The jicama -- also called the yam bean and Mexican water chestnut -- is a tropical root vegetable grown in Central and South America, as well as in the Caribbean region. A member of the legume family, the jicama -- pronounced hee-ca-ma -- has a delicate, mildly sweet flavor; its crispy, refreshing texture is akin to that of a radish. You can enjoy jicama raw or cooked, but peel it first; the tan skin is inedible. The jicama -- packed with beneficial carotenoids, vitamins, minerals and fiber -- is a healthy dietary choice.
One cup of sliced jicama contains 0.86 g of protein, 0.11 g of total fat, 10.58 g of carbohydrates, 5.9 g of dietary fiber and 2.16 g of natural sugars. Jicama is low in salt, low in fat, high in dietary fiber and cholesterol-free. Its caloric total is a meager 46 calories per cup. In addition, jicama contains oligofructose inulin, a soluble fiber currently being studied for potential applications for diabetes and weight loss. In a clinical trial published in 2009 in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association," researchers concluded that inulin can help control body weight by suppressing appetite and food intake.
A cup of jicama contains 24.2 mg of antioxidant vitamin C, over a third of the recommended dietary allowance. In addition to scavenging harmful free-radicals, vitamin C helps produce collagen and connective tissue. A cup of jicama also contains B-complex vitamins, including 0.024 mg of thiamine -- or vitamin B-1 -- and 0.035 mg of riboflavin, or vitamin B-2; both are essential for energy production. The same cup of jicama also provides 0.240 mg of niacin -- or vitamin B-3 -- which can lower cholesterol levels, and 0.162 mg of pantothenic acid -- or vitamin B-5 -- needed for healthy skin, hair and eyes. In addition, a cup of jicama contains 25 IU of vitamin A, along with 16 mcg of beta-carotene, a carotenoid converted to vitamin A by the body. Vitamin A is essential for the health of the immune system, mucous membranes and eyes.
With 0.72 mg of iron in a cup, jicama provides healthy amounts of this trace mineral, essential for oxygen transport throughout the body. The same cup of jicama provides 0.058 mg of copper, needed to create red blood cells, and 0.19 mg of zinc, essential in wound healing. Jicama also provides calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which all work together to maintain strong bones and teeth. Modest amounts of manganese -- needed to produce superoxide dismutase, a potent antioxidant -- and selenium, vital for thyroid system health, are also present in jicama.
Usage and Considerations
Select firm, round jicamas with silky-looking, shiny skin that is free of blemishes, wrinkles and discolorations. Jicama can be stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator when intact; after being cut, it can be stored for a week when carefully plastic-wrapped. Never freeze jicama; this can change the color, texture and taste. Jicama peel -- as well as the leaf tops, stems and seed pods -- contains rotenone, a natural toxin used as an insecticide, so always peel jicama thoroughly. You can serve jicama raw and drizzled with lime juice, shredded into salads and gazpacho, or baked and mashed like a potato. Jicama's firm texture allows it to stand up to stir-frying as well.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Jicama NDB 11603
- Nutrition and You: Jicama Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
- Lifetime Fitness: Jicama; Cary Neff; 2007
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: "Added Soluble Fiber Enhances the Satiating Power of Low-Energy-Density Liquid Yogurts"; M.M. Perrigue et al.; November 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center: "Vitamin B-5"; UMMC Staff; June 2009
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.