Jicama: A Mexican Original

Jicama, pronounced HIH-kuh-muh, is a root vegetable with thick, papery, brown skin and a starchy white interior.   On the outside, the jicama looks like a light brown beet. On the inside, it looks and feels like a raw potato.  It’s juicy and crunchy and has slightly sweet, nutty flavor which some characterize as a cross between a potato and a pear while others compare it to a water chestnut.

This root vegetable is known by many names including Mexican yam, Mexican yam bean, Mexican potato, Mexican turnip, Mexican water chestnut, Chinese potato, and Chinese turnip.  Originally grown in Mexico, jicama eventually spread to the Philippines, then China and other parts of Southeast Asia and became a popular culinary element in these cuisines.  This nutrient-rich root vegetable can offer many health benefits and is believed to have been used for thousands of years as a dietary element and a medicinally beneficial substance.

Jicama’s impressive nutritionally profile includes many important vitamins including C, E, B6 and minerals magnesium, potassium, manganese, copperiron.  Jicama is also rich in complex carbohydrates and an excellent source of fiber.

Rich in antioxidants, jicama is believed to help protect against cell damage caused by oxidative stress which has been linked to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cognitive decline.

Given its high fiber content, jicama may help prevent constipation, lower cholesterol and lower the risk of getting colon cancer and heart disease.  Jicama is a good source of inulin, a prebiotic which promotes the growth of probiotics that may be linked to a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and kidney disease.

Jicama is very rich in vitamin C; in fact, one cup (130 grams) contains 44% our entire daily requirement. Vitamin C stimulates the white blood cells, our body’s main line of defense against illness.  It helps battle bacterial, viral, fungal or pathogenic diseases.

Jicama is a rich source of potassium which helps lower blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels.  A reduction in blood pressure is thought to be linked to improved heart health and stroke prevention.

Jicama could play a role in improving circulation due to its content of iron and copper which are necessary for healthy red blood cells.

Jicama Risks

The jicama root is delicious and beneficial to your health; however it is important to note that only the flesh of the root vegetable itself is safe to eat.  The skin, stem, leaves, and seeds may be highly poisonous.  Before consuming, wash the jicama well, cut off any roots and remove the skin completely, including the paper-like layer underneath.  For best results, choose a jicama that is small, heavy, firm and has a smooth skin.

While it is most commonly eaten raw and seasoned with various spices, chili or fruit juices, jicama is very versatile and easy to add to your diet. It can be cooked in soups or stir-fries, added to salads for a bit of extra crunch, cooked and mashed like a potato, and more.

 

Don’t know where to start?  This nice, crunchy salad from “Running to the Kitchen” will pair nicely with your favorite Mexican dish.

Jicama Salad

1 large jicama, peeled and julienned

1 mango (on the firmer side of ripe), peeled and julienned

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and julienned

1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned

½ c. fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

FOR THE DRESSING

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp raw honey

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a small bowl or mason jar, add all the dressing ingredients and either whisk together or shake vigorously  until combined.
  3. Pour the dressing over the jicama salad in the bowl and toss until well combined.
  4. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Salad can be served either immediately or covered and chilled for an hour or so first. The salad soaks up the flavors of the dressing best if chilled.

 

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