Jicama may not be on your list of regularly consumed
vegetables, but perhaps it should be! It’s been a staple food in Central
America for a long time, and with good reason. Once you discover its many
health benefits, and how to eat it in a variety of delicious ways, you’ll
wonder why jicama is so unsung and uncommon in most of North America. And you
just might want to add it to your shopping list.
Jicama — pronounced HEE-kah-ma — is a root vegetable that
might be hiding in plain sight in your supermarket produce aisle. Though
unremarkable in its appearance, this odd-looking love child of a giant water
chestnut and a potato offers a unique taste, a stellar nutritional profile, and
several health benefits that make it worth checking out.
What Is Jicama?
The name “jicama” actually refers to the round, gold,
tuberous root of the bean-producing Pachyrhizus erosus vine,
which can grow to be up to 20 feet long. It’s a relative of the
bean family and is sometimes called Mexican yam bean, Sweet turnip, Mexican
turnip, and Chinese potato.
One large jicama can weigh up
to fifty pounds! On the outside, jicama is rough and papery, sort of like a
turnip or rutabaga. Inside, you’ll find a juicy, crunchy, white starch similar
in texture to a crisp pear or water chestnut.
Native to Mexico, jicama is also grown abundantly in parts
of Asia and the Philippines where it benefits from a long growing season
without frost. It can also be grown in USDA zones 7 through 10 in the United States.
Jicama’s rich in complex carbohydrates and an excellent
source of fiber. In one cup, you’ll get almost 7 grams of fiber — nearly ¼ of
the official recommended minimum intake for the day.
Jicama’s a solid source of other important vitamins and
minerals, such as folate, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and small amounts of
omega-3 and -6 unsaturated fatty acids. And it contains appreciable amounts of
vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, and E, as well as zinc, copper, calcium, and
The Mexican turnip’s also a great source of vitamin C, an
essential water-soluble vitamin and potent antioxidant. One cup provides 44% of your daily minimum vitamin C
5 Health Benefits of Jicama
Like many plants, this root vegetable contains a large array
of nutrients, but its special kind of fiber is particularly valuable.
1. Good for Digestion:
If you want a healthy gut, you need to consume enough
dietary fiber (a
feat that roughly 97% of Americans don’t accomplish). Eating enough fiber adds
bulk to your stool, keeps things moving regularly through your intestines, and
reduces your risk of various digestive diseases and disorders.
Jicama is an all-star source of fiber, which is good news
for health lovers. And it’s a rich source of a particular type of insoluble
fiber called inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic,
meaning it feeds your probiotics —
the good bacteria in your gut — so they can do their job and keep you healthy.
2. Has Cancer-Fighting Properties:
The inulin fiber in jicama isn’t just good for your gut. It
can also help reduce your risk of certain cancers, especially colon cancer.
Jicama also contains several antioxidants,
including vitamins C, E, and selenium, that prevent oxidative
damage to your cells and inhibit cancer growth.
3. May Help Treat and Reverse Diabetes:
Jicama also has unique properties that can be beneficial for
diabetes and blood glucose management. A 2016 study in
mice found that six weeks of jicama extract administration significantly
reduced blood sugar and Hgb A1c levels, and increased insulin sensitivity.
The low glycemic load of jicama also makes it a good
option for people with diabetes, as it won’t spike blood sugar. And its fiber
content aids in weight loss, primarily by increasing satiety (a fancy word that
means that it makes you feel full). This is another way it contributes to
4. Improves Heart Health:
By helping to lower blood sugar spikes and improve insulin
sensitivity, jicama also reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease.
The fiber in jicama can help lower inflammation,
reduce LDL cholesterol levels, and lower blood
pressure. And its high level of nitrate can improve blood
flow and circulation.
There is also evidence that jicama can lower your risk of
blood clots. In a 2016 study, healthy adults who consumed 500 ml of jicama
juice reduced their risk of developing blood clots, compared
to a control group who drank guava juice and water.
5. Benefits Your Bones:
The inulin in jicama can support bone
health by retaining minerals in your bones, improving calcium absorption, and
reducing bone loss.
Jicama nutrition also contains minerals that are important to healthy bones, such as
manganese, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
How to Eat Jicama
Jicama has a starchy, sweet, nutty flavor that complements
the flavors of many foods. And it works well in salads, savory dishes,
and even some sweet ones.
Jicama is sold by street vendors in Latin America, where
people often enjoy it raw. Sometimes they’ll sprinkle it with a bit of lemon
juice and cayenne pepper.
Note: There’s one big warning with knowing how to eat
jicama. Don’t consume the leaves, seeds, or flowers of the plant.
These parts — and actually most of the jicama plant besides the root itself —
are toxic and should not be consumed. You won’t find anything but the root sold
at most mainstream grocery stores, but keep this in mind if you ever grow or
So, what do you do with the jicama root? Many people enjoy
it raw, cut into sticks, used in slaws, and on salads. You’ll want to remove
the skin first, not only because it’s thick and fibrous, but also because it
contains a toxin that protects it from pests while it grows
You can also cook jicama and use it in stir-fries, soups, mashed
like potatoes, or baked into crispy chips. Some people even recommend slicing
it thinly and using it as a soft tortilla or handheld taco shell.
As for storage, jicama is a little higher maintenance than
your average tuber. It doesn’t toleratetemperatures
below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that the refrigerator isn’t ideal,
although I find that it lasts for 1-2 weeks in a fridge if left unpeeled. If you’re aiming for optimal storage, keep jicama
in a basement or garage, or another place in your home that runs between 53 and
60 degrees Fahrenheit. Here, it can stay fresh for up to two months.
Of course, the best way to store jicama is not to. Bring it
home and start using it right away!
Where to Find Jicama
Although jicama may not carry the popularity of say, bananas
and apples, it’s becoming more widely consumed. It’s typically in season from
fall to spring in each hemisphere, making it available pretty much year-round.
Most grocery stores carry jicama in their produce section,
usually near the other roots and tuber vegetables. If you can’t find it there,
check natural food stores, farmers markets, or Mexican grocery stores. If you
still don’t find it, you may be able to put in a special request with a produce
manager. You may also be able to find pre-cut and packaged jicama sticks, as
well as snack foods like jicama chips or tortillas.
And here’s an important hint: When choosing jicama, don’t
pick the largest one in the pile. As jicama gets bigger, it actually loses its
crispness and flavor. The texture can also become a bit tougher, so pick one on
the smaller side.
Healthy Jicama Recipes To Try
Jicama can be eaten in many tasty ways, and often in recipes
you might be used to making with other ingredients. Here are some simple and
healthy recipes that use this vegetable.
Black Bean Tacos with Spiralized Jicama and Avocado Mash by
Inspiralized — Spiralized jicama adds a fun texture to this fresh dish. It’s
paired with healthy fats from an avocado mash
and gets extra fiber and protein from black beans.
Mango, Avocado, and Jicama Salad with Lime Dressing by
Edible Perspective — With fewer than ten ingredients, this easy dish comes
together to create a nutritious and flavorful plate highlighting jicama and
dark leafy greens.
Jicama Chips by One Green Planet — This is a light and simple recipe
that involves slivering, flavoring, and baking fresh jicama. It makes a healthy
snack or a great side dish for any meal.
Jicama & Carrot Slaw with Lime Dressing by
Veganosity — This colorful, refreshing slaw can be made in 30 minutes or less,
and I think you’ll love the crunch that the jicama adds. There’s also a slight
sweetness to jicama. So while the recipe calls for a ¼ tsp of sugar, you can
omit at your discretion.
Vegetable and Tofu Stir-Fry by MyRecipes — This stir-fry is a
delicious combination of nutrient-packed veggies and baked tofu. You can make
it oil-free by sauteing the vegetables in water or vegetable broth.
Baked Jicama Fries by Eating Bird Food — An intriguing
alternative to traditional french fries, this recipe uses sliced jicama with a
flavorful seasoning, baked in the oven.