People often compare its taste to a savory apple, pear or water chestnut.
Some ideas of how to add jicama to your diet:
- Slice up jicama and then sprinkle it with chili powder, salt, and lime juice
- Chop it up and stir-fry it with sesame oil
- Add to salads or soups as an extra crunch
- Slice jicama in long pieces and serve with guacamole or hummus dip
- Mix it with other vegetables and fruits, such as pineapple, apple, raw mango, sweet potato and add a spicy palm sugar dressing or peanut sauce
- Chop up jicama fine strips and use it together with other vegetables in spring rolls
You can buy jicama in the supermarkets, local stores, and farmer’s markets. Choose medium-sized, firm roots, as they have more juice and flavor than larger ones. Avoid roots with marks, cracks, wrinkles, or soft spots .
Jicama can be stored in a cool, dry place (around 12.5°C or 54.5°F) for 2 to 4 weeks. However, once cut, jicama should be kept in the fridge .
The stems, seeds, leaves, and the skin of the jicama contain rotenone, a compound that is toxic to humans. Only the inside white flesh should be eaten. There have been at least 7 cases of jicama poisoning followed by nausea, vomiting, respiratory problems, brain damage and even death [8, 94, 9, 3, 95, 96].
Can dogs eat jicama?
Yes, but only the white flesh and in moderation. The leaves, stems, seeds, and skin of jicama are toxic to dogs [97, 98].
Jicama is high in fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. It can be eaten raw or cooked, on its own or in addition to other dishes. Plus, it’s low in calories and sugars. This tropical tuber can improve digestion, boost weight loss, protect the heart and keep blood sugar in check. But be careful – only the inside flesh is edible, while the stems, seeds, leaves, and skin are toxic! Jicama is a tasty and healthy addition to keto, paleo, and vegan diets. It’s extremely versatile and easy to prepare, so why not give it a try?