Jicama is a low-fat, low-calorie root vegetable originating from Mexico. It is rich in fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. Studies suggest that jicama can promote gut health, aid in digestion, protect the heart, prevent diabetes and boost weight loss. Explore its other benefits and learn how to safely add it in your diet.

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 [3].

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, you can eat it 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].

Snapshot

Here is an overview of the health benefits and risks of jicama [1, 2, 11, 12, 13]:

PROS

  • Low-calorie
  • High nutritional value
  • Rich in antioxidants and fiber
  • Eases digestion
  • Boosts immune function
  • Protects the heart
  • Keeps blood sugar in check
  • May combat cancer
  • May fight depression and anxiety

CONS

  • Seeds, stems, leaves, and skin are toxic

Jicama Nutrition

Jicama’s nutrient profile (100gr) and Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) based on a 2000 calories diet [14, 15, 16, 7, 17]:

% RDI
Energy38 kcal2%
Proteins0.72 g1%
Fat0.09 g0%
Carbohydrates8.82 g3%
Dietary fiber4.9 g20%
Sugar1.8 g
Potassium172 mg4%
Phosphorus18 mg2%
Calcium16 mg1%
Magnesium12.9 mg3%
Selenium0.7mg1%
Iron0.60 mg3%
Zinc0.16 mg1%
Vitamin C20.2 mg34%
Vitamin B60.25 mg2%
Niacin0.2 mg1%
Vitamin E0.5 mg2%
Thiamine0.05 mg1%
Riboflavin0.02 mg2%
Folate0.012 mg3%

Calories

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].

Carbohydrates

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].

Fats

Jicama is a low-fat food, providing less than 0.1 gram per 100gr [7, 14].

Proteins

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].

Nutrients

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 [3].

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]!

Health Benefits of Jicama

1) Rich in Antioxidants

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 cholineadd 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 reduce the risk for many diseases, including cancer, obesity, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease [32, 33, 34, 35].

2) Promotes Gut Health

Jicama contains the fiber inulin, which is also responsible for its sweet flavor [36, 7].

Inulin acts as 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 can 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].

3) Protects the Heart

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 decreased their risk of blood clots and 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 reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke [14, 24, 48, 23, 49, 50].

Jicama’s inulin fiber also aids heart protection. In studies with over 1.5k 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].

4) Keeps Blood Sugar In Check

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].

For one, jicama increases insulin sensitivity which lowers blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Secondly, it blocks blood sugar formation in the liver [58, 36].

Moreover, it inhibits enzymes that digest complex carbs, such as alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase. In turn, you absorb fewer carbs and your blood sugar levels don’t spike as much [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].

5) May Help with Weight Loss

Jicama is a low-calorie food. It contains just 114 calories in 300g – two times less than potatoes. Due to its low glycemic index and high nutritional content, jicama increases insulin sensitivity, prevents obesity and boosts 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].

6) May Aid in Cancer Prevention

Rotenone in jicama seeds, although toxic to mammals, may prove to be a promising anticancer tool. 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 [72, 73, 74, 75].

The edible jicama tubers may also aid in cancer prevention, since it contains a fair amount of inulin and vitamin C. Sufficient intake of fibers like inulin may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Otherwise, the anti-cancer potential of a jicama-rich diet hasn’t been studied [36, 76, 77, 78].

7) May Boost Immune Function

Some scientists consider that jicama is an immune-boosting functional food [25].

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, 79, 80].

However, its immunestimulating 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) [25].

While this may be good for people with weakened immune systems, it may worsen inflammation in those with autoimmune issues. If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder, it might be best to eat jicama in moderation and carefully track your reaction [25].

Antioxidants present in jicama (vitamin C, magnesium, and selenium) generally lower inflammation by cutting inflammatory cytokines [28, 81, 82].

8) May Support 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 [13].

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 [83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 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. You should peel off the brown, thick skin and only eat the white flesh. You can cut the flesh into cubes, slices, or chop it into fine strips.

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

Safety

The stems, seeds, leaves, and the skin of the jicama contain rotenone, a compound which 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, 93, 9, 3, 94, 95].

FAQ

What does jicama taste like?

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.

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 [96, 97].

What’s a good jicama substitute?

You can substitute raw jicama with green apple, radish, turnip or celery. For cooked jicama, you should try water chestnut.

Where can I buy jicama?

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 [98].

How do I store jicama?

You can store jicama in a cool, dry place (12.5°C/ 54.5°F) for 2 to 4 weeks. However, once cut, jicama should be kept in the fridge [98].

Takeaway

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?

About the Author

Anastasia Naoum, MS (health informatics)

MS (Health Informatics)

Anastasia holds an MSc in Health Informatics from the Sheffield University, an MSc in Health Economics from the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and a BSc in Economics from the University of Macedonia.

Anastasia grew up in a medical environment, as both her parents are doctors and developed from a young age a passion for medicine and health. She has worked in several institutions and associations which promoted healthy living and sustainable healthcare systems. Currently, she is leading a green life, sailing with her boyfriend across Europe, living in their sailboat with the help of solar and wind power, minimizing CO2 production.

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